Whispers of Morg City
Chapter 5: "The Order"
The reporter exited the inn, witnessing something he had not seen since he had arrived in Morg City. Residents of this lower-class district were talking to one another, standing still and meeting eyes. Some seemed worried; others seemed almost peaceful. Still, they avoided his questioning, preferring to mingle with their neighbors rather than an outsider. The reporter trekked back towards the market, hoping to get some answers on this fresh, new day. As expected, the old, 82 or 84-year-old man sat lounging in his chair, staring back at him. Pushing through crowds of surprisingly talkative people, the reporter came face-to-face with the old man again.
“Got some rest, I see. You mind answering some more of my questions now?”
“Sure. I've got no other business as you can plainly see. Fruit sellin' isn't what it used to be.”
“I wanted to know more about your past with Morg City. You said you lived in New England early in your life, then came here? What made you decide to come to this quaint little place?”
“I was actually born and raised here, then we got the big house in New England, and shortly after I had to leave.”
“Now about that, what made you leave-”
“When I was a boy, here in Morg City, my father would leave me with my uncle, as he was a working man. There was one night, my uncle got real drunk. Started yammering, beating stuff with his cane; he had a bad back, you see. Anyhow, he told me there was a dark force casting its shadow over Morg City, and it was growin' all the time. Being young, I wasn't quite sure what he meant. But now I see what he said was right all along. You made a grave mistake coming to Morg City, you hear me?!”
“I don't get it. What's there to fear here besides the nasty fungus?”
“The forces of the apocalypse...this city is their home. All that is evil has loomed over this city, corrupting the people for years. Its only gotten worse since more outsiders like you have arrived! Just more pawns to be controlled! If it wasn't for the Ancient Order of the Keepers, you'd be dead, son, do you understand?”
“The Keepers? Is that what you call the police?”
“No! The Keepers...they are the only thing keeping evil at bay! They live beneath us, in the tunnels. Some clear nights when the Footlight District isn't so loud, you can hear their glorious chanting! They have done what the police could never do. Besides, the police don't care about us small town folk. It's all in the money!”
“Interesting...I'll ask around some more. Thanks for your words, sir.”
“Leave while you still can, boy. Do what I cannot. The Keepers can guide your path to freedom!”
The reporter backed away from the old man astonished at the sudden burst of information. Order of the Keepers? The Apocalypse? There really is something fishy going on in this city, and the police want nothing to do with it, it seems.
The reporter continued walking through the market, searching for anyone who could provide further explanation. He approached a newspaper salesman, who proceeded to shove a paper into his hands before the reporter could inquire about the Order. He then realized, this paper may provide some more objective answers about the inner workings of the city. He handed the middle-aged salesman a nickel, and proceeded to find a wooden crate to rest on and read the paper.
The front page read in large font, “MAYOR CRACKS DOWN ON POLICE CORRUPTION.” The article read like a tabloid, bombastically explaining the lack of care in Morg City's lesser-earning districts, referring to the police force as “wicked and cruel.” There was little in the way of articles, with mostly advertisements for events in the city such as some magic act from a magician named Nero, or about new performers arriving at the Burlesque. There's a play called 'Faust' that's supposed to be performing next week, down in Footlight, near the tram station. Intriguing, but the reporter needed more answers about this cult living in the subways, or the strange fungus slowly killing Morg City's inhabitants. Despite the pressing importance of these issues, the paper made no mention of them. Something is being censored from the public eye, and this reporter would stop at nothing for the truth. He read on, searching for anything perhaps hidden in the articles, when his attention was grabbed by a gruff voice coming towards him.
“HEY! Get out of here, kid!”
A large, muscular man in his 40s held a crowbar in one hand, and pointed towards him with the other.
“Get up! Now!”
The reporter dropped the paper, raising his hands slowly and standing up. The senile man approached him with his crowbar, before shoving him aside and opening the crate with it. Inside were rows and rows of donuts. He lifted several dozen out, and added them to his cart, marked with his business's logo 'Devil-O Donuts'. The man he presumed would beat him to death with a crowbar was a donuts salesman. Looks can be deceiving in Morg City it seems. The reporter decided he may try to ask the salesman a few questions.
“Good afternoon, sir. Look, I'm sorry about before, I was just fretting a little when I saw that crowbar in your hands.”
“What do you want? I've got a business to run and competition to push into the ground!”
“There's a competitive baked goods scene in Morg City? News to me.”
“Holly's Cream Cakes. Holly doesn't even make 'em anymore; there's no passion for the craft!”
“Interesting sir, anyway, I had a few questions for you. I'm a reporter trying to learn a thing or two about Morg City for my employer.”
“Alright, let's hear 'em.”
“Firstly, I wanted to ask about the...Ancient Order of the Keepers.”
“I don't know nothing about that.”
“Surely you've heard stories?”
“What are you, a cop?”
“I can assure you sir, I am not.”
“How do I know you're telling the truth?”
“Well from what I understand, the police don't seem to care much for this district. If I were a cop, I'd probably be drinking away at one of those Footlight clubs right about now.”
“True. Well, I don't know much about the Keepers, I think they're just a bunch of wackos living underground chanting gibberish. People say they perform human sacrifices down there or they make stuff fly through the air, but I don't buy it. Some people try and report it to the police, but you and I know both know that goes nowhere.”
“What about this, uh, weird fungus and all the disease that's been spreading?”
“I admit, it's a little odd. But I'm not sick yet; From what I've noticed it's mostly those wack-jobs who believe in the Keepers that get sick. Probably cause they're playin' around underground trying to find where the Order hangs out. Can't be healthy.”
“That's all the questions I have, sir. Hey, uh, could I buy a donut before I head out?”
“Of course! Thanks for your business.”
The reporter handed the seller some of the change in his billfold, and took the red-dyed glazed donut in a paper napkin before beginning his walk back to Waterfront. For someone so passionate about the baked food industry, the man sold a rather lousy, dry donut. But, the reporter could not complain after all the answers the man had given him. The Ancient Order of the Keepers were not just the ramblings of a delusional old fruit seller, but a widespread phenomenon in the city.
The reporter approached the dock, right on time for the shipment for Mr. Rapt to arrive. At the end of the wooden dock was a green lamp post, illuminating the crates being unloaded from the tug-boat. There was something almost mesmerizing about one of the crates in particular, trapped under a heavy lock and illuminated by the green glow, the reporter could not look away from the well-traveled crate, marked with stickers from every country it has been through to arrive here. The reporter was snapped out of his trance by the young, squat man approaching him from the boat. A sailor, and an old friend, the man approached the reporter with open arms.
“Buddy! How's Morg City been treating ya? You got the information you needed yet?”
“Morg City's a real geographical oddity, Jim. If it weren't for the pay from Mr. Rapt I'd have been long gone by now. I got a couple of interesting tidbits about some freaky shit going on around the city, but I still need to track down those guys and that gal. How's the travel been?”
“Eventful, to say the least. We got all those rocks Mr. Rapt wanted piled up in those crates over there, plus that artifact from the Pacific. I'm thinking about asking for a higher bid on that one, considering all the shit we went through with the Japanese trying to acquire it.”
“I'm sure he'll do it; the man must be loaded. I'll sign for these to be shipped to his estate.”
“Yeah, about that, he actually did call me before we got the artifact to let me know to leave the artifact somewhere down Easy Street, if you know where that is. Said some guy he knows will pick it up for him.”
“Alright, fair enough. Mr. Rapt working in mysterious ways once again. You sticking around, Jimmy?”
“Nah, not for long. Just long enough for this fight at the boxing arena. Floyd Campbell versus Tony King. Betting on Campbell's some easy money, I hear.”
“Campbell huh...well, anyway, watch out for the people around this city, my friend.”
“Alright, bud, see ya around.”
As the night came to be, the reporter retreated to the inn, attempting to call Mr. Rapt again for an update on the revelations of the day. The phone rang, but Mr. Rapt did not answer.
“Hey Mr. Rapt. So, I went by the market again today. For some reason, the fruit seller was much more talkative, even if what he said was more than a little crazy. He told me that when he was a boy, his uncle would get drunk and start talking about how a 'dark force' cast its shadow over the city. How good and evil were battling right on our doorstep, and that the only thing holding back the forces of the apocalypse was...The Ancient Order of the Keepers. Well, even if what he said was more than a little crazy, I'm not sure he was. Even though they're scared, or maybe because they are... people are talking more. Asking around, I've heard more than a few whispers about this Ancient Order and the Keepers. I think it's some kind of cult. They say you can hear them chanting sometimes, from beneath the city. There's all these rumors about human sacrifice and freaky shit that even the police won't investigate. Because they've been paid off, or because they're too damn scared? I'm not sure what to believe anymore."
As the reporter hung up the phone, his attention was grasped by the sound of creaking wood taking over the silence. He turned to the door and the light shining in from below. The light was soon partially blocked by the shadow of someone standing outside his door. All was silent, and the reporter slowly reached for his knife in the drawer, ready for anything. After a few moments, however, the tension dissipated as the person outside his door disappeared.
The reporter took his chair, placing it against the doorknob as a makeshift lock, and retreated to bed for the night.