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Chapter 1: Flower Child

No man could have been more improbably named than Olympus Rutherford. Tall, impossibly thin, and with a thick shock of dark hair that was impossible to train, Olympus Rutherford was the opposite of everything you might think an Olympus should be. But, no one called him Olympus, unless to taunt him. He was Ollie Rutherford, and that fit him just fine.

Despite his rather weak appearance, he was a field biologist and intrepid explorer. It was something that the truly wimpy would not do. It was as if he had more to him, and if he didn’t have more to him, he would not be worth writing about. You see, unknown to everyone, especially himself, Ollie was the most powerful man in this or any other universe. He was perfectly happy as a graduate student studying fishes at the University of Illinois in Champaign. The only problem was that someone with vast amounts of untapped power can’t just stay all bottled up even in a city that sounds like it should keep things bottled up just fine.

There was a lot that was odd about Ollie, but most people would not have given him much of a second glance as he walked down the street except for his oddest personality trait. Ollie wore turtlenecks. Spring, summer, winter, or fall. Long-sleeve, short-sleeve (where he found them no one could say), knit, jersey, every material under the sun, he wore them. He never went to the beach, he never played sports (unless in the requisite turtleneck, which had attracted him to fencing), and he had never been naked with a women (let alone had sex – he wanted to, but almost thankfully, he never had to come to the point where he had to remove the turtleneck, and he kind of doubted that he would).

Ollie was not trying to bring turtlenecks back into style, he wore them because he was trying to hide something. He was born with a very odd birthmark on his neck. It was a flower, I don’t mean that in an abstract, Rohrshack test sort of way. It WAS a flower, a geometrically perfect flower. The center was a perfectly circular dot, surrounded by a perfectly clear ring, surrounded by another perfect ring. Radiating out from the ring were five perfect petals, equally spaced, all with the same dimensions, and all with a central vane that ran through the middle.

The doctors called them café au lait birthmarks, but someone must have forgotten the milk because these were black, deep, light-swallowing, black. A tatoo artist would have been proud with the perfection of the form, but unless a tatoo artist had capured his mother, opened her up, and tatooed Ollie in utero, it had to be considered a natural phenomenon. Given that it was 2017 and tattoos were all the rage, he could have gone without the turtlenecks with impunity, but Ollie was not a tattoo guy. He was embarrassed by the mark and always had been, and he certainly could not equate with the tattoo culture that he would have to if he had come out of his turtleneck-laden closet.

When he was 16, he tried to have laser surgery to have it removed, but when the laser struck the mark, Ollie felt violently ill, jumped off the table and grabbed the doctor’s hand so hard that there were five perfectly Ollie-finger-sized marks on her wrist. Neither the doctor nor Ollie was much inclined to continue with the procedure.

 

Ollie’s family life was kind of messed up. His parents were both scientists that spent much of their time in the field. His mother was a top archaeologist studying ancient Greece, which explained the name. The kids teased him endlessly growing up, calling him “Flower Child”. His mom (when she was around) used to dress him in normal t-shirts saying “You know, Olympus,” she would never call him Ollie, after having gone all of the way to Mount Olympus just to conceive him, she was not going to bastardize his name, “Everyone is special. Most people are special on the inside, but you are also special on the outside. It is nothing to be ashamed of.”

For a Ph.D., she was pretty dumb, and clearly she did not have much of a maternal instinct. It wasn’t so much the hatred of having the mark, but of what the other children did. Kids can be so cruel, and Ollie understood that better than any one. Special on the outside? That meant he was a freak, and he was treated as such by the other kids.

The mark wasn’t the only thing that made Ollie unhappy. His parents' travel made his life abnormal. That wouldn’t be so bad if they had taken him with them, but they left him alone while they traveled to exciting places, mostly Greece. Ollie, to this date, had never been to Greece, despite the fact that his parents had spent about half of his childhood there. His grandparents took care of him, and they were pleasant enough people, but a child wanted his parents even if he knows his parents aren't worth shit.

To even further Ollie’s sense of isolation and alienation from normal human society, the mark was more than just an oddly shaped abomination. There was something else beyond the freakish appearance. Ollie could cause the mark to float off of his neck.

The first time it had happened was when Ollie was six. It was a particularly bad day at school. There was a girl in class that had always been nice to him, and he liked her. That day, a bunch of kids had been taunting him, led by the ever evil Tim Matheson. He saw Jeane walk up to the group, and he thought for a moment that she might stop them, but instead, she yelled, “What’s the matter, Flower Power?”

Ollie cried hard and they all eventually left him, calling insults over their shoulders. He almost wished they had hit him because physical pain was so much easier to deal with than the emotional kind. Ollie took off at a sprint from the playground and headed home. It was only 1:00, but he knew that he probably would not be missed by his teacher. The house was empty as usual, so he went up to his room and cried some more, wishing he wasn’t a freak. As he did so, he thought about the mark. He was so angry that he felt like he could just rip the birthmark from his neck. He concentrated hard on it, wishing it gone. Then the mark did something truly extraodinary, it floated off of his neck and into the empty air. It began slowly rotating, to the right (always to his right). He thought harder and harder and the mark rotated faster and faster and floated further and further away. It was leaving! It was disappearing, going away, leaving him a normal, well sort of, boy.

He fell asleep as he would do many times afterwards when it got about ten feet away. When he woke, the mark would be back where it didn’t belong, on his neck. He never was really sure if the mark actually left his neck, but it seemed to have. Of course he never showed it to anybody because being a freaky little kid was bad enough without having anything supernatural to add to the mix. He probably became a scientist to rebel against the supernatural that lurked on his surface.

 

To Ollie, the power of the mark was nothing unusual. If you grew up with mystical powers, you would assume that mystical powers were the norm. Ollie didn’t talk about his freakish powers, so why would any one else? Sure, there were some that talked about such crazy things, and they occasionally got specials on some cable network, but everyone saw them as crazy. Perhaps they were nuts, and although there were many times that Ollie wanted to demonstrate his powers and just get them out in the open, he didn’t want to be labeled as a nutcase. Biology, especially ichthyology, allowed a certain number of nutcases, but Ollie was way too straight-laced to be one of them. He just wanted to study fish, wear his turtlenecks, finish his Ph.D. and get a job. There was no room in science for a nutcase with a birthmark that flew off of his neck when he concentrated hard enough, for science would have no explanation of the phenomenon, and he would be poked, prodded, scanned, and probably dissected until they could figure out how it worked.

 

Of all of the kids, only one knew his secret. It was his best friend and former worst enemy, the aformentioned Tim Matheson. Timmy Matheson was a freak himself, freakishly big. In kindergarten, he was already four feet tall and built like a rock. When they were in fourth grade, he was already pushing six feet. Ollie was tall, too, but not that tall, and, as you may recall, he made twigs look meaty.

Ollie was the opposite of Timmy in many ways other than physical. Timmy was king of the grade school and even the eighth graders respected him. He was popular, too, and not just from his bullying abilities, but he was generally a charismatic guy to the ones he liked. He didn’t like Ollie, but it was like all childhood hate. It was because Ollie was different, and different was scary. To prove that Timmy wasn’t scared of Ollie, he frequently had to beat the crap out of him. But one day, Ollie had enough.

Ollie was sitting across from the neighborhood bar (Chicago still had such things right smack-dab in the middle of the residential neighborhoods and the fifty-something guys used to come in before work and after to drink Old Style and smoke cigarettes). There was a maple tree in front of Old Mrs. Sanchez’s house that Ollie liked to sit under. Mrs. Sanchez used to take pity on the boy and offer him various sweets in the morning and tamales in the afternoon. But she had gone to visit her sister in Mexico City, so there was no protection for him that morning.

Ollie was just sitting reading a book about aliens and was wrapped in his own little world. He was mad that morning, very mad. His parents, both of them, were heading to Greece again. They were going to be gone for six months leaving him alone with his grandparents. He hated that they left all of the time for research. If they had to leave, why didn’t they take him? Get him out of the hellhole that was Audobon Elementary. He could learn so much more in Greece than he ever could as a shut-in in Chicago.

“Hey Flower Child!” he heard yelled from across the street, breaking his concentration on his self-loathing. There was Timmy standing in front of the bar.

“Tim, not today,” Ollie said, exasperated.

“What! Did you speak? Did you tell me what to do?” Timmy said, mocking anger.

“Just…just…just,” and Ollie swore for the first time since he had had his mouth washed out with soap when he was six, “Just fuck off!”

It was like slow motion, he saw Timmy’s face read shock and then anger, and then his hulking frame was moving across the street as if by light speed. Timmy grabbed Ollie’s jacket and ripped it from him, twirling Ollie around in the process. This was before he was allowed to wear the turtlenecks, and his mark was clearly visible.

Ollie twisted around, and his feet caught on a tree root and he fell. His glasses slid from his face, but he stood. He didn’t realize it at the time, but he saw clearly without his coke bottle lenses for the first time since first grade. “Not today, Tim! Not today!”

“What are you going to do about it Flower Child,” Timmy said and gave a push. Ollie’s glasses crushed under his foot.

The anger welled up inside of Ollie like he had never felt before. He thought about his anger about his parents leaving. He thought about the anger he felt about Timmy. And he thought about the anger for being born with such a disfigurement. All of that anger he channeled into his mark. It leapt off of his neck and into the air between them.

“Not today, Tim. Not ever again," Ollie said, his voice deep and strong. He controlled the mark; he knew it. He made it spin, and he could feel the power that was in the mark like he never had before. Ollie took a step forward, and the mark moved just in front of him.

Terror was now in Timmy’s eyes. It was a fear that Ollie understood. A look he knew he had on his own face when Timmy had attacked. It wasn’t until he saw such fear that he understood that the mark was real. Before, he could always just assume that it was a fantasy of his. He knew deep down that it was no fantasy, but he still hoped that the mark moving was just a fantasy because the implications otherwise were too strange to think about. The look on Timmy’s face said that the mark really was off of his neck and spinning.

“I’m…I’m sorry,” Timmy managed.

“Sorry? Liar! All this time you beat me up, never thinking about how I felt about it, never caring. Good sport, wasn’t it? Beat up on the freak. Beat up on the wimpy guy with the weird birthmark. How does it feel now?” Ollie taunted as he and the mark moved a step forward. Timmy moved back and tripped over the curb. He lay sprawling on the ground, and Ollie could see the wet mark that had formed between Timmy’s legs. This was what it was like to instill fear he thought. The mark swirled closer and closer to Timmy, and it was growing in size such that it was now a foot wide. “How…does…it…feel…now?” Ollie raved. The power was so strong, and it was emanating from him, sucking at the core of his being. In inches, the mark would be upon Timmy, and Ollie knew exactly what it would do. It would slice through him like butter. That was the power that was inside of him.

“Please, Ollie, I won’t ever do it again. I’m sorry,” Timmy said in a pitiful voice. It was the first time that he had ever called him Ollie. It had always been Olympus or Flower Child or some other kind of bad name. Never Ollie.

The stern look on his face slid away, and the mark stopped spinning and began to shrink. “I’m sorry,” Ollie said, and the mark snapped back onto his neck as Ollie came back to himself. Then he collapsed.

 

Ollie woke two days later in the hospital. Timmy was there and watched him wake. “You? Why?” Ollie asked after he saw that he wasn’t in the street outside of the “Thirsty Corner Tavern”, and that he wasn’t at home, and that he was, in fact, in what could only be a hospital (normal beds didn’t have rails on them).

“Do you know what happened,” Timmy asked.

“Yes…I think so…my mark.”

“Yeah. Don’t say anything about it. This needs to be our secret. I will protect you Ollie, you can count on it.”

Timmy had never known fear until he had seen Ollie attack. The kid’s eyes were glazed, and he sensed an anger he had never known. Timmy had tormented the poor kid all of his life, and part of Timmy thought that he might deserve whatever it was Ollie was going to dish out. When Ollie had collapsed, Timmy immediately knew the gravity of the situation. Ollie was a freak beyond Timmy’s wildest dreams, but Ollie was special on the outside.

Nobody would ever believe Timmy’s story; he knew that. If he told them Ollie’s birthmark had floated off of his neck and attacked, he would be the laughing stock and not Ollie. For one, Timmy couldn’t let that happen, and for a second, Timmy saw his purpose in life. Ollie was also special on the inside in a way that no one on the planet was.

From that day forward, Timmy was Ollie’s protector. If kids made fun of him, he would beat them up or at least threaten to (most would back away from Timmy before blows). Better than that, Timmy became Ollie’s friend. Ollie’s life began to look up for the first time. People no longer ostracized him, but accepted him. When he began wearing turtlenecks the next year, they forgot that he was deformed. He was never wildly popular because he was way too geeky for that, but he did okay.

Chapter 2: The Old Man, Young Man, and the Mountain among Booze

Ollie’s grandparents lived in a house that was surrounded on three sides by a factory. Well, really only two sides (the back and the right side), but because the factory curled around on the other side of the street, you might as well say three. It was a three-bedroom house, but only in the loosest sense of the word three. One bedroom was normal, one didn’t have a real door (a vinyl folding thing sufficed), and the third one had two doors, one of which was a trap door that took up the bulk of the small room and which led to a dank basement.

The basement was like a cave with just a few lights hung precariously low. Ollie always likened it to going down into a mine. A few vague shafts of light entered from slitlike windows near the ceiling and illuminated small swaths of the floor, the light barely penetrating the rest of the gloom of the basement.

The basement flooded after every rain, rising some two to three feet sometimes. What was mysterious was that with every flood one or two bottles of liquor hidden there by the long since deceased Uncle Gus floated out. For how long the bottles would have floated out must remain a mystery because when Ollie was ten, his grandparents finally installed a sump pump that kept the basement from flooding any longer. Ollie liked to think that the current owner (the neighborhood had gone yuppie, the factory torn down, and the house now worth a mint) was still stumbling upon 40 year old bottles of scotch that were now somehow transformed from the cheap crap that they had been to perfectly aged, premium beverages.

On a bookshelf that had been imbued with the funk of the decades of Chicago runoff, just above the high water mark of 1942 (etched into the wood of the staircase by Uncle Gus who probably also had a treasure map to his booze) was a collection of National Geographic’s that stretched back to 1909. Ollie spent a lot of time in the basement, in part because it was like a cave he could hide-out in and in part because of the National Geographic’s. National Geographic was porn for young boys. It was literally something that you could say “I’m reading it for the articles” when you were really doing exactly what you would be doing with Playboy and looking at pictures of naked women. In Ollie’s more sophisticated adult taste, he realized that the saggy boobs of the third world women captured in the pages were hardly primo, but to the young Ollie, they were all he had.

In the quest for boobs, though, he would occasionally come across an actual article that was of interest to other parts of him more familiar than the burgeoning sexuality that he didn’t quite understand. The article that he kept coming back to after looking at December 1963’s article on the Palong of New Guinea that had pictures not just of boobs but of pussy too, was one with just one set of boobs. They were a particularly perky set, but that was not what interested him the most. It was published in 1959, September, and it was on a journey to the Potaro River of Guyana. It was a river that formed in the Pakaraima Mountains near the border with Venezuela, hooked around through rainforest and savanna, and then fell off the mountains in the spectacular Kaieteur Falls, at 741 feet, the world’s largest single-drop waterfall. There was a picture of the falls and two men standing in front of it on a rock jutting out above a giant canyon. One man was young, tough. He was maybe thirty-years old and had his hair buzzed short. He was wearing an army shirt with the name “Donovan” on it. The other guy was thin, tall, gray and balding. Where Jack Donovan showed cool confidence, strength, and vigor, Charles Ambrose showed weariness and weakness. Both men were doctors of sorts. They were Ph.D.’s and they both studied fishes. They had traveled up the remote river in Guyana in the pursuit of new species of fishes, and they found a lot.

But fishes were not the only casualties of the trip. The team had made it up to the mining camp of Holmia, now just a memory. Holmia was about one hundred river miles from the source of the Potaro and a four-day paddle from Kaieteur Falls. Up there, they had collected all kinds of weird fishes including one that Ollie would eventually describe the genus Ambroseichthys in honor of Dr. Ambrose. Donovan, who had written the story, commented on his mentor’s behavior as they traveled to Holmia and the falls that blocked boat passage just slightly beyond.

 

“We explored the nether regions of Guyana where the naked Indians led us to some fantastic fishing holes. We found some of the species first discovered by Carl Eigenmann, and discovered even more new to science, but the trip ended with tragedy.

“Charles had always been a hard read. He had never married and never showed interest in the fairer sex. He was married to fishes, and I guess that was all right. He worked hard and he instilled in his students that ethic.

“Charles also played hard. He drank, perhaps too much, and perhaps the High Wine of Guyana was too much for him. Perhaps it was malaria. He fell into a dementia as we were set to leave for Oung Creek. We got him back to Kaieteur Landing after paddling day and night for a day and a half, but it was clear that there would be no getting him off of the mountain by the treacherous route we had taken. We radioed to Georgetown for a plane, but none could be arranged. After a night of raving, Charles Ambrose disappeared. We never discovered his body, or know even if he died. Charles Ambrose had disappeared off of the face of the earth.”

 

To Ollie, that was beyond cool. It was a story of two buddies scrambling through the jungle in the pursuit of treasure (well, fishes, but Ollie would soon learn to equate the two) with one disappearing into the jungle never to be seen again. Ollie was sure that Ambrose did just disappear. He hadn’t died of malaria like Donovan thought he had, but had ran off in the jungle to live with the girl with the big, firm breasts. Ollie wanted to go and see Kaieteur Falls and to explore the story of the missing ichthyologist, and he imagined that National Geographic might even pay his way.

It would be so cool, Ollie thought. And it would be, just not until he was 27.

 

Ollie’s next exposure with Kaieteur Falls was when he was thirteen and he saw that a public lecture was going to be given by a man named Jack Hill, an anthropologist at the University of Illinois. Ollie dragged Timmy (now demanding that he be called Tim) to the lecture.

“Why do you want to do all this brainy stuff all of the time?” Tim protested.

“You don’t understand man. There was this National Geographic in my grandparent’s house,” Tim’s eyes widened at this point. His first sexual experience also involved a saggy-breasted woman in the magazine, “And you should have seen the ta-tas on this woman from there. Maybe he will have pictures. He is an anthropologist after all.”

“Okay, I’m there.” No straight, thirteen-year-old boy would pass up even the remotest chance to see breasts, and this seemed like a sure thing. The best thing about it was that although they couldn’t get into an R-rated movie, no one cared about kids trying to learn things, even if the visuals were the same.

 

Dr. Jack Hill had a name almost as wildly inappropriate as Olympus’. Dr. Hill was not placeable to race. In Ollie’s estimation, he looked mostly like he was Asian, but then only in the way that Warner Oland looked like an Asian (he was the first of three non-Asians to play Charlie Chan). If anything, Ollie would sum up Dr. Hill as being all races somehow commingled, although that wasn’t even right. It was more like he was the base upon which all other races were built.

And the fact was that Jack Hill was the virtual progenitor of the human species as Jack Hill had been dead for over 46,000 years. His original name is all but unpronounceable in any modern language, but sounded the most like Antakaieckhblekth, although a few more consonants might have been needed, and you probably would have needed a cat hacking up a hairball to get all of the sounds right. To make life slightly easier, he was commonly known as Kaie to his friends. He was 46,117 years old and was born above Kaieteur Falls. His legend was still discussed there, although no one really knew what he or she was talking about. He was the Old Kaie of legend, the one that loaded up his canoe with all of his possessions and pushed off from what is now known as Kaieteur Landing and proceeded to take the canoe right off of the mountain and down the falls. The falls had been known as Glechthelekth to his people before his little trip, but that had been changed to Kaielekth after his little deed, and that eventually morphed into Kaieteur Falls. The name lasted 46,000 years, even after Kaie's people were wiped out by a new group of settlers about 12,000 years ago, because of the power of it all. It was as if the falls spoke his name.

The people that lived above Kaieteur Falls were not his own. His people had died out shortly after the second major radiation of humans entered the New World. Kaie had left a long time before, though. When his descendents were trying to push back the onslaught of the new invaders, he was in China with his six hundred sixty-sixth wife and mistresses number 67,989 to 68,011.

46,000 years and still almost all he could ever think about was sex. He supposed that was why he was a university professor. Each year brought in a new crop of young women. He could hold a job for thirty years or so, mainly because he looked like he could be just about any age, and then he could move on. He had taught just about every subject, and he had decided that for this journey, he would move back into something that he knew: anthropology. If anyone was qualified to discuss the evolution of the human species, it was he. He had seen most of it, and had sex with women of most of the pertinent civilizations, and probably everyone had a bit of Kaie DNA in them.

Today his stalking grounds were the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. He liked how everybody liked to think that somehow that these days and times were so much worse than the past when everyone was as pure and virtuous as the driven snow. That was BS. There existed no time in the last 46,000 years where there was a pure and virtuous race. There were a rare few people that would not have sex, but most would, and Kaie had found more than his share.

Could it be obvious that there was only one thing on Kaie’s mind? He didn’t really have to do a heck of a lot of research. He had managed to stash a few things during his travels over his long life for use in such situations. They would be proofs of many great, unexpected things (like that humans were in the New World 46,000 years ago). At the time, he wasn’t really sure why he was doing such things; they just seemed like the right thing to do. He felt that he would need them sometime. As a walking corpse, he was well versed in the supernatural, and he decided to not question whatever powers that were.

They had served him well. He had proven that the first human wave into the new world hadn’t been 12,000 years ago or even 20,000, but closer to that 46K number. It was hard for scientists to believe that one, and more than one time he wanted to get up screaming that he knew that humans were in North America 46,000 years ago because he was born 46,000 years ago in what is now Guyana.

But academic issues were not all that important. Kaie was an academic because he thought it was a good way to have lots of sex. He had also been a policeman, fireman, soldier, priest, and just about any position of authority because he felt that they had a better chance of getting between the sheets with women (often plural).

As for the whole death thing, he still was not convinced that he had died. Oh, he had gone on to the afterlife, but he wasn’t quite sure that he really was supposed to. On the other side (well, actually in a position somewhat between this world and the next), he learned that he was the one that was needed to seek out the Chosen One, the one with the mark that would open the door between this world and the next and initiate the final battle between good and evil. It was his job to find the person that had the ability to kill even the gods. That person would be marked by a symbol called the Lentan, a symbol that was well known to his people, a symbol that he had tattooed onto his chest even before he took his plunge off of the edge of the falls. It was the same symbol that was on Ollie’s neck, although it would be some time before Kaie would know that Ollie was the Lentai.

 

Kaie had had a good life. He was an excellent hunter, and he had just been offered his third wife by none less than the chieftain. She was a good, strong woman and would bear him many children, he was sure of that. He had two children from his first wife and one from his second. He was a good provider for his family, and he was likely to make it to the level of chieftain when the current chief died.

Kaie was not really sure what happened. He was really afraid when the canoe reached the edge of the falls. He didn’t know why he was there. He had no desire for death, so suicide wasn’t the reason. He was a smart man, and although his people did not have a word for gravity, he certainly knew what it was. He also understood that humans were not immune to gravity, and he had no belief that he would sprout wings and fly away. It was just that one day his tattoo was itching rather madly. It was driving him crazy. Then, a thought came into his mind, which was probably just distracted. It said, “Hey Kaie, why don’t you load all your stuff up inside of a canoe and take it over the falls?”

Who was he to argue with such a rational statement? Next thing he knew, he was in the dugout and heading for the edge. It was a dry time, and the waters of Kaieteur were a mere trickle compared to today, even though it was the rainy season. The pacu weed, with its small, purplish pink flowers on long stalks, covered the rocks around the edge, and the sound of the plunging waters was hypnotic to him. The deep red water flowed along a triangular rock that jutted over the canyon. Its still there today, but much smaller. It was like an arrow pointing where he was supposed to go. He placed his paddle into the water on the right side of the boat and the boat turned right. He paddled and straightened the boat. He was not concerned as the boat reached the edge of the falls; all he knew was that the itch was gone. “Hmm, must be a good idea to go over the falls,” Kaie thought as the boat seemed to hover for a moment, pointing partially downwards. Even though the back of the boat was out of the water, Kaie still paddled absent-mindedly as the boat slowly succumbed to gravity and slipped off of the edge of the world.

As soon as that happened, Kaie’s trance was broken. He looked down to see the swirling waters in the crash pool, and he saw his imminent death. He screamed the equivalent of “What the fuck am I doing?” as the boat picked up speed.

But he never landed. It was like the ship hit its maximum velocity halfway down and then slowed. When it settled to the earth, he wasn’t on the earth. He was somewhere else, and he was set on the path that would eventually lead him to Olympus Rutherford.

 

He could remember it, the day when the thirteen-year-old Olympus Rutherford first talked to him. He should have seen it then. The kid was wearing a turtleneck (a short-sleeved one at that) during the middle of the summer. He was a tall, thin kid, obviously a geek, and perhaps that was why Kaie had missed it. He was expecting somebody big and tough to be the most powerful man in the universe, and he hoped the powers that were would forgive him for missing Olympus.

He gave a thrilling talk of life above Kaieteur Falls and told the story of himself and how the falls got their name. He showed pictures of young, topless women (although it was getting a lot harder at finding them in modern times) and gold mining and wonderful pictures of scenery. Afterward, the kid in the turtleneck raised his hand and asked, “Do you know what happened to Charles Ambrose?”

Kaie had to think about it for a little while. He knew the name, but from where? And then it hit him. One night while drinking a little too much cassiri, a fermented yucca drink, and high wine, a nasty, high alcohol distantly related to rum, with the touschou of the village of Chenapow (not on the maps then because it was across from Holmia), Kaie had let loose with his story.

“You know, Paul,” the old names were already gone even in the 50’s, “You know the story of Old Kaie?”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

I am a professor of Ichthyology at Auburn University and curator of fishes at our museum. I am lucky in that part of my job is to go around the world and catch fish. I then describe new species and name them after scientists, characters of the fish, and Greedo. My favorite place to work is Guyana in South America, where part of this story takes place. Ollie’s mark is based on a petroglyph I saw near the Brazilian border. I have a wife and two kids and teach classes on anatomy and evolution.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
With all that bad that is present in the world, can any human suddenly becoming better simply because of death? If an Afterlife reinforces your own beliefs (and this one reinforces everyone’s beliefs), then there really is no reason to change. That leads to an Afterlife not different than this one.
Q. Tell us about the cover and the inspiration for it.
A.
In Guyana, I was shown ancient petroglyphs on a plateau flanked by two spectacular waterfalls. I realized that Olympus’s mark would be the shape of the flower petroglyph because it was a symbol that shows up everywhere and it fulfilled my goal of it being one of the dorkiest superpowers imagined.
Q. When did you decide to become a writer?
A.
I didn’t decide to become a writer, I just started writing. If you are a daydreamer and bored in work or school, you have to do something with your mind. For me, that was coming up with stories while sitting in Calculus class, and then you just have to write it down for the ideas to really gel.

Next in:
Science Fiction
Dying Earth
A blood soaked saga of steel and sword
Human Starpilots
Augmented pilot cross space but at which cost
Menace in the Goldilocks Zone
The Hobbit meets 2001: A Space Odyssey.