Up From The Depths


bao-wei2_icon.gif samson2_icon.gif

Scene Title Up From The Depths
Synopsis Samson Grey finds something unexpected wash up on the beach…
Date August 16, 2010

Swinburne Island

Ask three people what a monster is and they will each give three very distinct answers. Ask any permutation of people what a monster is, and you will receive any number of unique responses. That the world of monsters and men is so difficult to define is partly to blame for the ambiguity of the term, the word itself has over five definitions in the Webster's dictionary.

Some people would say the elderly man sitting on the beach watching the sun set is a monster, though the uninitiated observer would be hard pressed to explain why. A circle of stones surrounds a makeshift campfire made from dry timbers and scrap wood, some with peeling scraps of lead paint on the dried wood finish. Unhealthy, but who wants to live forever?

Shoes are scuffed heel down into the sand, and in front of the flickering glow of the fire, Samson Gray finds himself eating from a can of Pork n' Beans with a bent spoon. Metal clicks on metal, bearded jaws snap open and closed, and gray brows furrow in consideration of a beautiful sunset over a largely unsatisfying meal.

To make this serene setting of goldenrod and purple light more surreal, a silhouette rests at Samson's back, overgrown in saltgrass and undergrowth, the ruins of a derelict hospital complex that is little more than crumbling brick walls and skeletons of wood frame-work. Abandoned for just shy of 100 years, the shores of Swineburne Island aren't a tourist attraction, and by the time it gets dark the Coast Guard will be harassing the source of that camp fire.

For now though, the rattily dressed old man with his loose fitting flannel shirt, stained white tank top and brown khakis looks like any other homeless man and eats like one too.

But monsters, as a rule, aren't usually just what they appear to be on the outside.

Floating is a sensation that anyone can experience- even if you do not have the specific senses to do so. He's been blacking in and out of the real world for days, rolling over to peer up at passing sky, lulling down to drag along the bottom of the bay when his gaze tires and the current fails. He can sense the silt and grit, the weeds and the garbage. The clean surface is always a reprieve when he bobs up again, a passing oddity spotted by boats here and there. Eventually, he can sense that he has slowed. Perhaps, gotten closer to land. He cannot make heads or tails of a great many things during his rest, but he knows this much.

The sunset on Swinburne is warm and peaceful, until a bizarre film begins to creep up over the west shoreline. Smog, almost- it is cold, wet, clingy.

Closer inspection yields something amidst the seals on the rocky shore. They don't appreciate it, whatever it may be, barking angrily and lobbing themselves either into the bay or along the rocks, away from it. It really does not look too different from the rocks. It does, however, have a vaguely human shape. Arms, one leg, a broad back- other parts look more like a frozen glob than a man. Color and texture largely consist of scrapings from the bottom of the ocean; dirt, black silt, red clay, the mossy green of bilge water and weeds lain out upon its back in a meticulously frozen web. Where its head should properly be is something else entirely- an overgrown and icy, old rusty hubcap. The propeller emblem of a BMW is still visible.

Both gray brows raise at the sight of a chunk of ice washed up on the beach, muddied and disgusting as it is. Scooping one last mouthful of beans out into his mouth, Samson drags his spoon down his tongue and bottom lip before sticking his can down into the sand and once more swiping the spoon with his lips to clean it off before putting it into the pocket of his pants.

Treading down the beach, Samson's worn out sneakers crunch the sand underfoot and his slow pace is understandable for a man his age. Steeling himself on feeling the cold air emanating from the direction of the ice, Samson hesitates approaching any further as his brows furrow in contemplation. Head quirking to the side, he inspects the lump of ice and sea-trash from a long distance down the shore, and slides his tongue over his lips absent-mindedly.

Smoke begins to waft from Samson's body, as though somehow the sunset was causing his nosferatu-like profile to realize it burned him. But instead of bursting into flames, Samson dissolves, becoming a sooty cloud of ashen dust that drifts lazily along the sand in a slowly meandering path towards the ice. Uninfluenced by cold in this form and without his theatrically raised hackles of fire and lightning mixed in the cloud's depths, Samson seems more like a nosy thunderhead coming to visit Antarctica.

As ugly and as chilly as things may be, getting close only makes it worse. More garbage, scraped from the bottom, more sickly colored water frozen hard and black. The tide laps noisily on the mix of rocks and sand, and the few seals left wandering take to the water, leaving behind only honking and barking that dissolves under the surface.

Samson's inspection yields very little, apart from that the water licking at the construct's lower half freezes white and fresh with every contact. As a result, the water around it has bgun to flake over, and a strange, horizontal growth of ice has formed where there is a morphless crag.

The entire situation is nothing but puzzling to Samson, even as his ephemeral form of ash and smoke billows around the ice formation, making heads or tails of the mess is largely impossible. The cloud thickens, rises, views the formation from above then moves back in a downwards arc towards the earth as smoke begins to thin and dissipate before revealing the wiry man again with his back to the ice formation.

Too close though.

Samson lets out a hiss of surprise as he turns around, feeling the intense cold radiates by the mass of ice and scrambles back and away from it, heels slipping in the sand until he's backpedaled up a saltgrass bristled hill and brings his arms around himself, exhaling a deep breath of warm mist in the frigid air.

For the first time in a long time, Samson isn't exactly certain what to make of what he's confronted with. But now comes the solving of the puzzle, and it's in consideration from this hill that the former taxidermist is best contemplating what of his many abilities is best suited for inspecting a freezing mass belched up by the ocean.

With a surface temperature roughly the same as the upper atmosphere of the plant Jupiter, it is no surprise that Samson Gray shies away from the icy bulge. Perhaps it sensed the human warmth, perhaps it sensed the surprise-

One of the misshapen forelimbs shivers, cracks, tweaks a joint into the now frosty ground below. A thin layer of it has grown all around, like moss on a stone. The elbow- is it?- digs down harder, bilge-colored ice pistoning slowly down into earth that only gives way and sinks further down. It moves again, on the other side, a globular stump of leg shifting forward, a knee forming haphazardly while it struggles in vain to somehow position itself into a place that is not face down in frozen mud.

When it moves Samson jerks back another step, eyes growing saucer wide and one hand reaching into the front pocket of his flannel shirt to retreive the most important thing in Samson's arsenal… his glasses. Sliding them up the bridge of his nose, the old man blinks a few times and then furrows his brows, creeping forward to watch the frost-coated behemoth struggle like a wounded hippopotamus in a dry Kenyan riverbed.

Smoke wafts out of Samson's mouth as if he were some dragon of myth baring teeth and snarling at some equally worrisome monster encroaching on his lair. But the gesture turns to something less threatening when Samson takes a few cautious steps forward, and then in the most incredulous of voices calls out. "Did you lose your magic top hat?"

Yeah, it's a Frosty the Snowman joke.

He does not need ears to hear. It is quite possible that personal jabs would be heard even if he were totally deaf, regardless. The struggling thing is semi-aware of the fact he is being watched, letting out a belch of frigid mist when the limbs teetering him onto hands and knees crack and splinter back into the ground, and torso lands on mud. The limbs take time to regroup, and he makes headway once again.

This time, it is two thigh-lengths, two knees, one half-arm pushing from the mould of torso. The water behind him freezes when it hits him next; it flashes into a miniature glacier for about fifteen feet, some of it literally crawling its way up the sand, connected at the knee to whatever this thing is.

After a time, it has found a second arm. The first finds a pincer-shaped hand, which wastes little time in reaching up to begin to wrench the metal hubcap from the space where head should supposedly be. The crunching of ice is grating on the ears, metal on rigid water, scraping and clanking as the arm rocks at it.

This is not what anyone would expect to wash up on a beach. Ever.

Awe is an appropriate reaction, watching Bao-Wei collect himself like Humpty-Dumpty from the water of the beach. In all of Samson's years and in all of his time hunting the evolved, he's honestly never seen anything quite like this before. That it doesn't speak is the first sign that it either can't or chooses not to. Both answers equally disquieting to Samson as he takes one more cautious step back, danger sense tingling at the back of his mind and warning him get out, get out but catlike curiosity screaming stay, stay.

Samson's fingertips rub together, tiny static sparks crackling there as his nerves tense and hackles rise. The other hand is occupied with brushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose, considering the status of the ice monster and slowly putting the pieces of Cong's ability puzzle together, though it's only just the barest outside edge of the picture to come.
The golem gives an abrupt shudder, limbs cracking loudly and the hand finally prying the cap from clavicle. What forms there is unmistakably a head. When the ice creaks and flakes next, an ape-like face turns jerkily towards the man on the beach.

Samson, faced seconds ago with a formless lump of ice, now finds himself staring into the coin-sized, luminescent gold of an eye, centered deep within a hollow pit. It stares, unblinking, venomous, suspicious, and all the same- there is a familiarity there. The familiarity of Samson's innate curiosity and god-given desire for knowing, mirrored so plainly back at him by the monstrosity kneeled in the rocky, glacial sand.

"If you're going to ask…" Samson's dry voice croons with marked calm for being face to face with a giant ice monster, "for me to take you to my leader, well," there's a wheezy laugh at that, "we may as well just stay here." Gray brows raised in appreciation, Samson takes another step closer, but winces at the radiating cold emanating from the creature and backpedals, watching the saltgrass crunching brittle and frozen under his feet.

"You're fascinating do you know that?" Of course he does, he's Bao-Wei Cong. "Can you speak?" Hazel eyes meet a cyclopean golden iris, and Samson's hands come to tuck down into the pockets of his pants. Even int hat, he fails to notice that Bao-Wei's cold is slowly putting out his makeshift campfire and making his beans cold.
The eye shifts away, when Samson finishes, roving down to two new icy hands, arms, barrel chest- Cong sits up, only to sink onto his knees into the ice, sitting there as if he had seated himself down at a table, or possibly, before one. His face grinds together, jaw spidering a hinge where the bone would be, a gash of a mouth working over jagged sharkteeth. His shoulders give another shudder, and the water climbing up his feet seem to now be concentrating on making that tough layer of frozen debris and bilge a lower layer; his broad shoulders thicken, his back weighs heavier, his head grows the template of a skull that had once held onto horns.

His attempt at gathering himself has gone quite well, even to the point that his default humanoid shape has elements of that one he had kept for weeks. A hiss of air tunnels inward, as jaw pops open and mouth widens.

"Yes." One word, thus far. Speech precedes another spitting forth of cold air, like a bellows emptying itself of its own accord.

Now Samson looks a little worried. Treading backwards a couple of slow steps across brittle saltgrass crusted with ice, Samson's lips make an obvious oh face followed by a steady rise of his hands up in a gesture to show that he's unarmedreally. "I don't have any trouble with you, whatever— whoever you are. But I will say this, whatever trick you're using to make yourself look— be— like that? It's going to attract attention of the very unwanted kind."

Sliding a tongue over his lips, Samson curls his fingers against his palms and slowly lowers his hands down to his side. "Never met someone who could do what you do, and I'm rightly not even sure what it is…" is offered with one brow lifted and glasses slouching down the bridge of Samson's nose. "You're… something very unique."

Then, realizing that perhaps introductions would— ahem— break the ice, Samson offers a crooked smile and notes, "My name's Samson. Do you have something I could call you?"

"So- let it." Clack. Cong's mouth closes. He tests his sight, though all Samson can see from there is that single eye whirling about in its socket, to and fro. His rattling voice becomes smoother, its pitch lowering and echo strengthening. The eye centers over on Samson once again, and with arms hovering near, Bao-Wei considers the question posed of him.

"Xuan Wu."

"Tell me where I am." This is not a request, nor inquiry, it is an order. It is clear where he stands on rank.

The name rolls unfamiliar off of Samson, as much of a puzzle piece as the ice monster itself. Quirking his head to the side, Samson's eyes are slow to slide from the creature, but eventually he settles his stare down on the now unlit fire pit, then up to the hospital ruins, then back to Bao-Wei's glacial form. "Swinburne Island, and the coast guard patrols by here once the sun goes down," Samson notes witha motion towards the setting sun. "You want to not get yourself… in trouble?" Samson's tone takes a slightly incredulous bend to it when it seems like he's not sure what trouble for Cong would be.

"Then you'll best find a way off of here." Hazel eyes scan Bao-Wei once more, and Samson takes a slow, shuffling step back as if to demonstrate the island, narrowing his profile and motioning around inland. "You're not far from Staten Island," he adds with a point of his nose behind the creature, then squints thoughtfully.

"I'd change back if I were you," Samson's starting to figure it out by watching it in action, but the question is: does he know more or less than Bao-Wei does about the ability.
"Even if I had mastered such a thing, it would be impractical, unless you've a coat and pants in that can of beans."

Way to put it. Cong shifts to one side, lifting himself up to a bipedal state. His back is now thick with short tines, his joints pointed with mossy green. The shapes over his back continue a gradual building. The monster jerks its head, peering from one end of Swinburne to the other. He exudes displeasure, as well as frigid cold.

"What was your means of getting here?" He has not missed such a major loophole. Samson got here somehow.

"Smoke on the water," sounds like a joke in the way Samson restrains a chuckle behind the words. The laughter isn't from the joke though, but rather at the comfort that the ice creature didn't witness Samson's transformation, which is always a welcomed state of things. Surprises help keep people on their toes. "I'm not without my ways. When you get to be my age, the world starts to lose some of its mystery, some of its charm…" Reaching into the back pocket of his jeans, Samson removes a crushed soft-pack of Marlboros, shaking out one bent cigarette before lifting it up to his lips.

"I think the more interesting story," Samson opines as he presses lips down on the end of the cigarette between his lips, then brings two narrowly pinched fingers together in front of the cigarette's tip, "would be how you got here." There's an electric snap between Samson's fingers, lightning the cigarette before a deep breath is drawn in from it, and smoke is exhaled through Samson's nostrils.

"That's the story I want to hear," the old man requests with a crooked, yellow-toothed smile.
"I think that I have gotten to be your age." Cong remarks, his eye attentive as he peers into his surroundings. Standing, he seems to be the same height as Samson- and three times as broad. Like something that crawled straight out of Tolkien. When there is a question asked of him, his gaze goes to Samson once again. This time, it takes considerably longer for him to formulate an answer. The only reason he does, is that Samson has thusfar been accommodating.

"I am not sure you are privy to that kind of …enlightenment." One limb lifts, finger cracking out to point to the horizon where there is still a cloud formed over Staten Island. Perhaps that is enough.

One gray brow rises as Samson offers a slow and steady nod to the instruction of the hospital. "Probably for the best," is the sandpapery answer Samson offers to the behemoth, taking a few footfalls around Bao-Wei's perimeter, testing just where that cold border is, where it changes from downright frigid to do not stand here. It's an obvious toe-stepping test of the lines of temperature, one that eventually has Samson making his way to the shoreline.

"You'd best find somewhere to hide before sundown…" Samson suggests over his shoulder, cigarette bobbing up and down between his lips. "You could probably hide in the skeleton of that old hospital," he notes with a motion of one hand towards the ruined building's skeletal structure. "Not very homey but it's better than the alternative." Whatever that is.

When Bao-Wei follows Samson's trek, the twitch and budge of his head seems almost like a rhinoceros shifting to get a good squint at something that has been following it. Though he does not do a thing to stop it, it is crystal clear that there is distrust. Suspicion.

"I have had enough of hiding in hospitals." He will not sequester himself to that kind of place- to be typecast as a monster that haunts old hospitals. "I am not feeling complete- but-"

"I should hope not to come to hiding in another one." Water is water, at his back.

Samson's response is a silent shrug, squinting up at the clouds streaked with orange and purple that hang low and heavy in the sky, the most distant ones tinged gray with approaching rain. "Wherever you decide to go…" comes as the outline of Samson's body seems disturbed by the cool sea breeze, sending wisps of his flesh blowing like streaks of smoke in the air, "just remember you'll never get very far with a face like that."

There's a crack of a smile and a slow lift of one weathered hand that begins to dissolve into voluminous and chalky clouds of ash and smoke, the kind that are belched out of a volcano during an eruption. Samson breaks apart, undulating and churning until he is little more than smoke on the wind, boiiling against the breeze in silence, then flattens out to the ground and begins rolling across the water like a sooty mirror of morning fog.

He wasn't lying, about being smoke on the water.

Wherever he decides to go. Bao-Wei lifts a three fingered hand to his head, crooked thumb scraping unfeeling along his cheek. His index finger knocks loose flakes of ice. The eye watches Samson literally dissolve into something intangible, curiosity piqued once again by this strange homeless man. Cong watches him go, dancing over the bay current.

"I shall have to fix it."

Without heed for anyone that might be watching, be it Samson or otherwise, the golem turns on its heel and stumps back towards the shallows. The ice on the sand follows him, crawling and buckling aver his legs when his shape begins to bend and form into something else entirely. Crunching, grinding, scraping on the surface of the beach; the humanoid shape elongates, falls forward into the lapping surf. The ridges along his back lengthen, limbs crooking into something far more pigeon-toed, and forelimbs patterning after something not unlike a water bird's feet.

Cong lets out a fresh gust of cold air from a now crocodilian snout. When the creature slides menacingly into the shallows, the temperature follows- to leave a layer of ice behind as it travels into the depths of the Lower New York Bay.

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