a novel
by Seth Kallen Deitch

ã 1993 S.K.Deitch

Book 1

The Land Beneath the World

Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A. December 3rd 1976

The icy wind of early winter crawled over the Harvard yard wall to lay a chilly hand on my cheek. Work had left me only half drained as opposed to the usual clobbering I tended to feel at this point in the week. I still had last year's gloves, holes and all, and today I felt each and every hole in perfect definition.

Trudging down Mount Auburn street through the light snow, I pushed myself to move faster, making my way for home and warmth. As I walked I pondered the problem of dinner. Down toward the corner of DeWolf I marched, past Tommy's Lunch, Sage Jr.'s, Czelzed Bromfkidor....genuine Antarctic cusine. It just so happened to be payday and here was food. I went in.

The dinner special was Farnoud Douy with a soured Falad for only seven dollars, how could I go wrong? The waiter was tall and gray with lank brown hair. He wore a European waiter's jacket over Bromfkidoran street clothes with the slightly jarring fashion note of bright red basketball shoes on his feet.

I ordered the special with a bottle of "Molad" beer and was about to dig in when I noticed the man. He was ordering from the waiter in a minority dialect of the Bromfkidoran language.

He was really old and definitly not Bromfkidoran, Black rather than gray. Precious few Americans speak any Bromfkidoran at all, even at Harvard, let alone the localized form which this man spoke.The only reason I noticed was because I had started my masters thesis on comparative Bromfkidoran language before I decided I didn't really need a master's degree after all.

This led me to believe that this was a man with a story. It has always been my particular weakness to pursue old folks who might have a story to tell, for how else am I going to learn any of the really important things in this world?

The man looked to be about seventy years old but not the least bit burdened with the maladies which so often accompany old age. Even though he was sitting I could tell that he stood at least six foot three. About his person there was an atmosphere of serenity.In the hope of making his aquaintance I had a bottle of Molad sent to his table, and waited.

As I was lingering over my second beer, another set itself down across the table from me, firmly held in a muscular black paw.

"I wanted to thank you for the beer, young fella, do you mind if I join you for a moment?"

To my surprise, his accent was not Bromfkidoran but Californian with a touch of the whole world thrown in.

"It was my pleasure,I was hoping that you would be able to talk to me for a little while. I have hardly ever heard a nongray man speak more than a few words of Bromfkidoran."

I pointed to the waiter,

"Mister D'mokal over there will attest that I am one of the very few who come in here who even pronounces the menu correctly and this only because I devoted myself to the study of the language for some time. The NATIONAL language, that is, not the old minority dialect I heard comming from you."

"Mister D'mokal is a Pojojan and he looked like he might be cheered by hearing his native dialect."

"How on earth did you aquire such fluency?"

"I spent some time in the far south."

this was virtually unheard of, Bromfkidor is one of the most closed of closed nations. Only a very few of their number live outside of Bromfkidor or her subject lands. The owner of this resteraunt was one of the very few excecptions.

"Really," I said, "When?"

"Long ago, before Patagonia."

Again, this was startling news, for as every school boy knows the Patagonian invasion was in 1914.

"You don't look that old!"

"I'm ninety-nine."

"Wow! The years have treated you very well indeed!"

The man chuckled, A deep resonant sound which filled the room somehow without being louder than conversational speech.

"Clean living, I guess."

It was silent for a beat or two.

"My name is Seth Deitch."I said.

"Woodrow Hammond, pleased to meet you Seth."

His handshake conveyed a sensation of enormous power held under tight control. I was apparent that this man was immensely strong.

"So, you were really in Bromfkidor? Before the first war?"

"I was."

"I would really like to hear about your experiences, that is , if you don't mind."

"No, I don't mind,I just haven't thought of those days in a very long time."

We agreed to dine together the next evening where he would begin to tell me of his early days in the land beneath the world.