Calen was having a rotten day.
Granted it had started off well, with him stumbling across a portal into the future. The portal hosted endless possibilities for him and his gang, possibilities that hadn’t had any time yet to come to fruition because he had been severely distracted by one crucial aspect of the future.
Calen Garesh was the most feared and revered gang leader in the smoking, cobbled cesspit that was London in the early twentieth century. His gnarled fingers of influence reached out and entwined themselves into the very foundations of the city. No one could so much as breathe without him knowing about it.
And yet, in this strange future he had stepped into, with its mind-absorbing handheld boxes and its excess of glass paned buildings, he was revered as a hero. A fictional hero. There were movies about him, television shows, all based on a series of five books written by some bloke named Harrison Davies.
Calen Garesh and the Skirmish of the South. Calen Garesh and the Clockwork Countess. Calen Garesh and the Midnight Mayhem. Calen Garesh and the Horse Hiccup. Calen Garesh and the Trainwreck Traveller. All complete bullcrap. Although, the first novel seemed to be loosely based on some work he had done in France a few years before.
He wasted half of his trip to the future staring in disgust at the brightly illustrated posters plastered on the walls of a movie theatre, then the remaining hours he spent figuring out the currency and then discovering a way to view the blasphemous movies. Rental shops dotted the streets, offering colorful arrangements of the world’s oldest, newest, and most well-loved films.
The movies were nauseating.
After scoping out a few libraries – for further research into the Calen Garesh novels (and, time permitting, some research into political and economic affairs of London for the rest of his lifetime) – he stepped back through the portal to his home. The portal was inconspicuous enough, hidden on both sides in the curves of a four-footed bathtub, the bathtub squatting among similar piles of garbage in one of the many garbage disposal sites in the city of London – however, the piles were noticeable larger in the future London.
How he had happened upon this particular bathtub amid the waste of the city whose underground he ruled, he would never tell.
His heavy boots crunched on discarded scraps of paper and unidentifiable waste as he made his way back through the dump and into the city. He wore a heavy coat with a hood to hide his face and the curves of his figure. He was painfully aware of the press of bandages around his upper torso, constricting his lungs, which could prove fatal if someone recognized him and he had to run. However, the walk back to his home was uneventful.
Although inconspicuous on the outside, its gray brick melding into the general pallor of the city, the inside of Calen’s base was anything but. The entirety of the multi-level town home was draped in lavish fabric, crowded with artefacts and thick tomes, and gilded with golden intricacies. In his office, the most frequented room in the fortress of wealth, a thick mahogany desk stood as a sentry during his affairs and kept him at a safe distance from any outsiders. At least a dozen weapons, ranging from pistols to poisons to blades of all shapes and sizes, were nested in the desk alone.
Not to mention the hundreds of weapons hidden throughout the entire structure.
Tonight, he sauntered into the living room, threw off his coat, unwrapped the bindings around his chest, and collapsed into the leather chair perched by the fireplace. It had already been lit by one of his servants. A steaming mug of Earl Gray tea sat next to the stack of books on the table at his side. He grabbed the mug and took a sip. Exhaled and shut his eyes in contentment.
Someone cleared their throat.
His eyes flew open. A tall woman stood next to his fireplace, her skin bronze and her hair a dark cascade of curls. Her obvious musculature and appealing figure were veiled in a thin shroud of shimmering white fabric. Her eyes, an unnatural golden color, we fixed upon his face.
He quickly regained his composure. “How may I help you, madam?” Best to seem natural in the face of unnatural circumstances. And unnatural beauty.
“Good evening, Calen Garesh.” Her voice carried like a bell, resonating through his skull. “I am Rhyma O’Clock. It has come to my attention that you made an illicit expedition out of your time, and I must inform you to not do so again.”
“I’m sorry, Miss… O’Clock. But I haven’t the slightest idea what you are talking about.” He had no idea how this woman could know of his portal, but he would never waste such a valuable asset by admitting to it.
“Do not attempt to lie to me, mortal. I am fully aware of the bathtub gateway, and I have already disposed of it. This visit is just a formality. As per the rules of the Council of Abstract Human Structures, I am required to threaten you so you do not attempt to meddle with time again.”
What exactly Rhyma O’Clock threatened him with for the following hour, he would never tell. He showed astounding resilience for a human, she would later note, but as he let her out the front door of his home, he looked less like a crime lord and more like a sweaty, slightly teary child.
No one saw Miss O’Clock leave, other than some bloke down the road, to whom Calen Garesh yelled “Sod off!” before slamming his front door shut.
The next day, he didn’t so much as wander in the direction of the garbage dump to see if the time lady had been bluffing. The rest of the day went as usual, some stealing, some fraud, some manipulation, and one assassination. Overall, very productive.
He retired for the night about thirty minutes before midnight. By eleven forty-five he was reclining in his bath, a glass of wine resting in one hand, a bottle in the other. At eleven fifty, a knock sounded at the front door, which he did not hear due to the gramophone in the corner of his lavatory blasting ‘Danse Macabre’ at full volume. The knock came four more times, every minute on the minute, and stopped its repetition promptly at eleven fifty-five. At exactly midnight, the front door exploded.
A towel-wrapped and slightly drunk Calen Garesh came dripping down the stairs to find a horde of clicking, goblin-esque creatures swarming the entryway.
“May I inquire as to why you lot are invading my home?” he asked, remarkably calm given the circumstances.
The entire group of sniveling creatures abruptly stopped to look at him.
“Why aren’t you scared?” one of them asked. The others chimed in with “yeah” and “why.” Their snubby goblin faces looked genuinely concerned.
“Well, to be quite frank, yesterday I was threatened by a beautiful time mistress who I was simultaneously terrified of and attracted to and I haven’t quite processed that. Compared to that, this is rather tame.” The goblins nodded in concession.
“Damn those council members, always walking over humans before we can,” one of the goblins muttered. Presumably referring to the Council of Abstract Human Structures which Rhyma O’Clock had referred to the night before.
“There’s really no fun in this now, I hope you know that,” another goblin said, waving a knobby, accusing finger at Calen.
He shrugged. “Talk to the time lady.” The goblins formed an agitated cluster, mumbling about the council and the injustice of it all. “May I suggest you go bother the council about this? I really do need to get some sleep tonight, I’m quite a busy crime lord, you must understand.”
“Of course, of course,” one of them said.
“Terribly sorry to bother you for nothing, sir,” said another.
They hobbled over the threshold and out the now vacant doorway. A few people down the street were peeking out of their doors at the commotion. At the sight of the goblin horde, they quickly yanked their doors shut. Ever-so-calmly, the goblins opened an interdimensional portal and shuffled through, presumably to take their complaints about the need for more balance in terrorism of humans to the council.
Calen phoned a door repairman who owed him a significant debt because of the business in France. The disgruntled, half-dressed man showed up at his doorstep within half an hour. The repair took half as long, and soon Calen was off to sleep in the embrace of his bed, which lay deep within the many hallways and rooms in the building behind his sturdy new front door.
The following day, he had some business to attend to in the countryside. He woke up early and was driven out to meet his clients, an impoverished couple living on a farm in desperate need of financial support. Their meeting was short – he secured their home as a safehouse for his international dealers in exchange for a fraction of his wealth. As he was leaving, in the spirit of being as heartless as possible, he also decided to adopt their only horse, a muscular black stallion that he would bring to live at his country home.
What he did not foresee was the intervention of yet another mystical being, an earth spirit who trailed his car into the city as he made a stop by his home to file away the fresh contract with the farm couple. The daring spirit deemed it proper to release the latch keeping the stallion in its trailer, thus releasing the thousand-pound beast into the neighborhood.
A red-faced and quite discontented chauffer barged into Calen’s office bearing the news of the creature’s newfound freedom. Calmly, Calen stalked over to the window overlooking the street below, through which he could hear shouts and crashes of general chaos.
The immense amount of effort which Calen put into retrieving the wayward animal may, to some, have come across as a valiant attempt to save the helpless denizens of his neighborhood.
It must be noted, however, that the effort was completely self-motivated. He desperately wanted the animal for his own, to crush its free spirit and further remind him of his incredible manipulative abilities.
The rest of that week was relatively uneventful, at least with regards to supernatural intervention in Calen Garesh’s affairs. The next several months proceeded with the normal amount of villainy and exploitation. The next many years deepened the shadows of his influence over London, and its surrounding areas. He lived an altogether sinister life, as soot-coated, bloodstained, and pungent as London itself, and quite deserving of a legacy among those of the worst scum of the earth.
Calen Garesh lived to be fifty-three years old. His last day of life was spent on a train with a supremely insufferable politician, who happened to be nursing a case full of money when the train made a sharp turn. The politician, well known for his clumsiness, especially when nervous, let the briefcase slip through his chubby fingers and it slid across the floor to the opposite side of the train car precisely as another passenger opened it.
Calen, in a rare moment of irritation-fueled action, was up and across the train car only a few moments after the passenger slipped on the case, propelling it and himself back through the door and towards the tracks rushing by outside. Calen roughly grabbed the collar of the passenger, throwing him back into the train, then proceeded to propel himself out the door to try to catch the case of money. However, his fifty-three-year-old body decided that it would be prudent, in the excitement of the moment, to have a heart attack.
And so, Calen Garesh plunged past the case and onto the tracks, promptly putting an end to his life.
Where one imaginative bloke – a man named Harrison Davies who happened to live on the same street as London’s biggest gang leader and frequent the same train as said crime lord – might recognize Calen’s actions as selfless and his character to be virtuous, then proceed to write a five-book series of imaginings based on the snippets of Calen’s life to which he was exposed, it must be noted that the truth of the matter is quite the opposite.