CAMPFIRE – Who?

September 6, 2017

He has power over the cosmos, terrible power. He can erect whole civilizations without a second thought, he can move through time and space at will, and he has chosen to find me. To bring me with him on his journey. And He has brought me here, to the end of everything.

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Drestin rotated the lock on his pipe with one deft hand, setting bowl sideways on the small table near his chair, and pulled a small leather pouch off of his belt. “Do you mind if I imbibe, zev?”

Hashim chuckled, “Yes, and there’s no reason to call me teacher anymore. Though it does warm my heart to know that you remember the Words of the Law still.” Hashim sat himself in another chair, opposite Drestin, and poured a small amount of a glassy, amber liquid for himself.

Passa, mouth still agape, stared at the two in turn. “You still haven’t explained what’s going on here. How is this man with mecka older than I am supposed to help with the Duke?”

Drestin looked up from his task of moving the black, tar-like substance from his pouch to the pipe. “Yes, Hashim. Now would be a good time to tell both of us about my task.” Looking at the mass for a second to appraise it, Drestin decided it was fine, used his hand to seal the pipe back up, and pushed a small artfully hidden button to light the greaseweed. A small, delicate sigh escaped him as he settled into the chair and a dark cloud already forming above them.

Hashim took a long, slow sip of his drink, leaned over his knees and held the glass in both hands. “Yes, Drestin, I suppose now is a good time to tell you about the zesh’desor, the blood-eater, that I asked you to come for.”

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Place Tree

May 30, 2017

I enjoyed the forest when I built it, but I always hated it in testing. There’s nothing worse than seeing something from far away, approaching it hoping for all of the payoffs of the varities of nostalgia that drives your feelings of beauty, and then finding the same cheap trick repeated over and over again.

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A Long Road

May 26, 2017

Black, oily smoke poured from his nose as he sighed. The view from the end of the pass looked down on the foothills of the Tarthian mountains and seemed to frame the village of Missran perfectly. The steep peaks of the houses, the domed Temple of the Law set into the mountain herself, and the humming of the Machineshrine built on top of their modest Vent. The only reason this town was here.

His pipe hung loosely in his mouth, working around the grimace he carried from the extreme cold of the mountain. The spines of his mecka seemed to twist and grind in the cold lately and the weight bearing on his leg didn’t help. His arm, at least, he could carry in a sling.

He grasped he cart jerked his head a bit to his mecka cart and headed down the winding switchbacks toward Missran, a filmy haze of greasesmoke trailing behind him as if to warn the others out there. The others in the deep pine forests spotted with powerful redwoods that seemed to guard the woods.

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This once appeared on The Limitless, an online magazine, that has (it appears) since gone defunct. So I’m putting it here again so everyone can read it.

This is Us. 


He’s never who you think he would be.

He was young, well youngish. Maybe late twenties. Perhaps early thirties. Not tall, not fat, not thin, not short, he was quite average overall. A bit of a paunch hanging over layered muscles, quiet business clothes poorly kept.

He had grown up apart from most. Good at math, good with words, did well in the Arts, the Humanities, the Sciences. Enjoyed English, studied history. Never had any friends though; when he would try to interact with others, whether peers or adults, he was always too visceral. Too intense. Too loud, too insistent, too focused. Many saw him and distrusted him; they all thought he was like a robot wearing a skin suit.

He went to a local college, didn’t follow his dream. People like him could never be successful dreamers, only forgotten dreamers. Instead he became an accountant, a numbers man, and was good at it. Enjoyed it. He would offer to do anyone’s numbers, to help them and to secure that desperately wanted social interaction. Such desperation lead him to the wrong groups, the wrong people. He fell in with tough “friends”, friends who taught him how to fight, how to argue, how to lead.

Now he worked with these friends. They ran a halfway successful boxing clinic to hide the thuggery of their day to day operations. He did their numbers. Some liked him. Some feared him. All respected him, and that is all he could want. He always arrives in the same way he leaves; black leather messenger bag, loosely resting in the small of his back, containing small laptop, power cable , cell phone, cell phone cable, two black pens, a blue pen, a red pen, a yellow college-ruled legal pad, small bottle of unsorted medications, all hidden under his business jacket. He didn’t need to hide it under his jacket but he did.

He had taken the bus home that day, as he always did. Two buses, one west three blocks, the other north four and a half. From there he had to walk another half-block north, as the bus turned. While this bothered him, it was of no consequence. That day was particularly jarring for him, with them sounds around him haunting him, following him. They hit hit him in waves of cacophony, unsettling him as the ocean throws a swimmer from his wave. When he walked off the bus he reached down to his belt, a small leather case with a metal clasp, and felt the edges of a balisong, a butterfly knife, through the casing. It was one of his small comforts.

The balisong was a gift from his boss. It reminded him of a yoyo he had owned as a child. A way of metering the world, a metronome for his thoughts. There was the click of it rolling off of his fingers, the swish of it falling, and the snap as it returned to his hand. Click, swish, snap. Just the tiniest bit of pain to solidify it for him, to make the object real. The balisong was like that. The click of the hinge opening, the swish of the knife sweeping open, the snap of it coming together just after his fingers glide out of the way. Click, swish, snap.

The knife was how he came to be feared, even respected, among his compatriots. While he was an accountant, whenever other boxing clubs had tried to rough him up, they had found that he was deadly with the small knife. Two men were hospitalized for one of these encounters.

He walked down the road toward his home, buildings looming above him, seeming to judge him. Everything seemed to warp toward him, as if being pulled toward him. A road became a cave, every wall pouring over him like falling glasses full of the darkest ink. Set apart was one electrical box, brazenly displaying itself like a man puffing his chest. Proudly labeled with a sticker, right across the front, the box inquired, “Do we really know what we think we know?” The balisong was in his hand, he knew not how it got there. Only that the click, swish, snap was keeping him level.

He was opening the door to his apartment, left handed, but this was awkward. He was normally right handed but, currently, his right hand was occupied. The knife danced over it, entrancing but, ultimately, ignored. It was his metronome for now, whispering the soft “click, swish, snap.”

His TV was on. He was inside. He was unsure as to how or why this happened. He was cooking dinner. In the background was the knife. Opening. Closing. Click…swish…snap.

Half eaten, his dinner has cooled near him. The knife is fevered now. Clickswishsnap, as if one word, and the man on the TV is leering to him, leaning over. He says, “You can do it. We can help.”

The phone is clicking onto the base, an old phone. Rotary. The knife blazes around his hand like steel turned to light. The sound is indefinable now, almost an emotion rather than a physical thing. He had heard their voice, the phone number from the sticker (was there a phone number?) they can help him (did they say that?). They knew everything (they did say that). He told them he saw it, the reasons behind everything (he’s always known the reasons, why the music hates him, why the building crush him). He told them that he was being followed (they follow him every day). He told them he has the answer (the only answer). They did not listen.

But he knew. He knew now. He could stop the evil inside of him, he just had to remove it. Excise it. Like his numbers. Slowly he lay down, and he cleared his mind. Readying himself.

Click.

Swish.

Snap.

 

A friend challenged me with writing a story with this title. This is what I wrote out in the half hour or so that followed.

~*~*~*~

The rain had been coming for three days and three nights, joined by parties of thunder and the soft music of wind through the city. Sorba stood facing the northern stretch of the valley, watching the great river swell and bloat while he ate simple grain cakes and drank only water. Woven between the drops of water came an errant ribbon of smoke tinged with the sickly sweet touch of roasted flesh. It was a smell that haunted Sorba and, in turn, haunted those below him in the ever-living city.

“The price is paid, man-thing.” The creature behind Sorba, who had worked tirelessly in his empty stone room, far above the ever-living city, turned back toward an empty black cask. It yawned outward, seemingly trying to eat all that was in the room, all that was in the world, and trap it within its blackened oak-planked domain. Cut into the oak were marks that were deliberate but unknowable, written in a language that was never real using a name that had never been said and written by a hand that couldn’t know.

“Did you hear me, man-thing? The price is paid. You may go.” The creature stalked around his small room, kicking what remained of those who had come before Sorba. Their bones were peeled and parted, split and sundered. The air was thick with their sorrow. Sown with their suffering and screams. Screams that had become hollow and meaningless. Sorba could no longer hear their voices. No longer could he see their names or faces in his mind. So he wept, his tears pouring down his face, spilling over his chin, and flooding the great, gorging ganges.

“Man-thing! You try Assarock’s patience! Begone from this holy site!” The creature rolled its shoulders and snapped its tail across the stones. The cackle was electric, as lightning skittering across the holy river. Another bone snapped beneath its great blackened nails. When it exhaled, the water fallen from the sky escaped and screamed. Great clouds of steam fled from it, seeking the pure embrace of oblivion. It growled in a way that no man could hear, no man could stomach. Its hands reached out for the seated man sitting in the rain. Crying and watching the great river swell and roll.

“Nothing stops me from feeding upon you, man-thing!” Sorba’s body was wracked with pain and fatigue but still he stared out at the great river. He opened his mouth and his body shook and shattered in fear. From deep in him his breath exploded, rolling out of his throat with the force of an explosive fire. There were whispers of sound and meaning deep within his breast but when they touched his teeth, they became numb and hollow. He soundlessly called out to the river, the great artery which his tears fed ever-flowing.

“As I have consumed completely those who have come before you, man-thing, I shall feed upon you! I shall eat upon your flesh! I shall gnash upon your heart! I shall chew upon your name! I shall crunch upon your memory! You will be forgotten! You will become as I am, hidden upon the names of men and unknown under the holy sun! Your violation of this holy place cannot abide the fierce Assarock!” The creature shuddered and shook, rippled as a pond angered by the impetuous youth who strike upon its surface. The names of gods and monsters piled upon the beast’s shoulders and gave it authority. The unspeakable strength of natural rite, the unknowable force of an order that knows both evil and good. As Assarock was created to Feast, it would Feast indeed.

Sorba looked up into the sky and spoke only once. “Look upon the river, Assarock. Even now it sweeps us up, it frees us from the bond of your forgetting. You have erased he gods and monsters. You have erased the pain and suffering. You have erased war and famine. But so great was your ego that you have now, in the eating of my own name, erased the last thing that fed your power in this world.”

The creature screamed and gnashed and fought. “Man-thing! Speak unto me the names of your fathers! Tell me why does your blood taste of poison and your flesh taste of deception! Tell unto me why your name tastes of dust and your memories taste of desolation?!” The creature fell to its knees. The weight upon its shoulders lifted, evaporating into the air. The stones around it grew cold and dry. It became dead and hollow inside its holy place. The man, his name forgotten, fell to the dust and collapsed. The stones beneath him grew cold and grey. Already sprouting from his body were the soft flowers and buds that would become the arms of the Dark Mother welcoming the body of her children to her last embrace.

“Speak man-child! By what name were your fathers invoked!”

The dead man’s blackened face and ashen eyes turned to the creature, slowly falling into deeper horrors than the even the creature could see. “We have forgotten.”

Freedom

February 4, 2014

The wind whipped through my hair and coursed down my body in a way that I haven’t felt in years.

My hair danced madly, joyfully, and I couldn’t help but smile. When I stopped running, when I stopped being able to move with comfort, I lost the ability to let my hair dance and twist like this. I lost the feeling of the air caressing me, flirting with me, teasing me and pushing me as it tries to hold on to me. I flexed my fingers, rotated my arms slowly as the wind carried them. I closed my eyes and reveled in it.

It was a cold, biting kind of happiness. That feeling of flying, that feeling of escaping and finding joy in release. Joy in liberation.

Today was like any other day, granted. As it had been for years. Today had started with pain and sorrow, with stiffness and dreariness. I had looked upon my work as if it were foreign, constructed out of pieces I knew should fit together but I had no idea how. I stared out at the faces of those who knew me, who cared for me, and I saw them flinch before they smiled. They knew but they could hardly see. It pained them too much to know me, to see me, to watch me struggle at being who I was and yet falling short, collapsing, being hobbled by the very nature of my body.

I used to run, to swim, to fight, to love, to write, to sing. Now I sit, most days, and I wait. I struggle with placing simple competence in what I am able to do. I struggle with standing up, with clothing myself, and with crossing a room here or there to do simple things, basic things. I spend my days managing my pain and wondering when I forgot how to do things that used to come second nature to me, that used to dance at the ends of my fingertips without needing a second thought on how to do them. What they are. How they work.

Today, though, I found  way to fly. To seek freedom, to seek liberation. That feeling of speed, that feeling of the wind coursing around me and propelling me forward while trying, futilely, to hold me back. Nothing could stop my escape. Not the pain I was in every day. Not my inability to be who I wanted or do what I wanted. Not the burden I placed on those who loved me, those who cared for me, those who looked at me with a mixture of frustration, affection, and pity. Not my decaying thoughts, plagued constantly by pitfalls and flaws that keep me from being anything more than a constant thing to fuss over, a child with adult impulses, a sick and fearful body cowering in fear of trying to do anything but putter on without challenge.

Today, I found a way to fly. Perhaps I’ll fly only once but, for now, until this ends, I have freedom. And, if it is the first and last time I can fly then, well, I’ll find a different kind of freedom when I land.

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