Monday, May 30, 2011


In honor of Memorial Day...
(Strange prompt, by the way. Hope at least one of the images appeals to you. =])

Write a short story of 1,000-10,000 words based on the following:

I remember.
I wish I didn't remember.
Maybe if I wish hard enough, the memories will just fall away. Like the smell of old perfume dissipating. Like the innocence of white chalk darkening under the rain. Like the dying color of that crimson blood as he washed it from my hands.

Good luck, Experimenters!


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Jennifer's Story Pick, Week 21

Hahaha.  The last line of Madeline's piece is worthy of a prompt.

As We Know It

"Run!" she shrieked into my ear.  "Run!  Don't look back either!"

I didn't need to be told to run.  I was faster than her, and much farther ahead.

The sounds of gunshots ricocheted around me, and I'm sure the bullets were bouncing somewhere, too.

My mind was foggy.  I didn't know what was happening.  I knew there was water up ahead.  It probably wasn't fresh water - that was nearly all gone - but it was water nonetheless.  Water that could clean the blood off my body, water that could remove all the dirt that clung to my skin.

I dove in and hoped Clara was right behind me.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

I opened my eyes.  Chlorine seared and floods of blood swirled around in my eyes.  I knew they were looking for me.  I had to pretend to I was just another dead body floating in the shallow end of the kiddy pool, and they would never suspect a thing.

The water sloshed into my ears and burned my nose.  I gulped, trying to ignore the pain and the need for breath.  

Around me, footsteps echoed.  My brain spun, my sense of direction was lost, the footsteps could be coming from anywhere.  Or maybe they weren’t even footsteps.  My interest was slightly awakened, but I did my best to ignore the itching to find out what the noise really was.  I wasn’t going to let my curiosity kill me.

Slow voices began to fill the atmosphere.  There was something drowsy about them, they seemed to be speaking to a lullaby, but I didn’t hear any music.  Everything was slow, and sweet, and gentle.

My head started to bob above the water, and it felt like someone had just shattered a piece of glass in my brain.  The hazy lethargic noises stopped and everything burst into deafening blasts and loud shouts.

Something touched me.

I flailed and writhed.  I felt all eyes move directly towards me.  I closed my eyes hard, squeezing them with all my might, hoping they wouldn’t find me.  Something touched me again.

This time I didn’t react.  I opened my eyes and looked around as much as I could without making too large of movements.

Beside me, Clara’s body floated.

Her eyes were open, but they refused to meet mine.  I wanted to reach out and touch her, but I knew the people above would see us.

Their voices were fast, but I couldn’t understand a word they said.  I knew exactly who they were without even looking.  No doubt they were army men, trying to stop the inevitable, and finding people to help them.  I wasn’t going to be one of those people.  That was unless I made a fatal move to draw attention to myself.

I heard footsteps on concrete, and the voices evaporated, leaving me with silence.  The only other thing to hear were the airplanes overhead, and the chaos and explosions that scattered the only one third of the earth still populated.

My lungs were about to burst, and I couldn’t stand the tension anymore.  After waiting just a few more seconds to make sure there wasn’t anyone else around, I stood up.

I threw my head out of the water, and the rest of my body jerked upwards with it.  I shook my hair and regained my balance.  “Clara,” I hissed.  I poked her with my foot.  “Clara, they’re gone, love.”

Clara didn’t move.  Clara didn’t speak.  She didn’t even respond.  And she never would.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
I tried not to make eye contact with anyone when I got back, but it was extremely hard when your whole entire basement is jam packed with people.

“Hey, buddy!” someone called.  “You’re finally home, huh?”

His only answer was a chorus of, “sh’s!”.

“Where’s Clara?” another person asked quietly.

I shook my head, fighting back tears.  I didn’t want to answer, so I wasn’t going to.  They could all draw conclusions on their own.

“We lost Lucy when you were gone.  She passed out and hasn’t come back yet.”

I sighed and rubbed my temple.  Why would I care?  I didn’t even know who Lucy was.  I was supposed to be their leader, but I didn’t care.  “Get some ice,” I replied aggravated, waving my hand toward the direction of the voice.

“All the ice melted.”

My mouth twitched.  She was right.  She was really right.  All the ice on the earth had melted.  They had just said so yesterday.

Blood bubbled to the surface of my mouth.  I thought that I was going to throw up everywhere.  I didn’t want anyone to see that though.

I got up and walked to the door I had just come through a few seconds ago.

“Where you going, man?”

“I’m leaving.”  I wasn’t leaving for good, I just wanted to get away from all of them.  I couldn’t take it anymore.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

It was cold when I stepped outside.  There was something seemingly unfamiliar about the place I had lived all my life.

Overhead aircrafts flew and radio transmissions crackled.  There weren’t any soldiers visibly patrolling anymore.  I knew they had to be hiding and that thought alone scared me.

I rubbed my sleepless eyes and wondered when the world was going to end.  It couldn’t hold itself back too much longer.  The layers of dirt were splitting, the governments were taking over and killing its own people, and I was hurting.

A shot rang through the air.  It was loud and undeniably bloodcurdling.  It pierced right through my back, a concept I couldn’t fully grasp until the ground came rushing at my face.

I heard screaming.


It wasn’t screaming.

It was laughing.  It was little children laughing.  Someone was yelling, “It’s the end!”

Everything went black.

If the world was going to end as soon as I got shot, I would have shot myself ages ago.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Winter's Story Pick, Week 21

Saturday feature by Jes! Such language, for one so young. :P

Nothing Nowhere and Nearly in Nebraska

It was a standoff. He stood before Shelley with the cool May rain dripping down a long nose, clothed in the kind of things people wear when they take kids away from their fathers. Behind him, the car idled. It was nice; a kind with four doors as if he had kids of his own, but Shelley had peeked through the windows only moments before and it was spic and span. Behind her spread the front row of trailers, most of them the same tone of the sky. The sky was a bright gray, so bright you could hardly believe it was raining, so bright you could tell that the sky wanted to be white but knew it was too dirty. All this part of the city was dirty, real dirty. The mud squished over Shelley’s bare toes.
“How old are you?”
“Go to hell.”
He looked around, his jacket getting wetter by the minute.
“You know where your Pa is?”
She stared him down. She knew she had a mean stare; it was something she’d figured as a necessity when she was young, maybe six, maybe four or five, when she’d ran away to her pop’s. Couldn’t quite be sure she was six when she’d left her mother’s home, but Shelley knew it was the year she was supposed to start school and didn’t, and that’d been three birthdays ago. She still celebrated them each year, even though she wasn’t sure of her age. But she did it quietly—with dignity—out back, pretending that the overturned tire atop the brush pile behind the trailer park was a giant cake all for her.
“Hey, girl,” the man said, stepping closer, “I said, you know where your Pa is?” To which Shelley said nothing. Not that it was any of his business, but she hadn’t seen her pa in a couple weeks. Hadn’t been her business to find him; she wasn’t his keeper. Just like he wasn’t hers. The man took another step.
“You get the hell away from me, boogerface.” He blinked at her. They were both sopping, dirty looking to be sure. “Can’t be more than seven,” he muttered.
He looked a real long while at her. Brushed the water from his face one side at a time.
“Nine, then,” he agreed. “And stop your cussing.”
She nodded a tight nod.
“You like hot cocoa?”
Three hours later, she was on her way to a new home.

“Sweetheart, don’t you think that outfit just sends the wrong message? You’re at a tender age, my dear.” Shelley’s mother eyed her daughter’s reflection in the dining room mirror, watching Shelley finish her makeup while she had her martini. Shelley looked down. Of course a mother like hers would say something like that, and say it in the same tone as “Glen, darling, do you think these new curtains will impress the neighbors?” Or, “Oh my, I just can’t believe Senator Robert’s mother wore such ostentatious jewelry to the benefit.” Something like that, when she didn’t remember how old Shelley was or wasn’t any more than Shelley did.
“Well,” her mother tapped an acrylic nail on the end table at the side of the settee, shifting the coaster with the martini glass just slightly “alright then. I trust your judgment.” Shelley kept herself from snorting, just barely. “Call me when you get to Desiree’s, won’t you? And don’t stay up too late.”

The alley was a black like the edge of a really bad bruise as Shelley and Des walked to the concert, the concert her mother didn’t know she was attending. Her mother annoyed the hell out of her. So fake. Her father—wherever he was—he was too real, and her mother, too fake. Better than state people, though, a bit. A bit. She was best off on her own, really.
“Passes?” The doorman at the back entrance was huge, and with his black shirt and pants and skin the whites of his eyes and teeth seemed to glow. Des flicked her cigarette down, ground it with the heel of her stiletto into the crumbling pavement.
“We’re Shelley and Des,” Shelley said cooly. Mean stare time. They went in. Des was sleeping with the bass player; the band thought they were nineteen but it wasn’t like age mattered that much. What mattered was what you knew. And Shelley, she’d known that for a long time.
The concert was great; the band was a hit and everyone was in the mood to get bombed after. K-tow and Des were hopping around the back stage mess like a bunch of drunk school kids, and pretty soon disappeared into the bath for a shower. Shelley wandered into the room with the other girlfriends while the set crew broke down everything. The ceilings were low and the girls had on a recording of Ellen, playing from a tiny, ancient TV, so old it had a bubbled screen. It was so screwy she had to laugh. One by one the girls turned to her from the array of mismatched furniture gathered in the room.
“You fucking one of the boys?” The girl who asked it had long dark dreds and looked like a Rasta who’d tried to find a Renaissance fair but gotten lost and settled for being a band member’s girlfriend. Four more sets of heavily-made-up eyes stared at her.
“Shit no,” Shelley said. The girls turned back to the TV.
“I like the dancing,” said the petite girlfriend. There was a half-smile on all their faces.
“Where’s your friend?” This from the first girl. She was Chris’ girl, had to be. She had the ring leader look, despite the Rasta fairy princess hair and clothes. Rasta fairy princess of hell, maybe.
The girls all laughed. It tinkled in her ears. Of course they were all musical, but the sound had a metallic twang to it. They had some drinks. The band members trickled in, all but K-tow. More drinks. The set crew trickled in. More drinks. Another Ellen played; this time the show people danced to Christmas music at the end, even though it was summer. Shelley confessed she loved Christmas songs. More drinks. They all sang Christmas songs. More drinks. Christmas dancing. Songs. Drinks. Hanging lights, twinkle lights in the bus—

Her cheek was wet. Her face.
Wet grass.
Shelley pushed herself upright. Wet, and bright. She had swamp ass—swamp side really, from laying there so long. But where was there? Bright. She looked around. No city.
The land was flat, barely sloping at all. Hardly any trees. Nothing. Kansas, maybe? How the fuck did she end up in Kansas? Her eyes began to clear. Damn, she needed food. No tour bus. No city, and no bus. She stood up.
That’s when she saw the man hanging from the fence.
Shit; shit.
She walked over to him. It was a tall fence, taller than her by a good shot, and made of wrought iron. She maybe recognized him—but not really—and there he was harpooned on one of the spikes as if he’d tried to fling himself over the height but got caught. It stuck clean through his thigh, and his bald head gleamed bright red in the sunlight, partly upside down. The blood was still flowing (up his thigh), but only a trickle; most of it dried into a purple just the color of figs on a pair of jeans.
“You alright?” Jesus, her voice even sounded shaky. He opened his eyes, raised himself partly to her. Grimaced, wretched. Seized at his leg. The guy looked around and began bellowing. Shelley backed up, still facing him, and kept going. Goddamn that bright sun. She tripped, stumbled backwards, and landed in a kiddy pool of water she’d not yet seen. The bright blue plastic crunched beneath her.
“Santa’s gonna be pissed about that, girl.” The fairy princess girlfriend stood above her, blocking the sunlight. In the glare her dark hair looked like ropes.
“Santa?” She allowed herself to be helped up.
“The guy who runs this circus. That’s his second pool you just crushed. The first one he had to get rid of after he found a dead guy floating in it.”
Shelley blinked at her. Actually, she looked pretty normal by day.
“Kathleen, yeah. Chris’s girl. What the hell are you doing here?” Shelley blinked some more as a rush of burly men ran towards the wrought iron fence now some thirty feet away. Two of them carried ladders.
“I…I dunno,” she said. “Did you say circus? What the hell happened last night?”
“You mean the morning and night before? Beats me,” Kathleen said, shrugging her hair over her shoulders. “I passed out in the back bed of the tour bus and got out here when the driver woke me; this is where I work. Guess you followed, huh?” Screaming sounded from the fence. Kathleen’s eyes narrowed in the sun as she turned to watch as the men set up ladders around the upside down guy.
“Guess so.” They began walking. “Where are we?”
“Kansas, on the Colorado plateau, up by the border of Nebraska somewhere. Some land owned by a friend of Santa’s; we stop here this time every year.” The screaming grew louder.
“Shit! You serious? Nebraska?”
“Relax, girl. I said by Nebraska. We’re not there yet.” They came to a patch of clunky looking RV’s, dingy awnings popped open. Shelley could feel Kathleen eyeballing her as they walked towards the circus encampment. “Santa’s not big on tagalongs. ‘Specially one’s who break his shit. You got money to pay and get home?”
“Fuck, Kathleen. I don’t even know where my shoes are, let alone my backpa—aa—purse.”
Kathleen nodded. It was quiet in the encampment, all the noise was back over by the fence now. Bent horizontal blinds were pulled tight in all the windows.
“Well … we meet up with the band again in Boise. I could maybe have Big Sal talk to Santa and see if you could work off your debt to him — he’s a whine-ass about his stuff getting broken, he’ll charge you by how many hours of use he expected to get from it — and then you could hop in with the boys for the rest of their tour. You’ll just be a carnie for a few months, that’s all. And hey, isn’t Des nailing K-tow? Where’s she?”
“I dunno,” Shelley said, yet again. “Not here. I don’t have a phone anymore either.”
“Yeah, you’re screwed alright. You old enough to work legally?”
The tone was casual, but Shelley knew Kathleen knew. Didn’t matter. What mattered wasn’t age, especially when you didn’t know it.
“Of course I am.”
“Right. Well, I’ll talk to Big Sal and Santa. We’ll find something for you.” Kathleen walked over to one of the larger RV’s, fluffing her dreds as they walked. “Hey Big Sal,” she called, using that tinkling voice Shelley remembered from the other night, “Hey Big Sal, you in there, sweet thing?”
The volume made Shelley’s head pound. She grimaced, plopped herself down on a pile of stuff next to the fold-out steps of Big Sal’s RV. “God almighty, could this get any worse?”
“Sure it could,” Kathleen replied, her voice low and from the corner of her mouth, as they waited for the door to open, “you could be the last person who broke Santa’s pool.”

Friday, May 27, 2011

All Wiped Out

Bad words coming right up - this is a look at somebody's rock bottom.

All Wiped Out

I sobbed for most of the first day.

I knew it was a whole day because I saw the sun falling in the sky, and I remembered the sunrise that had gone before. The sun fell, a molten burning ball bleeding at the edges, burning itself out and me too. Bad metaphors—I saw them every place I looked, everywhere my eyes fell. Still, the day ended, and the sobs subsided, and then I stared at the wall.

Walls change throughout the day. At night there's not much to see, unless a car is driving by and the lights strobe from right to left, or sometimes left to right, always up or down or a bewildering mixture of both. Blue light white light dark light shadow. My eyes, fixed on the wall, the rest of me in some kind of religious thrall. Staring at the wall.

My back is not to it, but I'm about to slam into it at one hundred ks an hour, I'm about to die and crumple to pieces and turn to dust before my very own eyes.

Except when I'm sure I must be dead at last, I realise that I'm still sitting, my body gone numb from lack of movement, the pins and needles entirely forgotten by now—staring at the wall.

As dawn nears and the light outside changes, things happen indoors too—you notice patterns of stripped tree branches melting in, waving their limbs to get your attention; slowly they change, warping, like monsters inching incrementally closer and—

You hold your breath and you wonder when it's going to end but it doesn't end and you go on and you don't die and it's not fair.

Sometimes you have to just stop and take a breath. Catch your breath, while you have the chance, because if you don't it all gets too much and your lungs empty and the endless wracking sobs really take it out of a girl.

That first day was in some ways the best. I'd look back during subsequent days and wish for that one again. It was a day in which I could entirely lose myself. Nobody had any expectations, no one expected me to pick my carcass up and keep on moving, hell nobody expected me to even twitch a finger or an eyelid. I had slaves to do my bidding—wash the dishes, bring in the mail, answer the door and the phone, ward off the media vultures. But the slaves got bored pretty quickly. My favourite slave took more than a week to get bored. He stayed with me until he couldn't stay more. As he walked out my front door, my heart tore itself from my chest and followed after him, pathetic and forlorn and begging on deaf ears.

Energy—it leeches out of you in different ways. It can be loud or quiet as it goes. It can be flamboyantly attention-seeking or slinking passive aggressive co-dependent.

So many ways in which to lose your energy; your will to exist.

There are shards of glass inside and man do they ever kill, it's like you're being run through a blender and what comes out the other side is not too fucking pretty. Barely human. It'd be okay if I wasn't human. I'd forget sooner, what with a tiny pea-shaped brain. What I wouldn't fucking give to have a pea-sized brain. But eventually there is a certain chronic numbness that steals over you—I like it when that happens. And then just as its given you relief, it flashes away again and you're left with the red raw uglies.

That's when you turn to Scotch.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Week 20 wrap-up

Okay, so week 20's prompt was:

I find myself drawn to the shadow domain

and here's what I read:

  • Winter wrote our Friday feature about a) guys playing a video game & pretty much dying from starvation or b) guys in a futuristic setting whose jobs are actually to ...umm... be in the video game. Yeah, still don't quite know which. hehe
  • Jes contributed a story that was our Sunday story pick, about a girl just minding her own beeswax when a veritable "Thor" dude shows up in dire need of hops. hehe. They head off to outer space, and the local religious folks take it as a sign that Armageddon is nigh. Gotta love it!
  • Michael brought us what I saw as something of a "Princess Caitlin best of" in which Caitlin fought off deadly poisons and the showdown between her and Evil Susan began... dun dun dun, what will happen next?!?!
  • Madeline seemed to bend reality with her story this week (or maybe it's just that my brain isn't bendy enough to follow...hehe); this story certainly had an eerie/mysterious feel to it. Love her writing style as usual!
  • Brooke's beautiful piece for this week reminded me of that dream-dance in The Labyrinth between Jareth and Sarah - and like Sarah, Brooke's heroine this time was awoken rudely from the dream...only to hear the echo of her hero's voice and his promise that he isn't far
  • Jenn wrote about Cinderella and the Devil and lung cancer that shows on your skin - a short story that kept me hooked from start to finish, made me giggle and gape by turns, etc.
  • And I wrote about a bitchy snooty lady woman who awakens (unexpectedly - most people secretly hoped she would die) to find that her hubby has betrayed her and that nothing is as it was before.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Write a 1000-10,000 word story about:

There's only so much you can account for while doing dead man floats on the shallow end of the kiddy pool.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Trisha's story pick, Week 20

First off, I want to say sorry for being a slacker with story commenting lately. I've slacked off in all areas, not just this one! Doesn't mean I don't want to read your stories. :P

Secondly, this week I had another struggle with choosing stories, but given the weekend we just had (where the world didn't end), I really had no choice but to choose Jes's story. It gave me a nice giggle or two and hell I probably would've gone with that dude too. He reminded me of the 2011 version of Thor, incidentally. LOL.

The Eve of the End
Almost everyone in town called it the ice cream truck of death. It turned onto Main from a side street and headed towards Marjorie’s house. The truck was owned and operated by the local holy rollers; they also did the skating rink outside of town. Alongside the freshly painted warnings of the End Times and quotes of scriptures were the pictures of orangesicles and peanut-covered drumsticks. Tonight, the dusk air was heavy with the possibility of rain, but comfortable, and exoskeletons of the 17-year cicadas made the walk from the screen door to the porch swing set a crunchy one, so she'd taken to tiptoeing. Marjorie sat comfortably in the swing, beer in hand, watching the sun set over the top of Mrs. Ritchie’s house across the street, sharing her swing with one of the sweet-tempered red eyed bugs and her guitar.
It was the time of evening when her friends would stop by for a visit, since there wasn’t anything else to do. Have a beer, catch up. Sometimes she wished there was more “happening” to her, to Centerville, but the evening was nice and she wasn’t going to let herself be annoyed by a lifestyle she hadn’t the wherewithal to change. Marjorie picked up her guitar and strummed a G to match the ice cream music, eyeing the truck. It looked like it was slowing down.
It was. The ice cream truck of death pulled to a stop in front of Marjorie’s sidewalk, it’s happy-go-lucky music a determined drone. The driver’s side door slammed. Around the front of the truck staggered the best looking man Marjorie had ever seen on the face of the Earth. He was dashing. He was virile. He was sex and romance and maniliness in human form.
And he walked like he was drunk or something.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Hooked Up

((Caution... this is super-weird/speculative stuff. Also, this is my Official Language Warning. F-bombs are dropped.))

“Dude, that’s fuckin’ radical,” Scott laughed.

I nodded. “Yeah, bro, I know. I totally leveled up, right in front of her—it was wicked.” I frowned. “Then again, though, she had that look on her face.”

“What look?” Scott threw himself into my dish chair with a yawn, flicking on his headset. The screen flickered into existence over his eyes.

“The not-impressed look. Yo, turn that off. I’m tryin’ to talk to you.”

Scott rolled his eyes, but he turned the headset off. “Sorry, Mom.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “Okay. So like I was saying. I was at the top of the Temple with the Grey Sky, and I saw this Crawler sneaking up the side of the rock to get Iris, so I engaged. And we fought for ages, man. Ages, I’m serious. And turns out the Crawler was some high-point scorer, so I leveled up.”

“Sweet. So, wait, why would she not be impressed by that? Sounds awesome.”

“Yeah, it was awesome,” I muttered, but I felt like I was trying to convince myself. No matter what I did for Iris, she always looked at me like I was something she’d just equalized with her hovermotor.

“You wanna try finding her? Talking to her?” Scott tapped his headset, grinning. “Come on. You know you want to. And she just saw you looking like a total boss. You’ll get Kudos for that at Assembly, no problem.”

I looked out the window at the graying sky. “I know. The honors alone are worth it, probably. And shit, it drained half my life, so it better be worth it.”

“Half? Damn, boy, we better go find you some replenishment.”

“Naw, man, that shit costs so much. My half-full life is probably still better than most people’s full lives.”

Scott leaned back in my dish chair, staring at the slow-moving ceiling fan. It moved sluggishly, like it was slicing through something with every turn. Thwap. Thwap. Thwap. “Okay, dude, if you’re just gonna fuckin' sit here and whine, I’m clocking in.”

“No, fuck it, wait, I’ll clock in too.” I reached for the headset on my glass desk and shoved it on. The familiar scarred cushioning lent me a sense of relief, in a strange way. I spent so much time clocked in these days that it almost felt unnatural to be unplugged.

I flicked a switch on the headset. The screen buzzed into place, the frequency crackling. Then I jabbed a fat black button, and two spindly needles slid into my skull just in front of my ears.

My whole body went slack.

When I opened my eyes, I held a serrated hunting knife. Scott stood across from me, black-haired and blue-eyed, a cocky grin on his face as usual.

“Plateau,” I observed, checking our surroundings.

“Yeah. Let’s get to Center.”

“Center? It’ll be crawling with…”

Scott smirked. “Crawlers?”


“Chill, Madison.”

“I’m chill. I just don’t think Center’s a good idea this time of day. And Iris isn’t gonna be there. She’s probably in Politick.”

Scott made a face. “Forget that.”

“How about a quest?”

“Assigned by Politick? Fuck, no.”

I sighed. “I just meant any quest. What’ve you got against Politick, anyway?”

He shrugged. “In real life, people couldn’t get away with being as arrogant as they act in Politick.”

I rolled my eyes. That’s why this isn’t real life, Scott. But I didn’t say that.

“Well,” he said, “I guess we can stop by just to see if Iris is there. But you owe me.” He punched me. “Also, I wanna see where you took out the Crawler. Temple with the Grey Sky, right?”

“Yeah.” We hurried over Plateau, the granite lighting up under our feet, veins of minerals twisting and curling in sudden light. The sky was dark—it always was in the Other Plane, but it was especially so since my life bar was half-empty. And my legs were annoyingly sluggish because of it. Made me consider, for a moment, unplugging to purchase more. But I’d sold enough of my stuff for the Other Plane—my brothers said if I started selling my possessions again, they’d take my headset, and that wasn’t going to happen. I had a whole life here.

We came to a compass disk, and as we stepped into it, a lashing wind dissipated our shadow-bodies, reassimilating them in Politick.

Politick was less dreary-looking than Plateau. People never hung around Plateau for long—it was barren, save for rogue quest materials, and you could come across some pretty nasty stuff there.

“Iris,” called Scott into the air.

I elbowed him. “What are you doing?”

“Someone call?” said her voice, and then the mist streamed into a head, torso, and long sleek legs. Iris Parker.

“Sorry. My mistake,” said Scott.

Iris shot him that disgusted look. It almost made me happy that she didn’t keep that look especially for me. As she glanced over and saw me, her eyes filled with recognition. “Good job earlier,” she said. “I’ll congratulate you in person when I see you at Assembly.”

“Really?” I blurted, and then I sort of wanted to die. If these bodies could blush, my face would have been splotchy red right then. As it was, I wished I could dissipate on command, like the Talkers. But no. I needed a compass disk.

Iris was a Talker. Not unsurprising, given…well, given Iris, but it meant my chances with her were slim to none. Talkers and Fliers? Not typically a good match.

“Sure,” she said. “I’ll vote for your Kudos, too.”

I was going to fall over for sure. I’d gotten respect points for sensing the Crawler, apparently. “Thanks,” I managed to say.

Scott wasn’t doing anything dumb, for a change. I seriously appreciated it. My first legitimate conversation with Iris Parker didn’t need ruination.

She held up a finger. “Okay, well, that was a lie, sorry. I’ll vote for you on one condition.”

“Yeah?” It wasn’t about the vote. It was about her approval.

“Quest for a Silencer.”

I stared. “Why…why do you need a…” It was like asking for a pike, or a cannon, only eight hundred times worse. Silencers could cancel Talkers entirely—or so rumor had it. No one knew what they even were—what they looked like; how they worked.


“I mean, I’ll try,” I said.

I could practically hear Scott’s voice in my mind. Whipped, bro. But he looked sort of worried, to be honest.

Iris smiled, waved, and dissipated.

Me and Scott said, in unison, “Detach.” The Other Plane detached us from the server automatically.

The Quest wasn’t a Quest, really. It was an obsession. Even after I got my Kudos and bought a new hovermotor—even after the entire Assembly thanked me for wiping an experienced Crawler from the system—I wasn’t happy.

I clocked in every day after work. Scott stopped tagging along on my journeys soon enough. I dug down through Plateau; I explored every temple in Ruins; I scoured every tree in Wild; I mined every tunnel in Burrow; I explored every alley in Politick and I searched every house in Center.

“This isn’t healthy,” Scott said.

“Yeah, man, you’re probably right. Wanna come with me?”

And eventually he stopped saying yes.

Eventually I stopped finding any Quest partners at all. And I spent so much time plugged in that I’d skip meals.

One day I was searching a sub-basement of Politick when my life bar beeped. There had to be a mistake, or something—I hadn’t even started a fight since the Crawler. How was my life low?

“Detach,” I tried to say, but it came out as a croak. How long had it been since I’d drunk anything?

“Detach,” I tried again, but my voice snapped and broke.

“Iris?” I whispered. It was enough for the call. She materialized.

“Hello, Madison.”

“Help me.” My voice died completely. Quietness rang in the stone sub-basement.

She smiled a little. “So you found a Silencer.”

“I did?” I mouthed.

Iris’s lips tightened into a grim smile. “You are one.”

She said my name, and I dissipated along with her.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Oooh, it's nearly the Chrysalis Experiment's 21st! :D For now though, just boring 20th... lol

Write a 1000-10,000 word prose (or 333-3,300 word verse) story based on the following:

I find myself drawn to the shadow domain

Fun times!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Trisha's story pick, Week 19

This week Michael wrote about a teleportation angel statue called Marcy, and giant bots and the like. Very cool world unfolding here :)

They used to say you never hear the shot that kills you. With the LORI, that’s literally true. You could vanish from the world in a spray of white plasma and there’d be absolutely no warning. You might, if you were standing two feet next to it, hear the soft, almost friendly-like wirp as it fired. But you wouldn’t hear anything else, not until that infrared beam slams into its target and transfigures it into flame and thunder. The range on that thing is unbelievable, way better than the projectile things we used to carry back in the day. Still and all, I kinda miss the old guns. I heard stories about how people named their rifles, etched little notches on ‘em for every enemy they killed, filled ‘em with personality. The Laser Ops Rifle-Infrared doesn’t have any of that. Every one’s exactly the same; sleek grey barrel, firing pad, battery pack. You can’t etch anything into it. You can’t even aim it properly, since you can’t see the beam it fires. You just point it in the general direction of the bad guys and blam. No more bad guys.

I’m sitting here in a smashed-up church underneath a shot-out window that might’ve been stained glass and might’ve been pretty, and the little marble angel lying next to me has a distinctly ironic expression on its chipped face. If it could talk, it’d probably ask who’s out there waitin’ to vanish me from the world if there’s no more bad guys. Thing is, Command didn’t figure on the bad guys getting the LORI too. Oops.

BLAM. Discordant bongs and booms from outside. I think they just hit the bell tower. Boy, backup would be a super-nice thing to have right now. Unfortunately the bad guys didn’t just get the LORI, they worked out a way to shield themselves against the infrared beams. I’d explain how and why, but I flunked weapons-engineering at the Academy, and besides, it’s not terribly important. Bottom line; their scientists worked it out. Ours didn’t. We didn’t think they’d get the LORI so fast, so why bother protecting ourselves against our own super-weapon? Oops, again.

BLAM. More metallic discord. Shards fly lazily in through the blasted windows and rain down around me. Yep, that’s the church bell. What’s left of it. Niels, now, he would’ve had a field day working out the precise application of ignited plasma needed to smash up an iron bell. Maybe that’s his heaven, working out equations and losing himself in books for all eternity. That’d be a real boring eternity for me, but I’d take it any day over this. Any second they’re going to smash through this last spit of wall, and the angel and me both will disappear in fire.

“Didn’t really wanna go out that way, you know?” I comment. “I imagine you don’t want to end up as pulverised dust either, Marcy.” Yes, I named the angel Marcy. Yes, it’s probably silly, and there’s no real point to it, and my old squad-mates would point and laugh. But hey; I’m about to get laser-blasted; what do I care?

Then things get really wacky as Marcy pushes herself up on her marble elbow, flicks a feather out of her eye, and says in an accent straight out of My Fair Lady, “No, I’d really rather not.”

“Great. I’ve gone mad. Next I’ll start seeing purple unicorns.”

“I know a purple unicorn,” Marcy says. “Fred. He’s one of my dearest acquaintances.”

“Of course he is.”

“You don’t particularly believe in me, do you?”

“Ah…no. And before you start the whole Marley’s Ghost bit, I don’t attribute you to an underdone potato or whatever, and I’m not the least bit curious about what my life could’ve been like, or how the world would be different if I’ve never been born. I’ve read about this sort of thing, see. Now, you’re a nice hallucination as hallucinations go, but I’m really a bit busy right now and-”

BLAM. Sunlight pours in from the opposite wall. Looks like I’m surrounded. Joy.

Marcy glares frostily at me. “Fine. I had a whole speech prepared, with lots of wonderful metaphors and a hilarious witticism, but noooo. Uncultured imbecile. Very well; here, as you might say, is the deal. I know how to get you out of here. Not just outside generally, but all the way back to your headquarters. You’ll be moderately safe there, I should think. I’ve been informed your scientists are on the verge of cracking the enemy shields.”

“Riiiight. You, a product of my temporary insanity, are going to get me out of here. I think I’ll pass.”

The angel rolls her flecked-grey marble eyes. “You want I should leave you here to get exploded by LORIs? Fine. I will not say another word. I was only trying to help. Hmf.”

You ever hear a talking angel statue go “hmf?” It’s a unique experience. And now I’m thinking, hey, it’s a crazy mad illusion, sure, but what’ve I got to lose?

BLAM. More metal rains down. I’d forgotten the church had two bells, had being the operative word in that sentence. “Okay, so how do we get out of here?”

Marcy’s eyes flash gold. “Faith.”

“Faith. What, this is one of those old Disney movies now? I click my heels and believe real hard in pixie dust and whatever and I magically-”


Nothing happens outside for a long while. Marcy’s fallen silent. I keep listening for the next BLAM. Nothing. No idea what that last sound was. I don’t want to know. I don’t want not to know. The Academy literature professor would twist himself in notes if he’d heard that.

Finally I risk it. Holy cow.Holy cow.

The ridge where the bad guys had set up with their LORIs? Gone. Like some big heavenly shovel reached down and smacked it flat. In its place is ash, dust, and the biggest mightiest most epically impressive battle robot I have ever yet seen. Laser eyes. Death cannons. Shielding. Rocket pack. And it’s got my side’s colors. Oh yeah.

I run outside, waving. The robot stomps towards me. “Whoo-hoo!” I’m yelling. “We’ve won! We’ll get ‘em now!” I don’t even hear Marcy’s whisper as she vanishes in a crackle of electric energy that would’ve screamed teleportation device to me if I’d been paying the least attention instead of running around like a silly person.

“So you live. Hooray for you. You’re welcome. Incidentally, you ever wonder what’ll happen whenthey get battle-bots?”

I Don't Remember

Longest.  Chrysalis.  Ever.  (For me.)  Sorry this is late.  It's also kind of insane.  And contains an adult scene.

Sometimes I daydream about the name that my parents would have given me.  On good days, I imagine that it would have been something bold and strong—a name imbued with their hopes for a warrior daughter.   But when I sit alone in the dark, I wish for a name that is soft and fragile—a word that holds everything precious and dear. 

But instead, I am Ife, the two hundredth and fifty sixth incarnation of the living goddess.  Still, I have always longed for my own name.

If only I had been born a day sooner or a day later, in a different year, under a moon less full of herself.  Then I could have been a simple village girl with parents and sibling and friends and a nice long unpredictable life.  I could have been a girl with a mortal name.

But the Children of the Temple knew me before I even took my first breath.  (It’s funny they call themselves Children.  Most have served several of my incarnations before me.)  While I do not know the story of my birth, it is real enough in my heard.  Old rituals borrow too closely from one another; the details repeated like the faces of an incestuous family.

My house would have been of stone and thatch, build high in the trees.  It was all of one room with a high pointed roof and an annex for sheep and poultry leaning on the east side because our chickens would need the rising sun to start their eggs.  The red hard wood floor was scattered with sweet-smelling herbs and tiny browning petals to keep the parasites at bay.  My brothers would sleep in the high loft perched like a bird’s nest under the thatched roof and, by the hearth, my sisters would share a single mattress filled with herbs and soft sand molded to the shape of their bodies.  There would be tools and handwork and drying foodstuffs lodged in every nook and cranny, but the little room would somehow still feel barren compared to the luxuries of The Temple.

One the night I was born, the sky was have been clear—washed clean by the spring rains, the Great Mother’s weeping over my two hundredth and fifty-fifth death—so that the Lady Moon, shrouded in her own misty veil, was attended by a million of her stars in waiting.  My mother was lying in our family’s garden box as peasants do, believing that her waters would grow the bodies of vegetables and berries as they had grown me.  I believe I was a quick child, easy, but The Children of the Temple knew the very moment of my crowning.  They yanked me from my mother at the exact second the moon reached her apex, checked me over for scars—deformities—birthmarks.  This was how they welcomed me back for each of my two hundred and fifty six lives.

My family: mother, father, sisters, brothers, even the sheep and poultry—were led one by one to the temple—blood spilled at the feet of the great golden Mother.  The angels who brought me back to earth, sent back to her before they could even give me a name.


The wheel comes full circle every sixteen years.  Each year, a spoke in the wheel.

Spoke one:  The Year of Rebirth.  I am born.  My family is given back to the Mother, my life consecrated to the temple and the sky rains upon the thirsty earth.

Spoke two:  The Year of Growth.  The waters grow as I do—higher and higher.  The villagers plant rice, fill the barrels with rain and raise eel high in the trees.

Spoke three:  The Year of Joy.  I learn to swim with the sacred fish before I see my first cloudless summer sky.  As the farmers harvest kelp, The Children of the Temple sit in circles about me, imitating my every gesture in hopes of pleasing The Mother.

Spoke four:  The Year of the Hunt.  The entire village hunts the snakes from the trees.  I ride my barge in front of them all, lighting the path before them.

Spoke five: The Year of Care.  I plant the sacred lily before the whole village and spend the next two years caring for it.

Spoke six:  The Year of Friendship.  The rain stops, little by little.  My caretakers ready themselves to leave me forever and I must choose twelve little girls around my own age to wait on me when they are gone.  They are meant to be my friends. 

Spoke seven: The Year of Maturation.  I release the sacred lily.  As the waters recede, it falls at the feet of my god-consort.  He is taken far away from our village to prepare for our marriage.

Spoke eight:  The Year of Earth.  This is the first year that I can walk upon the earth.  The peasants go back to their fields and the world thrives again.  I sit in the temple all day now, forbidden to move, pretending to remember.

Spoke nine:  The Year of Blessing.  Years of plenty continue.  We have pasture land now and flowers grow without care.

Spoke ten:  The Year of the Ripening.  This is our largest harvest year and the villagers are hardly ever in their trees.  I am left alone for longer and longer.

Spoke eleven:  The Year of Prayer. While the villagers preserve their goods, I must make myself silent.  I must sit in the trees with only the Great Mother Goddess for company.

Spoke twelve:  The Year of Sacrifice.  This is the last year of abundance.  I bless what I can and spill the blood of my whipping girls at the feet of the Great Mother to carry us through the hard times to come.  A parade of angels—men, women, children—are returned to heaven in my name, so that the ones that stay behind might be deemed worthy. It is almost a relief.

Spoke thirteen:  The Year of Judgment.  Winds of Malice dry the earth as the peasants smoke the bodies of their lambs and ducks and turkeys.  The barrels that were once full of eel now hold a stiff corn distillation.  Disease and madness come to separate the clean souls from the dirty ones.

Spoke fourteen:  The Year of Reunion.  My god-consort comes back to the village.  The village becomes dryer and dryer.  He is forced to keep his face covered until the consummation.  I am forbidden to talk to him.

Spoke fifteen:  The Year of Seeds.  I am married to my god-consort.  His seeds are planted in the dry earth, as they are in me.

Spoke sixteen:  The Year of Death.  My death.

Everything is predictable.  Stupidly, boringly predictable.  I have ridden this wheel two hundred and fifty five times before.  I am supposed to remember each and every one of those times.  But I don’t.

I often ask myself what would happen if everything stopped.  If the wheel of my life stopped turning as expected.

The day when I set my Lily in the Mother’s receding waters was the first time that I ever really wanted to stop the wheel.  For two years, I cared for Lily as if she had been my own child, her pot nestled in the warmth of my lap as Ife’s barge traveled from home to home blessing new life and barrels of writhing eels.  I sheltered her with my own hair when the cold winds shivered through the tree tops, her perfume always in my nose. 

She became something of a doll, her earthen vessel dressed in jewels to match my own.  In her pale white folds, I often imagined a face looking up at me, big eyes regarding me with silent trust.  I remember speaking to her, imagining that she would cry for her mother and I was the only one who could comfort her. 

She was the only thing I had ever loved.

On the first full moon of the seventh spoke, the Children of the Temple gathered every male under the age of sixteen, outfitted them in long, black veils and led them each into a plain wooden skiff so that they floated in the dark among the trees.

The Children of the Temple lead me to my jewel encrusted barge, candles made from the waxy leaves of tall trees lined the deck so that in the moonlight, it looked as if I floated upon a carpet of stars.  My Lily sat in my lap as always, her white petals tinged with blush these past few days.  There were tiny glowing bugs nestled in to them.  I remember the strange hot winds that blew that night, as if the Great Mother were tossing with fever.  I remember a dry ache behind my eyes and the way my hair stood out from my head with electricity so that I could not shelter my darling.

When they handed me the knife and pushed me among the trees that held the bodies of boys veiled in black, that’s when I knew.    I knew that I wanted it to stop.  I wanted the wheel to stop turning.

The knife slipped out of my hand, plunging deep into the water.  I watched it sink to the earth below, every muscle in my body paralyzed.  For the first time in my life, I didn’t know what to do.  Sitting there on that sparkling raft, every shred of predictability was ripped away.  I realized that I had only ever acted on expectation, not on memories borrowed from the two hundred and fifty-five lives I lived before this one.  I was not the living goddess.  I was an imposter.  I did not remember.

High in the treetops, the peasants looking down at the spectacle screamed.  A woman went into hysterics and tried to throw herself after the knife, but several men rushed to hold her back.  It was a terrible thing I had done.  To stop the wheel was to bring about the death of the whole village.

All around me, I could see the shape of chaos starting to take form.  A mother from one tree might cast her child into the waters.  A brother from another tree might drip poisonous sap among the eels.  Knowing and not knowing the possibilities made it hard to breathe.  The sounds of panic prickled my spine, so that I was forced to raise my Lily’s stem to my teeth and sever the flower with my teeth.

I cast her in the water and did not bother to look where the hot winds would take her.  I could not bear her glassy trusting eyes.

Later that night, I received my ladies in waiting, all girls within a year or two of my age.  The Children never took care of the goddess Ife after the Lily Ceremony.  The next morning, all of my new ladies in waiting were stripped and flogged on the bow of my jeweled barge.  While my body could not be scared, the villagers told me that my deviations would not go unpunished.

The taste of my Lily’s sap burned the inside of my mouth so that the salt and iron of my blood mixed with her bitter and fragrant chlorophyll.  I got my first scar that night in a place I could well hide it.  The roof of my mouth was torn to shreds.

My god-consort rides in under the full moon.  He rides in a liter carried on the backs of the same boys who sat beside him on that feverish night.  Tonight he is wearing a veil the same color as the full moon.  If he is nine years older than me or if I nearly seven years older than him, I do not know.  From his size, I can only guess that that we are close to the same age.

I have stitched a crown of jewels and flowers for him.

He kneels before me.

I place it on his head which is still covered so that I can not see his face.

He presents me with a bag of seeds that he has collected on his journeys.

We bow.

And that is our first meeting.  Not one word is exchanged.

In the days that follow, he is by my side always, sharing the wide dias that is my throne.  His face never moves under the white cloth pulled tightly around his head.  I have never heard his voice and he has never heard mine.  But I do not care.  After all, he was always a stranger.  I do not remember him.

Then, one day when no one is looking, he stops the wheel.

Out of the corner of my eye, I watch him lean down to touch the ground beside our liter.  When he straightens up again, he is holding something long and metallic.  The glitter of jewels is still apparent under a coating of grime.

The knife.  The one I had dropped in to the water so many years before.

He looks through the veil as if he really sees me.  Then he leans towards me and presses it into my hands. 

“Your mother wanted to call you Cay.”  He whispers behind his veil.  “Our fathers were best friends.  We were betrothed anyway.  My name is Xur.”

“Why are you telling me this?”  I want to berate him for bringing doom upon us all, but the scar on the roof of my mouth throbs as if to tell me that I am not the goddess and we are all doomed anyway.  When I look down, my hands seem so small in his.  There is something beautiful about it.

“I want you to know.”

I study the tangle of our finger and the texture and colors of our skin.  Then I realize what he’s given me:  my name.  The word dances in my head.  Cay.

A name for a baby’s laugh.  The quickness of a trickster’s mind.  The way that seagulls ride an errant wind up to heaven.

And I want to tell him something too.  I lean in so close to him that the silk of his veil caresses my cheek.  My voice is buried so deep inside of me, but I whisper anyway.

“I don’t remember my other lives.”


We are walking a wire.  For every word we say to each other, I expect a crack in the ground to open up and swallow us whole.  It becomes so that I must keep my eyes closed when we speak, as if by keeping my eyes closed, I can stave off destiny’s wrath.

While my body grows thin and pale with dread, Xur takes a contrary pleasure in talking to me.  He pushes liberties further and further.

“Let me see your scar.”  We sit coupled on my throne, alone as always, the village caught in disease, madness and preparations for the future.

“We’re not supposed to,” I mumble.  He strokes the side of my face with his large warm hand.  It silences me.

“It never stopped us.  Close your eyes.”  Xur places a soft warm hand over my eyes and my breath catches in my chest.  “I just want to see.  We’re not doing anything wrong.”

I hear the silk slide from his face and he tilts my head back and gently pries my mouth open.  The heat and bigness of him make me want to run away and collapse into his arms at the same time.

“You know what they did to me when they took me from my family, so many years ago?”

I knew a little.  I knew he wandered the earth collecting seeds.  I knew that he went into the world and learned things.  But I can’t risk moving, so I hold still and silent and his hands wander over my blind face.

“They taught me how to please a woman and all the ways to grow her belly,” he whispered so that I knew his face was close to mine.  “Because that is all I am, a planter of seeds.”

My eyes fly open against the palm of his hand.  Between his fingers, I see him: thick lashes, shining hair, his face like a carved jewel.  The pressing warmth of his body leaving me dizzy, disoriented.

Our eyes meet and his palm slides from my face and eases me back into the dias.  Without a sound, I say:  “Bad things are going to happen.”

His body feels hard and almost restless over mine, but he looks at me with a strange kind of pity.  “Do you know what is going to happen on the first moon of the fourteenth spoke?”

“We consummate.”

“Do you know what that means?  I know you don’t have her memories, Cay.”  I swallow hard.  His body twists above me.  He only calls me that when we are alone.

When he sees that I am too overwhelmed to say anything, his hands begin to wander my body, pressing through the thin silk of my robes and then under them.  He leaves a trail of heat from my breasts to my thighs.

“Is this how we consummate?”  The words are nothing but air leaving my mouth.

He shakes his head.  “Do you want me to stop?”

“We shouldn’t be doing this.  The Great Mother will abandon us.”

He asks me again:  “Do you want me to stop?”

“No.”  I say, arching towards him.  His hands fly back to my face and he holds it still for one baited second.  I hold his eyes with mine.  “Don’t stop, Xur.”

He presses his lips to mine, mining me for something desperate.  I suckle him until it feels as if my whole mouth is swollen.  The press of our mouths is the only thing in the world.  We have left our bodies and become two hungry entities set on devouring each other.  There is no doom, no wheel, no god-consort, no living goddess, no Great Mother.

He pulls back and set me upright again.  Before he arranges the veil back over his beautiful face, he says:

“The scar in your mouth is bone white, in the shape of a perfect lily.”


When the consummation finally comes, it is a strange, clinical affair.

We are taken to opposite ends of the village, shaved, polished and painted in metallic dust under the noon day sun.  A hundred women glue jewels down the length of my arms and legs. 

At nightfall, litters take our naked, painted bodies to the center of the village square.  They position us back to back, a veil still drawn over Xur’s face.

I am led to the dias first.  A woman pries my legs open and tells me not to move.

The elders of the village come one by one, each placing a hand on my belly with their eyes closed reverently.  They have done this for many of my incarnations before me.  The women come up and then the men.  Finally the children come to ask a blessing from my womb.  They bring flowers, carefully preserved from the Year of Blessing.  It is fitting.  After all, it is their future we are ensuring tonight.

When the last child has prayed for my womb, the people climb back into the trees.  The flickers of candles appear like stars above me.  No one will sleep tonight.  They will sit and watch the turning of the wheel.

My legs grow stiff holding this open position and the cold night breeze makes me feel as vulnerable as prey waiting for the feel of teeth.  But before long, the moon is high.

Without a word, Xur rises from the dias.  There is something not quite right about his body under the veil.  He looks misshapen; strange growths protrude from his back and shoulders and arms.

He stands before me and lets the veil fall to the ground.  I gasp.  Not because I am captured once again by his raw beauty, but because a dozen large horns have been glued to his body.  The largest sheaths his male organ.  Someone has painted strange symbols on it.

He leads my hand to this horn and I hesitate.

Go on, he says with his eyes.

I pull the horn off.  He is painted there too.  But he glistens with something slippery and wet.

With one hand he takes the horn from me.  Inside there is a small packet of seeds.  He sprinkles them over my belly.  Then he kneels between my legs and reaches for the horn one more time.  Taking a gloop of slime from the inside, he works it into my opening with his fingers.  The effect is immediate.  The cold breeze is gone.

Xur keeps going, until the horn is scraped clean and I am writhing beneath him.  Then he balances above me, face inches from mine and I know the wheel is about to turn.

“I am sorry I have to open you like this.”


And the wheel keeps turning.  Less than one moon later, Xur puts his hand on my belly.

“I am thickening.”  I say to him.

He doesn’t say anything.  But since we are alone on our dias, he moves the silk of my clothing away and presses his lips to my skin.

“It is hard knowing that she’ll already be here when the sixteenth spoke comes.”  I have never been told what happens to the child of the living goddess if she comes before the hour of my death.  Maybe it was supposed to be something I remembered.  “But I’ll get to hold her and know her for a little while.”

“Do you think that this child belongs to us, Cay and Xur?  Or do you think it is the little godling of Ife and the god-consort?”  Xur’s voice sounds lost in a dream somewhere.  His body is hot and dry against mine.

“It doesn’t matter.  The wheel will turn anyway.”  I know that I will have to lose her.  That I will have to lose Xur.  It feels as if I just found them a second ago.  The scar in my mouth throbs.  Everything that I love will always be sacrificed.

Xur sits up and takes my face in his hands.  There is something new in his eyes.  I have said something terrible.

“No.”  He says.  “This child lives.  We will live.  We are Cay and Xur.  This wheel will not turn for us.”

I put my hands over his.  Our skin glows in the setting sun.  Around us, the branches of aloe plants look so much like green spiky teeth that I feel as if I am sitting in the Great Mother’s mouth.  Their pulp was the slimy stuff in the horn that night.  Xur found them on his journeys.  I want to break one of the leaves in my hand and forget this talk of the wheel.

“The wheel will not turn for us,” Xur repeats.

I don’t want to tell him that it will, so I try to look away.

“Look at me.  You’re going to live.  Say it.”

When I don’t say anything, he throws me over his shoulder and hauls me to the dias in the center of the village.  It is too early and no one is watching. 

“Tell me you want to live.”

“I can’t!”  I cry.  In my head, the form of chaos starts to take shape.  The night I dropped the knife into the water comes back to me.  Mothers kill children, husbands kill wives, sisters kill brothers, the sky turns black and earth opens up to devour us.  “You don’t understand what will happen.”

“Then tell me you want me to live.  Tell me you want our child to live.”

“What?”  I look at him.  “I’m the only one that has to die in eleven moons.”

“We’re angels aren’t we?  The child and I?  Only tools here to get you to this point.  Insignificant players in the drama that will make the almighty Mother cry.”

“What are you saying?”

“Angels always have to be sent back when their work is done, right?  Cay, the child and I will die, moments--days, at the most--after you.”

I shake my head, uncomprehending, even though it made sense.  This was never something I predicted.  I truly had not known.

“You know what, Cay?  I don’t even believe in the Mother.”

I squeeze my eyes shut, not wanting to see the Mother’s havoc.  Seconds go by.  Nothing happens.

“I’ve walked this whole world, Cay.  Other villages don’t have wheels.  They don’t have years of flood and drought and disease.  We created the Mother and Ife and the damned god-consort because we chose to live in this sort of hell, Cay.  It’s all made up.  Superstition is the only way we can explain our insanity.”

He keeps talking.  Overhead, the sky is still blue.  The birds sing in the trees as if they do not hear him.  The earth does not tremble.  Death does not come.  Nothing happens.

“It’s all made up?”  I say tentatively.

“Everything.”  His words promise me the world.  “No one ever had to die.  You don’t have to die.”

“But they’ll kill me anyway.”

“No, we’ll run away.  You and me before your belly grows too big.  I can survive out there, Cay.  It’ll be the three of us.  We’ll walk from village to village trading seeds the way I did before I came here.”

“Now.  We were betrothed before you were born and I’ve been planning this for a long time.”


Xur has stores planted in a cave high in the mountains:  seeds, silks, wool, jewels.  There are buckets for raising eel and an annex for our sheep and poultry.  A loft for our sons perches over head and a bed of sand and roses lies by the hearth for our daughters.  There is even a raised garden where I will give birth and grow the bodies of our plants the way I grew the bodies of our children.

Xur calls me Cay and Ife finally seems like someone else.  Aloe plants grow in profusion here.

As the moon rises, I realize that our new home looks down upon the village.  It is strange.  After all of those years of spending my life being watched from on high, I am the one now looking down upon them.

We sit outside all night, lost in each other.  The sky at dawn is brilliant red.  If we were in the village, the old ones would say that there is a storm coming.

It is the cold, stinging drops that pull us out of each other.  I look at Xur.  His face is streaked with blood.  We raise our hands to wipe away the gore falling from the sky.

Then I realize that something is very wrong.  I pull him into the cave.  Our skin has died where the drops of blood have fallen.


I sit in the corner of the cave with my eyes closed.  Xur scrubs my body clean before doing his own.  We are covered with scars.  I do not want to see any of it.

After an hour, maybe two.  Xur gets up and leaves.  When he comes back he says.

“It stopped.  Everything is going to be okay.  Come outside and see.”

 I keep my eyes closed, knowing that this was my fault, knowing that I was the one that stopped the wheel.

Xur picks me up in his scarred arms and carries me outside.  Through my closed eyes, I know the sun is high in the sky.  It is almost like a beautiful day.

“Open your eyes.  It’s okay.”

I can’t hide from what I have done any longer.  I open my eyes.  The world is still verdant and green.  Xur pulls my face to his for a kiss.

“What did I tell you?  All of it was just made up.”

But just before he presses his lips to mine, I find the valley where our village lies.

It is a lake of blood.