Monday, May 30, 2011
Sunday, May 29, 2011
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
Friday, May 27, 2011
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
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
Sunday, May 22, 2011
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.
Friday, May 20, 2011
“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?”
“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.
“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
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
Saturday, May 14, 2011
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?”