Monday, September 29, 2008

Skyler and the mob

Skyler's wrists burned. The ropes they'd tied him with dug into his skin, rubbing the burn deeper into him with every bump or curve in the road. Perhaps if he could see, he could've been prepared, but the blindfold made that impossible.
The choking cigar smoke, however, made it very possible to tell who he was talking to.
“Shouldn't'a run, thief. That was a very bad move.” Rossin. Oh, how he hated the man.
Skyler held his tongue. Whatever he might have to say at this point couldn't possibly help him.
“Bein' quiet? Hope you did that with whoever else you mighta met.” Rossin blew a huge cloud of smoke in Skyler's face, sending him into a coughing fit. “Glad ya didn't. Yeah, we know ya didn't go to the police. Like ya could, thief.” The mob boss poked the back of Skyler's hand with the cigar tip, leaving a small burn. “Wondering how?”
“You've been watching me.” Skyler spoke in a low, controlled tone. “Ever since I cleared out.”
“Heh.” Skyler could hear the smirk in the man's voice. “Long before that, thief.” Skyler tried to keep from tensing up. He couldn't give Emma away. “And we found somethin' interestin. Boys, it seems our little thief here has got himself a girlfriend. Lose the blindfold, please.” The huge man on Skyler's right ripped the dirty rag off his face. What he saw made him wish he hadn't.
On Rossin's lap rested a portable computer. The screen showed something he had never wanted to see: Emma tied up, blindfolded, confused. He barely refrained from crying out. Rossin's grin grew wider. “Yeah, see what happens when you run?” The cigar met Skyler's hand again. “The question is, what happens now?”
“Let her go. I'll do what you want.” Skyler tried to keep his face impassive, but it was nearly impossible.
“What? Before we even get to the threatening? Well.” Rossin raised one thick eyebrow. “This should be easier than I thought. But...” Skyler hated the way this man grinned. “Let's see just how much you like her, Thief.” He pushed a button on the laptop.
“Hello?” Emma's voice crackled through. “Is anyone there? I thought I heard someone.”
“Emma!” Skyler tried to choke it back, but finally failed. “Let her go!”
“She can hear you, lover boy.” Rossin sat back, his arms folded across his chest, holding the cigar between his teeth. “So, let's get started.”
“Skyler? What's going on? Who's that?”
“Emma, I...”
“Enough talk.” Rossin pushed the button again and turned the laptop away from Skyler. “She's in good hands, don't worry. Worrn knows if he touches her, he's dead.”
“Worrn is with her?!” Skyler would've strangled Rossin, if not for rope and three bodyguards. “You know what he'll do!”
“Hey, hey, I warned him. If he touches her without my express permission, in fact, without my orders, you have my personal promise that he dies.”
“You...” Skyler shook with uncharacteristic rage. “You...”
“Me what? Monster? Uncreative. Heard it a million times. Oooh, how about devil? I like that one. Satan's a good one too.” Rossin sat back again and gave Skyler the grin that he so hated. “So. You're working for me again.”
Skyler only glared. “Right.”
“Glad we could come to an understanding, then. Boys?” The two huge men on either side of Skyler grabbed his arms. “I'll contact you when we need your expertise. Until then, stay in your apartment. If we see you going any further away than the nearest grocery store, Worrn gets a phone call. Are we clear?”
“Well, then. Show our good friend the door.” And with that, Skyler was tossed from a moving car.
The river was cold. It felt good on the rope burns. He didn't care anymore.

More random story bits. This one is kinda dormant in my head right now, but I wrote this bit a few weeks ago, and felt like posting it. Please tell me what you think.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


But oh, what torture it is, this entrapment. To not be able to speak, to lay out in words and pictures and the pure ethereal power of ideas this world that lies unfolding in my mind! I can only tell you a bit, show you a fragment, dilute the idea through what I call “skill” until it is barely what it was to make you understand. Why can't you see into my mind, to see it as I do? Can't you see it unfolding before you? Let it take you, as it takes me, be with it, be in it, let it become a part of you. Can't you see it coming together before your eyes? Let it be in you as it is in me. I want to show you. Come, come see. But this skill of mine is too small, these hands too feeble and this mouth too slow to tell, to show, to make you see it.
But oh, what torture this is.

wrote this the other day out of frustration at my inability to express my ideas.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Beloved Exile

I am the beloved exile.
I live to protect my people. They've raised me, they've cared for me, and now I strive to keep them safe. And if that means I cannot be among them, so be it.
I make it sound nobler than it is.
My name is Terry. Not a very noble name, I know. I live with it.
And my task is no great thing. I simply walk the lines with my lantern every night, keeping away the outsiders.
Well, perhaps I am understating the task now.
My duty, in its most basic form, is to protect the waterforest. I have lived here all my life, and I know it's every pool and tree like no other. This is one reason that I was chosen for this task.
Who do I protect it from? Outsiders. Once, all were welcome here, but as the waterforest grew, and we grew more secluded, they began to forget we were here. Now, they come with guns and machines, forgetting that the waterforest is ours, determined to take it for their own. They've shot two already. Luckily, my people lived. And I was appointed to my task.
At first, my duty was simple. To scare the outsiders away. It was simple enough. A red sheet on a thin wire made for an excellent ghost, and with wires all along the paths of the waterforest, I could've sworn that we were safe. But the outsiders weren't to be stopped for long, not for more than a few days. The ghost never came down from it's wire, never presented a threat. If they weren't so nervous in the first place, it wouldn't have scared them at all.
We needed something tangible. Something seemingly deadly, monstrous, inhuman. We needed to give them a face to fear, something to keep them up at night.
And I was chosen for that task.
They'd never seen the ghost up close. All they knew was that it was red, and it flew. So I wear a red cloak on one shoulder, and I fly.
But to be more precise, I walk in thin air. That seems to scare them more.
I paint designs on my face to make me look cursed. Jewels, found in the deepest pools of the waterforest where the ruins lie, only add to that. Mysterious symbols, no more than chickenscratch, made up my curse, and with them, I cursed the forest. Parchment nailed to a tree, a set of symbols painted on rocks and trees over and over and over and over. I sabotage their equipment, and leave the same symbols, over and over and over. They thought it was a curse. They brought in linguists, historians, dozens of people to interpret my markings.
And of course they've brought someone in to deal with me.
And that is why I live in exile.
The bounty hunter didn't seem so intimidating at first. Just another man, just another gun pointed at me. The difference was that this one wasn't shaking. I almost lost my arm to his bullet the first time we met, escaping by half an inch.
Whoever thought that a gun was the best way to deal with a cursed man is a strange person, but perceptive. I fled from him, the first time I'd ever run from any of them. Most of the time they were running from me. But when I ran, he chased me. He followed me as I ran across the lines, keeping me in his sights and firing again and again and again. I thought I was going to die, and my only thought was to get back home.
I would have led him straight to my people had I continued.
He would have killed them. No question about it, they couldn't have fought him. We've been at peace for so long we've forgotten how to make war. It is a blessing that has become a curse.
I did not continue. The bounty hunter could not follow me once I entered the water, but he did follow me once I appeared again in a tree. The water cleared my head. I realized that as long as he followed me, I couldn't return home.
I also realized that if I appeared human for even one moment while this man watched, all would be lost.
So my task became a thousand times more.
My people realized I hadn't come back. They sent someone out to look for me. She was my friend, though I would not admit it. She had always been so.
And she nearly lost her life seeking me.
She didn't know the bounty hunter was there. She'd simply seen me as I ran. She called out to me, and I couldn't respond. I knew he was watching me.
He shot her. She fell from the path into the water, and I didn't know if she was alive.
And that was the first time I'd ever attacked someone.
He didn't know what hit him. He had turned his attention from me to shoot her. And while his gun was still smoking, I took him down. I didn't know I could. My head was hardly aware of what my body was doing, but I knocked him down, broke his gun, broke his arm, fractured his leg. I left him in a heap, barely conscious. And he watched me as I ran to where she'd fallen.
She was not dead. I carried her home. And I told them what had happened.
But something was strange. I didn't know how to fight, but I'd fought. I couldn't carry her weight, but I had. My markings hadn't washed off in the water where she'd fallen.
And the jewels from the underwater ruins glowed.
I have cursed myself. My harmless markings were the language of the ruins. I am bound to the forest now, but I cannot live among my people. I am not myself anymore. I cannot be myself. I must be the phantom, the cursed one. I cannot be Terry anymore. I am exiled from my people and myself.
And now I live in exile.
The curse is a part of me that I can barely control. My anger leads to power now, uncontrolled strength and speed, violence beyond what I can understand. I cannot become angry. I've attacked them many times now, whenever I lose control.
I haven't killed one. Not yet, anyway. But someday, I know I'll lose control, I won't be able to take back my body before the curse leaves my hands stained with blood.
The bounty hunter is afraid of me now. He still shoots at me, but he doesn't follow with that same reckless determination. All of them are afraid of me now. I have become precisely what I needed to be, but I have given up everything to become it.
I am the beloved exile.

Before you ask, yes, Terry is the same Terry from the Defiant stories that I wrote like, a year ago. This is the eventual turn his story would have taken, but I was so unhappy with the way that I'd written it, I decided to give up and start over. Yes, it's darker. Much darker. Hope you like it.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Scarecrow's nightmare

Tin awakened to the sound of screaming.

To be more precise, the sound of Scarecrow screaming.

He didn't hesitate a moment. He leapt from his bed faster than he could think, faster than he could see, using all the military instincts he'd tried so hard to repress. He grabbed for the gun on the bedside table that wasn't there anymore. He ran for the door without it. Ripping a piece from the doorframe, he burst into the hallway, swinging wildly at whatever enemy might be waiting for him, then skidded sideways into a sprinting run towards Scarecrow's room.

The door was open. If it hadn't been, he might have broken it down. He found the lightswitch, still running, and skidded to a halt upon what he saw.

Scarecrow was not being attacked.

Her hands flailed wildly as she twisted and screamed, trying to shield herself from the nightmare that consumed her. She screamed words he didn't know, something here in French, something there in German. She arched her back in pain and screamed again.

“Scarecrow,” he shouted. “Scarecrow!” She didn't wake up. He ran to her bedside, dodging her flailing hands and grabbing her shoulder. “Wake up!” Nothing. She pulled herself from his grip and twisted away, yelling something he couldn't understand. “Wake up!” The nightmare only intensified.

Tin stood back a few feet and stared. He had no idea how to deal with this. None of his training could possibly be stretched into this situation. But he couldn't just leave her. She was in pain. She was fighting something, and it was something he couldn't fight for her. He couldn't help her.

She threw up her hands to protect herself, and more out of instinct than any actual thought, he caught them. Suddenly, the screaming stopped. He almost let go out of surprise, but stopped himself. She was gasping for air now, looking desperately from side to side.
“Scarecrow,” he said again, gently this time. “Scarecrow. It's ok.” He lowered her hands down onto her body without letting go of them. “It's ok.” Tears streamed down her face, but she was still. “I'm here. You're ok.”

“T-Tin?” Her voice shook, and her eyes stayed closed. Was she awake yet?

“I'm here.”

“Stay...” She didn't move. He could feel her hands trembling in his.

“I'm not going anywhere. You're ok.”

“Stay...” He slowly released her hands, keeping one hand on top of them both in case she started up again.

“Scarecrow. I'm here. Don't worry.”

“Stay...” She trailed off into actual, dreamless sleep. Her breathing was slow and steady now, and she no longer trembled under his hand. The nightmare was gone.

He sat down beside her on the bed, his heart racing. The nightmare was gone, but it would be back, he was sure. So this is what they'd meant by “other side effects”. He cursed them all again, once for himself and twice for her.

He would stay.


Random? Very much so. If things go as planned, you'll be seeing a lot more of these two. And hopefully you'll understand why the strange names and nightmares. Hopefully.