Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Dragon is Revealed

The lower council chamber was huge, perhaps three times as big as the upper one. High stone arches concealed shadowed chambers from which emerged the members of the elders council, all stone faced and robed in black. They took their seats in polished pews around an immense stone circle, at one end of which sat Master Solun, hands clasped and head bowed. His robes were black, like the rest, but edged in brilliant gold in thin, swirling patterns that she could have sworn were glowing. The sight was unnerving, to say the least. K hesitated.
“You sure this is a good idea?”
“It will be fine.” He took her hand, leading her forward to the edge of the circle opposite Master Solun. “The council does nothing without reason.”
“If their reason is to look scary as all get out, I'd say it's working,” she muttered as she took her place beside him. “What's wrong with the upper chamber?”
“I don't know.” He whispered. “But shh, the last of them are taking their seats.”
The murmur of the elders quieted down as the last of them took his place, leaving the room in a deafening silence for a moment as all eyes fell to them. K glanced around, nervous, but Ryven tightened his grip on her hand reassuringly. Finally, Master Solun stood.
“Ryven of the northern edge, welcome.” He spoke with a full, resounding voice that echoed through the chamber and belied his age. “You have completed your task?”
“I have.” Ryven dropped her hand as he responded, stepping forward into the light of the circle.
“Then this is the child of Kolina, a thousand years gone?”
“She is.”
“Welcome, then, Destined one.” Master Solun bowed slightly, and Ryven motioned for her to come forward. She stepped hesitantly into the stone circle, and the rest of the council bowed from their seats. “We have long awaited your arrival.”
“...Thank you.” she said, glancing to Ryven, who nodded. “I have been told that you know what I must do.”
“We do.” Master Solun sank back into his chair, face still stone. “The darkness has invaded our lands, and even now encroaches further. I am sure you have encountered it—yes, you have already begun to fight. This is good.”
“I fought some.” She nodded. “But Ryven told me about a dragon; I'm supposed to find it before I can defeat the darkness?”
“Yes.” Master Solun nodded. “But that is another matter altogether. And that, my brothers,” he adressed the elders council, standing and motioning to them all, “is why we are gathered.”
“So, then, you know where it is?” She looked almost hopeful. “I was afraid we would have to spend a lot of time looking for it...”
“You have already found it. The dragon has been with you all along.”
“What do you mean?” Ryven started, eyes wide. “the prophecy clearly stated...”
“Exactly what we said, Ryven.” Master Solun spoke again. “The dragon has been with you all along.”
“But we haven't seen it!” K objected. “It's kinda hard to miss that!”
“It will be made clear.” One of the elders moved to K's side, and drew her back. “You must leave.”
“But...” Ryven attempted to follow, but Master Solun's voice held him there.
“You are to stay.”
“But it's my sacred duty, to...” Ryven held out his hands as he spoke, again moving after K.
“Do not move, child of destiny!” Master Solun's voice resonated around the chamber. “All will be made clear.”
The floor suddenly became lit in harsh red lines with the power of a spell. Ryven stared around him at the sealing circle he found himself imprisoned in. “Master Solun, what... What's happening?” He bashed against the edge of the circle, attempting to get out.
K stood at the edge of the chamber, staring. “What's going on?” she demanded. “What did Ryven do?”
“This is not a punishment, child.” The elder that had lead her from the circle stood behind her, watching impassively. “This is destiny.”
“Destiny my foot, let him out of there!”
A slow, melodious chant began to fill the chamber, echoing out of nowhere. Ryven bashed against the circle again and again, shocked back every time by the power it held. Master Solun looked away.
“When this one was but a child, we found him.” He spoke softly.
“We found him.” The rest of the council repeated.
“We took him, raised him, and tested him.”
“We have.”
“He has never known the truth.”
“He has never known the truth.”
“What truth?” Ryven shouted. “Master Solun, please, what's going on?”
“When this one was but a child, there was another spell.”
“We found him.”
“We bespelled him.”
“You what?” Ryven's shout carried over the murmur of the elder council, piercing through the near-deafening chanting.
“And now, by the power of the destined...”
“By her power.”
“We remove this spell.” This last invocation was spoken by all, unified. The chamber resounded with the words as they cut through the chanting like an arrow.
The sudden silence after went unnoticed as K stared, shocked, at the transformation overtaking Ryven. He fell to his knees, his head in his hands, as he began to glow with the same terrible red light that trapped him there. His body seemed to buckle as if under some enormous strain; his back bent unnaturally and his shoulders began to swell. K threw herself forwards to help him, only to be thrown back by the outer circle, hitting hard against a wall. Ryven's hands were changing now; a brilliant blue was winding it's way across his skin, engulfing the red light as it went- and he seemed to be growing.
Wings suddenly exploded from his swollen shoulders, bursting out all at once, tearing through his white shirt. Not those of an angel—more like the wings of a bat, and that same brilliant blue. The sealing circle that bound him suddenly expanded, tainted with that same sapphire color that was overtaking him. The wings fell to his sides as if broken, and the change continued to wind it's way through him. His hands were claws, now. Along his twisted spine scales began to appear, and a wild, black mane shot down his back. He tried to stand, to fight his way out of the circle. Horns twisted out of his skull, and he fell again, lying prone under the weight of his wings.
The blue color finally made it up to his face. He tried to cover his features with one hand-now-claws, trying to stop the change, but his features began to melt away, elongating and changing uncontrollably. He gave one short, sharp cry, and the last recognizable part of him was gone. He was something else now, something bestial—K suddenly understood.
“He's the dragon.”
The transformation continued unchecked. His neck grew longer, arms thicker. The last remains of his clothing fell to the ground as his body continued to grow. He'd gained a tail at some point. His feet and legs no longer resembled their human counterparts. Rows of shining scales ran down his back, down his arms and legs and tail. She bit her lip as she watched him writhe. The transformation was almost complete now; the red of the sealing circle had been almost completely extinguished by the blue.
One final burst of light ran through the circle and through Ryven, and the room fell completely dark. Every candle had been extinguished by the spell. The only sound was the rough, heavy breathing of something huge and inhuman, tinged with the smell of smoke and the sharp, bitter aftertaste of magic.
One by one, the lamps were relit, shining pinpoints of light in the infinite dark of the chamber. K stood from where she'd fallen against the wall, staring hesitantly at what had been her friend. He wasn't moving, save for the rise and fall of his breathing as he lay in the center of the chamber. She moved hesitantly towards him, half afraid that this might not be Ryven after all.
“Ryven?” She kneeled by his head, staring into one of the heavy-lidded blue eyes that roamed the chamber. He didn't respond. She moved a little closer, reaching out to touch him. His scales were cool to the touch, but she could feel a heat beneath them, barely kindled yet. She ran a hand down his neck. “Ryven, talk to me.”
The blue eye focused on her for a moment, then looked away, in something she could have sworn was shame.
“He cannot speak.” Master Solun's voice came from behind her. “You will learn to communicate with him, but not in words. That is lost to him now.”
“What did you do to him?” She stood to face him, angry.
The old man held up his hands, attempting to calm her. “We have only restored him to his natural form. This is how he was always intended to be.”
“But...” She trailed off, glancing down at Ryven-what had been Ryven-as he lay upon the floor. “I thought you cared for him.”
“It was destiny.” Master Solun's words were forced and hollow, and for a moment she almost believed that he hadn't wanted this either. “It had to be done.”
“You'll understand eventually.” He put a hand to her shoulder, and tried to lead her away. “Let him rest now. The worst is over with, but the coming weeks will be hard.”
“I want to stay with him.” Her voice was resolute. “I'm not leaving him here like this.”

I'm not sure if this is a new story. It's been around for a few years, but I might not have posted from it before. In any case, wrote this a few days ago while practicing being descriptive. I like it, I think.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Throne room

“And welcome, dear Ellie, to the brightest room of my home...”
The light nearly blinded her as they stepped through the doorway. This room was not dark like the others had been; rather, it was surrounded by immense stained glass windows. Patterns of white and blue and blue ran throughout the room, interspersed by the black silhouettes of a thousand crows in flight, all heading for the center, the opposite end of the room from where she stood. Against the opposite wall stood the room's lone piece of furniture; an odd sort of chair. It appeared to be-or had been, in some past life- a cast-iron gate, with swirling patterns of blackened metal around stiff bars that stabbed upwards into the air. The seat was stitched together with the same bright-blue thread that held everything else in the castle together, made of mismatched patches of leather and cloth.
She felt him enter behind her, and the shimmering brightness in his hand vanished as soon as it the beams of stained light touched it. He chuckled at her amazement.
“Do you like it?”
“It's beautiful.” She admitted. “What is it?”
“It's the throne room, of course.” He lead her across the spiral pathways tiled into the floor to the cast-iron chair, running a hand down the black metal of it's back. “I am a king, you know.”
“It doesn't look very comfortable,” she mused.
“It's not,” he admitted. “But it serves it's purpose.”
“Do you have a court?”
“Look up.”
She glanced upwards, and her eyes met an enormous white window, somehow contrived so the crows could come and go as they pleased, and hundreds of them lined the circles of the ceiling, staring down in silence.
“Your crows?”
“They aren't my crows.” He stared up with her. “They are their own. Whether they listen to me is their choice entirely.”
“But they always do.” She looked down at him. “Don't they?”
“Mostly.” He met her gaze with eyes bluer than blue, and smiled. “But they are as much mischief as I am. If they choose otherwise, I cannot control them.”
“But you are their king,” she ventured. “So it seems like...”
“Haven't we already learned,” he said with a smile, “that nothing is ever as it seems?” He gestured upwards, and the crows flew from their perches, swooping down around them in a black swarm. She gasped, and he pulled her close, as the crows circled fast, closer and closer with every pass. She felt the tickle of wingtips against her more than once as the black mass surged through the room. It was terrifying, but more, it was beautiful. The Crow King pulled her closer, and laughed amidst the deafening roar of wings meeting air.
“But they do obey me,” he whispered, “as long as I am what I am. But it is not my choice that they do.”

New story, for the millionth time. I don't even know where I'm going with this one, but enjoy anyway.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Interview

Jack's main lab was even more impressive than he had described it in the email. The ceiling was more than four stories high, though the sheer dimension of the room made it impossible to tell. The room was at least half a mile wide, and maybe twice as deep, and every inch of it was covered in workbenches, tools, shelves, or massive, inexplicable inventions. The powerful canister lights supplemented standard grocery-store fluorescent lighting, along with smaller lights on the workbenches of every shape and size, from typical desklamps, to floor lamps, and on one a blue-green lava lamp, which illuminated blueprints for some kind of odd gun.
The walls were solid white, or had been when they started out, at least. Now, they were pockmarked with the burnt remnants of explosions, along with a disturbing amount of what appeared to be skid marks. Some of the skid marks had even made it onto the ceiling. The only mark on the walls that she could possibly interpret as deliberate was a bright red line, perfectly straight, which ran at about head height around all four walls. The floor was mostly cement, though in places there were the remnants of a tile floor, which had for the most part been blown to pieces. Crash shut the sturdy metal door behind them as they stepped in.
“Welcome to crazy.”
“It's... big.”
“No kidding. Let me introduce you to Jack.” He motioned to a lone figure who stood atop scaffolding in the corner to their left, lost in a shower of welding sparks. “Here, helmet.” He handed one to her, a red one labeled with the rather unnerving logo “Human, Try to miss.” It might have been slightly more comforting were there not a skid mark across the top. She put it on with some trepidation.
The man on the scaffolding didn't seem to hear them as they approached. As they drew closer, Amy could see it was because of the big, black headphones he wore. For a moment, she thought that he must be wearing them to protect his hearing, but then she spotted the cord, leading down to the mp3 player in his pocket. She smiled, and folded her wings in a little tighter to get through a narrow space between two workbenches.
“Hey, Jack!” Crash shouted upwards, cupping his hands around his mouth. “Jack! Hey! Toasterface!” There was no response, owing partly to the sound of the welder, and partly to the headphones. “Yo!” Crash gave the scaffolding a stiff kick with his steel-toed boot, shaking the whole apparatus all the way to the top two stories overhead. That the man noticed, and turned rapidly, forgetting to turn off the welder as he pulled off his headphones with his free hand.
“Hey, quit it!” He yelled down, gesturing with the welding torch in one gloved fist. Amy stared. A shining metal mask covered almost almost half his face, from near the top of his forehead until halfway down his nose. Parallel red slits ran across the surface, not unlike those on a toaster. They glowed with an eerie light as he scowled at them. The rest of him was slightly more normal. His light brown hair was short enough that it naturally spiked up, and his goatee seemed well maintained. He wore a black t shirt, along with baggy cargo pants, and seemed more a college student than a famous inventor. His gloves, though, were the same shining metal of his mask, coming up his arms almost to his elbow in an odd, scaled fashion. “I'm trying to concentrate here!”
“Hey, toasterhead, you forgot your appointment!”
“What appointment?” He looked confused for a moment, then he spotted her. “Oh!” he looked embarrassed, almost, then waved with the welding torch. “Uh, sorry. I'll be down in a second.” He flipped off the torch and tossed it aside carelessly, making his way across the high scaffolding with practiced ease. He practically slid down the stepladder at the end, and brushing his gloved hands off lightly as he walked up to them, he offered one to her with a businesslike smile. “Jack Free. You're Amy?”
“Amy Casting.” She smiled, and shook his hand warmly. “You said in your email that you wanted to interview me for the position of...”
“You have wings.” He seemed almost incredulous.
“Um, yes.” She flexed them back and forth a little, careful not to knock anything over. “I did mention that in my application.”
“I, uh, rather thought you were kidding.” He stared a moment longer before finally bringing himself back to the subject at hand. “But, uh, ok. Interview.” He turned quickly and strode to one of the workbenches, sifting through the papers carelessly before finally pulling out a clipboard with about seven sticky notes of all different colors adhered to it's surface. He pulled a blue one off, muttering, “Not kidding about the wings... Ok!” He did his best impression of a good businessman, and slid a rolling stool in her direction before taking a seat atop a wooden stool. “Crash, you can go.”
“Righto, bossman.” Crash gave a mock salute, and marched off towards the door.
Amy watched him go, then smiled nervously at the inventor. “I have some experience with secretarial work, and I...”
“Um, right.” Jack examined her, then the clipboard again. “Uh, first question. Do you, uh...” he brought the clipboard closer to his face, and tilted it. “Um, like... rock music.”
She looked a little incredulous, but smiled. “I can stand it, at least.”
“That can't be what it says...” he tilted the clipboard the other way. “Um, can you use a...” He gave up, shaking his head. “Let's just improvise.” He tossed the clipboard over his shoulder, where it landed in one of the lamps. “So, uh, you can do secretary stuff? Like, organize and crap?”
“Yes sir, Mr. Free.” She nodded.
“Call me Jack.” He grabbed a new piece of paper and the stub of a pencil and began scribbling, with the paper on his leg. “Organize stuff... check. Um, ok, can you use a computer?”
“I can use most of the basic programs.”
“Mathematical background?”
She paused for a moment, thinking back. The most advanced math class she'd done had been introduction to statistics, and that she'd almost failed. “Um... Well, I'd consider it sufficient, but...”
“Nevermind.” He scribbled something. “Basic algebra and stuff?”
“Yes sir, Mr. Free.”
“Jack.” He looked up at the ceiling, trying to remember something. “Um, how are you for heights?”
She resisted a laugh. “I'm good with heights.”
“Good.” He scribbled something for a moment before it finally hit him. “Oh, right, like wings and stuff! Duh. Nevermind.”
“Yes sir, Mr...”
“Jack, for the last time!” He turned and grabbed the clipboard out of the lamp where it had come to rest. “Um...” he thought for a moment longer as he examined the cryptic sticky notes. “I think this one says something about hate.”
“May I see?” She took the clipboard from his hands. “No, that one says heights.”
“Oh, yeah!” he attempted to snap, but it didn't work with the gloves. “And that one is... uh, fences.”
“Oh.” He looked slightly embarrassed. “Well, I guess if you can read it, I'd better hire you.” He coughed. “So, uh. 9-5, Monday through Friday?”
“Sure thing.” She pulled out her little blue notebook, and wrote that down. “Um, do you have the paperwork for me to fill out?”
“Uh... somewhere.” He looked at the mess of papers on the workbench, then shrugged. “I can get new ones. Tomorrow or something.”
“And the wage?”
He clearly hadn't considered this, and stood thinking for a full moment before he finally spoke. “Um, what do people normally get paid for stuff like this?” He stood a moment longer in thought, leaning against the messy desk. “Um, what if we start at uh, 50 dollars an hour? Is that reasonable or something?”
“...Very!” said Amy in shock. “That's much more than I would've expected, sir.”
“Is it?” he looked frustrated. “Money annoys me. I don't like thinking about it.” He waved a hand. “So if that works, that works. When can you start?”
“I could start today if you needed me, sir.”
“Ok!” he shrugged. “Today!”
“Um, Ok.” She fidgeted nervously with the clipboard. “What do you need me to do?”
“Um...” he stood for a moment, trying to remember. “I guess... start organizing. I guess you could start here... and if you need a file cabinet or anything, there's one... uh, over there. Make Crash move it.” He considered this. “Unless I blew that one up. But there's an unexploded one around here somewhere, I'm sure. You'll find it.”
“Yes sir.”
“Just call me Jack.” He moved off towards the scaffolding again, pushing the headphones up over his ears again.
“Alright then.” She smiled after him. “Jack.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Springfield Halloween- When You Give a Dinosaur Sugar

In retrospect, the sundae had been a bad idea.
A very bad idea.
Timothy was normally a ball of energy, and on a good day, Seth could keep up with him without much trouble. But with sugar thrown into the mix, along with the natural high of a celebration, the second grader was practically bursting at the seams with hyper, hey look a shiny thing can we go over there please please please oh wait another one that way let's go that way come on Seth energy. The teen found himself practically running from one booth to the other, holding onto Timothy's candy with the hand that wasn't being dragged across the square. Luckily, the boy hadn't had any of that yet; that had been the deal for the sundae. He could only have the dessert if he promised not to eat any candy, at all, until tomorrow, when with any luck he'd be too tired to care.
Seth knew that was a little much to hope for. But in any case, the deal had been struck, and now Timothy was an inch away from literally bouncing off walls. He wondered, not for the first time, how the second grader seemed to have a sense for picking the food item off of any menu with the highest sugar content. It was like a superpower or something, and considering Timothy was the town's youngest superhero, it very well might have been.
“Hey Seth, facepainting! Come on come on come on!” Seth almost lost his purple wizards hat as Timothy switched directions, this time headed for the pet shop.
“Slow down!” Seth tried to reign in his charge, with little luck. “It's not going anywhere.”
“Come on!” It was like trying to stop a freight train one handed. Timothy dragged his babysitter across the street to the pet shop's multicolored windows, which this month featured a family of black cats on a series of successively smaller pumpkins, with the message “Happy Halloween” scrawled across the scene in big, jagged letters. A scarecrow with a crooked hat sat outside the door in a folding chair, holding a sign labeled “Free Face Painting” in a similar font. Timothy pulled to a stop in front of him, and glanced around. “Where's Mr. Chase?”
The scarecrow shook with silent laughter, and Seth smiled. “I see him.”
“Where?” Timothy looked around again, dragging his supervisor around in a circle as he inspected the scene. “I don't see him.”
“Miles, stop that.” Allie Chase, the town's veterinarian and co-owner of the pet shop, stood in the doorway, trying not to smile as she looked down on her husband. She was dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, with her hair pulled back in two brown pigtails on either side of her head and a blue dress that came down to just below her knees.
The scarecrow turned his head upwards to face his wife with a grin. “He would've figured it out!”
“Oh!” Timothy looked startled. “Hi, Mr Chase!”
“Hey!” Miles looked back down at Timothy, dropping the pretense of lifelessness with a smile. “Want some facepainting?”
“Yeah!” Timothy jumped up and down at the offer. “I want a dinosaur!”
“Aren't you already a dinosaur?” asked Allie, leaving a trail of red glitter from her shoes as she stepped down onto the sidewalk.
“Yeah, but dinosaurs are cool!”
Miles picked up a three ring binder full of pictures and flipped to a few. “How about that one?” he said, pointing to a yellow Stegosaurus.
“That one's better!” insisted Timothy, pointing to the T-Rex next to it. “Cause it's a T-Rex, and they were meat eaters, and the king of the dinosaurs, and they had all sorts of teeth and walked around like this!” Timothy proceeded to do his best T-Rex imitation, high stepping in a circle around Seth with his arms pulled in tight to his chest, roaring as the tail of his dinosaur suit dragged along behind him. “I'm a T-Rex!” he roared. “I'll eat you, Rar!”
“I see that!” Miles laughed. “Alright then, T-Rex it is.” He motioned to the folding chair that sat opposite him. “Have a seat!”
Timothy did as he was told, bouncing up and down until Seth put a hand on his head. “You've gotta hold still, or it'll be a zig-zag Rex.”
“That'd be cool too!”
Allie watched in amusement. “Just out of curiosity,” she remarked to Seth, “How much sugar has that one had?”
“...An entire ice cream sundae,” admitted Seth sheepishly.
Allie looked at him like he was insane. “You let him have the whole thing?”
“We made a deal,” Seth explained. “If I let him have the sundae, he won't eat any of his candy tonight.”
“Oh.” Allie watched as Timothy started bouncing again under Seth's hand. “Right.”
“Oh, that reminds me!” Miles put down the green face paint and reached under his chair. “I have candy I need to get rid of. Want some?” He pulled out an orange plastic pumpkin filled to the brim with the neon colors of candy wrappers. “I have Smores-n-more, Smackers, these really good peanut butter things...”
“Miles,” Allie scolded, taking the pumpkin out of his hand. “I'm giving out healthy food this year, you know!”
“Yeah, I know.” Miles grinned. “But I'm not!”
“Oh good grief, you silly owl...” She rustled through the pumpkin, examining the contents. “Jawbreakers, licorice bites, candy-covered-chocolate-covered-peanut-brittle-covered lollipops? Miles, can you actually eat those things?”
“They're not half bad, really.” Miles mused as he took advantage of Timothy's awestruck fixation with the pumpkin to finish painting the dinosaur's tail. “I think you'd like the peanut brittle things.”
Allie glared at her husband for a moment before taking advantage of his distraction to stuff three in her dress pocket. “Might as well call them bricks of sugar,” she muttered. “Oh good grief, this one is actually called brick-o-sugar!”
“Now those are good!”
Allie sighed. “Ok, fine.” She turned to Seth. “Here. One for you, one for Timothy.” She held out the pumpkin with a victimized air. Seth took the candies, almost feeling guilty about it, then Allie grabbed her own wicker basket off the doorstep. “And healthy food,” she said, shooting a look at her grinning husband, “for the both of you.” Seth dropped two boxes of raisins into their baskets.
Miles finally finished the dinosaur, and handed Timothy a mirror. “There you go. Pretty good dinosaur, eh?”
“Awesome!” Timothy examined the dinosaur on his cheek with a grin. “Can you make it breathe fire?”
“Um, ok!” Miles grabbed the orange facepaint and did a few quick strokes. “There. A fire breathing T-Rex.”
“Great!” Timothy hopped up from the chair, then grabbed Seth's hand again. “Thanks, Mr. Chase!”
“You're welcome!”
Miles and Allie waved at the pair as Seth was once again dragged unceremoniously across the square, headed this time for a plastic duck pond. Then Allie turned to Miles with mock severity. “So you bought candy, eh?”
“Um, yes.” Miles smiled, trying not to look guilty, but failed. “Am I in trouble?”
“Well, maybe.” Allie browsed through the pumpkin again. “That depends entirely on how much of this you're willing to share.”

Monday, October 19, 2009

Springfield Halloween-Frankenstien's Dunk Tank

This is the first of a series of shorts that will hopefully eventually connect together into a longer story. The prompt for this one: “In retrospect, something like an astronaut might have been more impressive.” Enjoy!

Dr Jeremy Tabition, to say the least, was not amused.
Nobody ever enjoyed the dunk tank, he knew. It was only through some cruel whim of the school board that it happened every year, and despite the fact that it was one of the best fund raisers the school had, for once in his life he would like to be able to enjoy himself on Halloween as a normal, dry human being. With a special emphasis on dry.
But of course, as a teacher, he had to make sacrifices, and these included, among others, sacrificing his enjoyment of the relatively warm, but a little windy fall day in favor of sitting above a tank of water, dreading the moment one of the ragged baseballs finally hit the target hard enough to dunk him.
He fidgeted atop the plank, trying to keep up a smile as he watched another student hand over their two dollars for the three tries at dunking Dr. Tabs. Smiling was difficult at this point, as he was already soaked, and it was only through the miracles of waterproof makeup that he still resembled Frankenstein's monster rather than a melted bucket of paint.
In retrospect, something like an astronaut may have been more impressive. And smarter, too; a suit that could survive the vacuum of space might have made the water that he'd made Gabe swear he hadn't iced slightly more survivable. Maybe not more enjoyable, but Jeremy would take what he could get.
This whole situation might not have been so bad if it had actually been his turn, he mused as a ball narrowly whizzed by the target, hitting the plastic backdrop with a bang that made him flinch. It was supposed to be the turn of Brian Branch, the math teacher. Brian had always tried to get out of the dunk tank altogether, but thanks to Gabe's rigorous daily disinfecting of his classroom for the three weeks prior, along with Jeremy's insistence that he get vaccinated for everything from tuberculosis to malaria this year, Brian would not be calling in sick with pneumonia this year. Or the flu. Or a sudden allergy to water. Not that they'd bought that one the first time, but still. Brian Branch, this year, at least, had no excuse.
Except this year, they simply couldn't find the man.
He wasn't answering his cell phone, or his house phone. Nobody had seen him, not even Trudy, though Jeremy suspected she was covering for him. Gabe's hurried search had turned up nothing, and it had come down to a game of rock paper scissors as to who would take the math teacher's spot until he could be found.
And he should've known that Arnold would pick paper. He always picked paper. It was like the English teacher was obsessed with it or something.
So despite having already served one of his two slots as target, Dr Jeremy Tabition was stuck here, smiling in the way of a man that wants to murder something and dreading the approach of the sadistic gym teacher Dave Clemmence to the front of the line. If there's one thing Tabs could say in his favor, possibly the only one, it was that the man could throw a ball.
“Get me out of here,” he whispered to Gabe as the janitor, dressed as a cowboy complete with lasso, came by to collect the balls. “I can't take it anymore.”
“You've got ten minutes left before it's Arnold's turn,” Gabe whispered back, with a sympathetic look. “And if we find Brian, we'll make him take your other turn.”
“Right.” Jeremy snorted. “Sorry, but he's probably at the soda fountain, you know.”
“I told you, I looked there.” Gabe turned back to the next person in line. “Oh, hey, Mr. Meeps! Nice Watson costume.”
“I'm Winston Churchhill, actually.” The older man looked vaguely resigned, as if he'd already corrected half the town on this point, which he had. He handed over his two dollars, and received the three battered baseballs in return. “I don't suppose you could tell me when I could come back to dunk Brian,” he remarked as he wound up for the pitch.
“That would be whenever we find him.” Gabe watched as the ball slammed into the backing, two inches above the target.
“He's missing?” Oliver Meeps shook out his arm and took the second ball in hand.
“He's hiding,” responded Dr. Tabs, his voice echoing from inside the dunk tank. “I don't suppose you've seen him.”
“He's down at the soda fountain.” Oliver let loose another fast pitch, this one slightly to the left. “Tch, out of practice...”
“I told you!” Jeremy crowed. “Trudy's covering for him!”
“I looked there!” Gabe looked chagrined as he handed Oliver the last ball. Oliver went through a few warmup swings, and Gabe took another step back. “Is he in disguise or something?”
“Who isn't?” asked Dr Tabs, keeping a wary eye on the substitute as he wound up for the third time. “He's probably... Agh!” The ball found its mark, and the chemistry teacher plummeted into the water. The clear plastic tank gave a clear view of the shocked expression on the green-painted face, and by the time Jeremy surfaced, Oliver was laughing hysterically. “Good grief, man, where'd you learn to throw?” Gabe reset the tank's seat and helped Jeremy pull himself back up, trying to stifle a smile.
“Hah!” Oliver looked triumphant at his victory. “Still got it.”
“Ok, fine, good shot.” Tabs wrung the water out of the sleeve of his tattered Frankenstein shirt. “Hey, would you mind dragging Brian over here? This was supposed to be his timeslot, and he's got another one in an hour.”
“You sure? I mean, it'd be a waste of waterproof makeup...” Gabe said, laughing, before the teacher cut him off.
“I'm sure!”
“Alright, I'll get him.” Oliver picked up his cane again, still laughing. “Try to stay dry!”
“Gee, thanks.” Jeremy sulked on the plastic seat as the next person stepped up to dunk Frankenstein.
He should've been an astronaut.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Auntie Martha

“Aunt Martha?”
“Yes?” The old lady's voice crackled through her ancient phone. “A call from my favorite nephew? What have I done to deserve such an honor?”
“I'm your only nephew, Auntie. I need a bit of advice.”
“Advice? Is it something to do with a girl?”
“No! Well, um, yes, actually. I was wondering...”
“Oh, you have to tell me all about her, Jack! Is she nice- Oh, where did you two meet- have you been seeing each other for long? What's her name, Jack, oh you have to tell me. Oh, I simply have to tell everyone at sewing circle- Susan just had her third grandchild get married, did you know- and they're all asking about you, Jack! But don't let me interrupt, do go on with your question.”
“Hypothetically!” Jack stressed the word. “If I hypothetically liked this girl, who is entirely hypothetical and does not exist, and she hypothetically liked ballet, and had by some circumstance indicated that she wanted to take lessons as a child but never did, would it hypothetically be acceptable to rig a contest for which the prize was a month worth of ballet lessons, and maybe kinda fix it so she won?” He paused for breath. "And if so, how long would I have to wait if the conversation happened, say, today, to point her to this hypothetical contest, in order to divert all suspicion of rigging it from myself? Keep in mind that this is totally hypothetical."
“Oh, a dancer!” crowed Aunt Martha with pleasure, before she caught herself and giggled. “A hypothetical dancer, of course. But why not just buy her lessons, Jack? It could be terribly romantic. And maybe a nice pair of shoes, if you want.”
“Shoes! I hadn't considered shoes!” Aunt Martha giggled again as the sound of Jack's frantic scribbling reached her. After a moments pause, his voice came again. “...Hypothetically, what's the best way to ask her her shoe size?”
“Oh, that's easy! Just the next time she takes off her shoes, take a peek at the number on the sole. Don't actually ask her, though.”
“What if she doesn't take off her shoes, though?”
“Improvise, honey! Maybe go shopping with her, or spill something that sticks to shoes but not to feet. You're a clever boy.”
“Um, alright. But the first question? Would that work?” He noticed Crash waving at him frantically through the office window, and nodded cordially.
“Well, it might work, Jack, but I really don't see why you'd go through all that trouble. Just giving her the lessons would be much more romantic.”
“Thanks for your help, Auntie. I've gotta go.”
“Good luck with your hypothetical lady friend.” She stifled a giggle again, and he sighed. “Bye bye now.”
“Bye.” He hung up the phone, sighing. Crash burst into the office all at once. “Yes?”
“Jack, Fixit's on fire.”

One year ago, I posted the first story about Jack, as well as drawing him for the first time. So therefore, I have declared today to be his birthday. So happy birthday, Jack. May you eventually learn how people work. But not too soon; we enjoy laughing at you.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Meeting the Kilsinger Brothers

“I didn't know you were a student here.” A familiar voice sounded behind her, and Karen whirled, eyes wide. The voice had come from behind the neighboring bookshelf, and she glared at it menacingly.
“Blind, what are you doing here?” She hissed softly.
“I could ask you the same.” The smirk in his voice was infuriating.
“Go away.” She paused as she realized. “Wait, how did you...”
“Mostly your boots. They make a very distinct sound. Really, you shouldn't wear those around. Someone will notice.”
“Go away, Blind.”
“I have every right to be here. You go away.”
“I have a paper!”
“And I'm meeting someone.”
She glared at his voice for a moment, then very deliberately turned back to the book she was holding, a rather dry account of first century politics.
“Come on, guess!” He sounded teasing. “Fine, then I'll guess about you. Your paper is on... History? You're in the section for it, anyway.”
She didn't respond, turning to another page of long dead idiots trying to kill each other.
“I'm pretty sure you're either a junior or a senior, so either this is an upper level class, or you're not a history major, so you've been putting your history requirement off. Given that it took you fifteen minutes to find this section, I'm guessing the second.” He paused for a moment. “So that means you're something else, then. Hm, chemistry? You do occasionally smell like laboratory.”
Karen ignored him, putting the book back where she'd found it and picking it's neighbor up, leafing through to a section on the Gaelic Wars.
“I would eliminate music, just for the fact that you don't quite seem the type, and probably English, as closely related as that class is to history. Am I getting any closer?”
“Go away, Blind.”
“I'd rather not, thank you. So, I think something with science. Your glider, for example, is a fair bit of physics that not many people would try without some calculations.” He mused for a moment, mumbling something about what majors had to take that level of physics before the senior year, when she noticed someone in a wheelchair slowly coming up the aisle.
“Oh, Good morning, Professor K.”
“Hello, ah... Karen!” He pointed at her with a smile. “I had you for Calculus One. You sat in the upper left corner, am I right?”
“Yessir!” She smiled, ignoring the now-silent man behind the bookshelf as she inwardly cursed him for learning her name.
“Hah! So Karen, what brings you to the library? Last I checked Professor Holt didn't assign too many papers for Inorganic Chemistry.”
“History, unfortunately.” She showed him the book. “What brings you here? Assigning papers to unsuspecting math classes?”
“Looking for my brother, actually.” He glanced around. “He said he'd meet me around here, but he might have gotten mixed up.”
“Your brother... Oh! You showed us pictures of him once.” She recalled the class now. The problem in question had something to do with projectile motion. “The problem with the mashed potatoes.”
“You're teaching that now?” Blind's voice came through the bookshelf in disbelief. “Oh, come on! Do you have to gloat forever?”
“Hah, knew you were around here somewhere!” Professor K pointed triumphantly at the bookshelf. “You're in the wrong aisle, Jay. Again.”
“What? Aisle 14.”
Karen glanced up at the sign above them. “This is aisle 14.”
“I counted. The sign is wrong.” Blind, or Jay, fumed as his voice moved around the end of the bookshelf.
“You forgot that aisle one is short. You never remember to count that.” Professor K laughed. “In any case, sorry I'm late.”
“Tch.” A familiar figure rounded the corner, tall and dark, with black hair that spilled like water over his face. But there were differences. Rather than the blue blindfold she knew so well, a pair of dark glasses covered his eyes, and the neat blue uniform was replaced by a dark jacket, unzipped over a white t-shirt and jeans. The calm smugness was replaced by a slightly less calm expression of disgust. But the long white cane still swept the ground in front of him, and she wondered, for half a second, what this particular one did.
“You really are blind!” She exclaimed.
“Am I?” He moved a hand to his face and waved it about. “Oh, I hadn't noticed.”
“Only way to explain that outfit,” muttered Professor K with a smile.
“What?” His hand moved to his clothing. “What's wrong? Did I...” He trailed off and glared at the other man. “Monty, you are not funny.”
“At least I don't look like a clown.”
“I do not look like a clown!” He turned to Karen. “Do I look like a clown?”
Professor K nodded enthusiastically in her direction. She barely kept from laughing. “Yep.”
“You're lying. Unless someone messed with my closet, I know exactly what I am...” He trailed off. “Monty, you messed with my closet! What am I wearing?”
“Purple jacket, orange shirt, striped pants.”
“I don't own striped pants, you liar.”
“You do now!”
“I would have noticed if you had...”
“Well, you didn't!” Professor K was laughing now. “Karen, am I right?”
“He isn't.” Jay turned to her. “He's not right. I know what I'm wearing.”
“Oh,” the paraplegic finally got control of his laughter. “Have you two met?”
“No, why don't you introduce us?” Jay smiled, and she shot him a glare over his brother's head.
If Professor K noticed, he didn't mention it. “Oh, well, Karen, this is my brother, Jay Southend Bus Stop Kilsinger.”
Jay made an exasperated noise. “My name is not bus stop.”
“Jay, this is Karen, uh, Same, one of my students. She's a...”
“Chemistry major.” He faced her with a familiar smirk.
“Not even asking how you knew that.” His brother shook his head. “Is he right?”
“No.” For once it was her turn to look smug. “Physics.”
“With a minor in chemistry,” he said without missing a beat
“...Yes.” She pouted.
“Hah.” Jay looked triumphant. “I win.”
“Second guess doesn't count, little brother.” Professor K shook his head, grinning like his brother. “Sorry about him, he ran into a wall as a little kid, and...”
“And Monty,” interrupted Jay, “thought it would be a good idea to send his wheelchair off a ramp at the bottom of a staircase, and...”
“And he,” interrupted Monty pointedly, “tried to keep a squirrel in his sock drawer, and when Mom found out...”
“And he,” Jay raised his voice a little, “wanted to send a lunch box to the moon, so he built...”
“When he was little,” Monty very subtley rolled over his brother's foot, “Mom always had to watch him, because if she took her eyes off him for one second, he'd run outside without any...”
“But Monty,” remarked Jay casually as he whacked Monty sharply with his cane in a seemingly accidental motion, “thought that the tooth fairy was real until his sophomore year of college, and tried to...”
“Regardless!” Monty shoved his brother away as forcefully as he could. “Don't mind Jay. He's a bit odd sometimes.”
“Pot, meet kettle,” muttered his brother.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Knights ride out in armor, to battle, to war; the dragon flies above the city, burning red; the world is ending faster than it can begin anew. The chosen few, the weak-made-strong and their camaraderie fight against beast and beasts and men who are worse, all beyond what could be known by the ordinary man. All blackhearted, deadly tooth and claw, dripping with acid and breathing poison, the destroyer comes forth. The world is at an end, nothing shall survive, nothing, no one. But the weak-made strong bring it all to an end, so the world can breathe, and things begin to grow, green and pure, for a few moments (days, months, years, centuries) of time until the darkness realizes it is still there. As long as there is light, there is darkness, and the darkness shall rise again.
This is a story we know.
The faces, the names of the weak-made-strong, the chosen ones, are different, perhaps, from time to time. Sometimes they are not so weak, sometimes they are misunderstood, sometimes they are mistaken for the darkness itself, for the balance is so strained within them. But they are, always are, and this is the first part of the story.
In the same way, the darkness has a thousand forms. The dragon, the wizard, the thousand year curse or the broken pieces of Armageddon; it could be any, it could be all. It could be perhaps not so dark after all, but it's light is so scattered, so faceted, that still none can see. It could be. But it is, just as the weak-made-strong is, and this is the second part of the story.
But if all can be different, save light and dark, up and down, what is same? It is not in the hero's quest, or his sword, or the laughter of the darkness or the clatter of war. The knights may be knights, but tomorrow they will be trolls, or forests come to life. The sword may break and be reforged a thousand different ways; it may not even be a sword in the end. Light and Dark, up and down, and even these, sometimes, are not sacred. Sameness is a preciously scarce commodity.
The sameness is not what matters, it seems, but in sameness, in the everyday and ordinary, lies empathy. And without empathy, the hero may slay a thousand dragons and though we would cheer him, we would forget, and he would be lost. Without empathy, he is not human, and we have no reason to remember.
So there must be sameness, the everyday, the ordinary. Something we can recognize, understand, and know. Routines and roles are what we know; from the act of cooking dinner, to raising a family, to burying a loved one; though these things might not be the same from story to story, they are the same as us, and we understand them. We know them. We can empathize. These things are life.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

No up here

There is no up here. There is only down, and over, and further down and down and down until forever and there is never no people and no place to hide.
I need a place to hide. To hide, to not exist, unseen, unknown, and I. But there is no place to hide.
There are small, bitter places; corners, curtains, empty rooms. Unused benches on hillsides, still in view of the path for fear they could not find us, and we be lost.
(But is that not the point of hiding?)
There are woods, shallow-thick, but they are not like up. Woods do not welcome like up does; they bar the path with thick grasses and ivy, low growing bushes and the omnipresent unknown. They bar the way with look, don't touch, look, don't touch, and though they are beautiful, there is no sky. I am not welcome here, and I stand at the edge of the mown lines and go no further.
(Someday, maybe, I will.)
But up; up has always welcomed me; bare steep paths and the promise of ever-higher, ever-higher lead me on, higher and higher and away. And there are no people there, none, none but me, and I need not be one here.
And I am alone, and this is hiding. This is up.
There is no up here.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Love for Sale

Atticus, suffice to say, was not having a good day.
If it had just been the lawnmower breaking, it might have been fine. If it had just been the dog tracking mud across the freshly mopped floor, it might have been fine. Or if it had been the invasion of mice, or the car not starting, or having his flowers eaten by something (might have been rabbits. They will die), or blowing the back tire on his bike, or even accidentally locking himself out and having to break in through a window, it might have been fine. Well, maybe not fine. Tolerable, at least.
Atticus was not even having a tolerable day.
The small man projected a cloud of sheer frustration as he walked down the town's main street, so much so that passersby were consciously avoiding him. His fists clenched around two grocery bags filled with canned food and spaghetti (as he'd never managed to cook much else on the fickle gas stove of the little house, even after three years of trying) and the glower on his face was not offset in the least by Ben's three-year-old backpack that he'd been forced to borrow, which featured, much to both his and his charge's embarrassment, glow in the dark dinosaurs. The backpack had been full of overdue library books, was currently full of the third bag of cans, and in a moment would be full of thirty pounds of dog food, which had been eaten that morning by the mice.
He rounded the corner and stared down the block, realizing, almost too late, that he would have to walk directly by the barbershop. He turned around. An extra two blocks was not what he needed right now, but better than having to deal with Eugene.
To top it all off, the pet store was run by one of the most helpful, cheerful people Atticus knew, one Miles Chase. This of course meant that Miles was also one of the most annoying people Atticus knew. He didn't try to be, to be sure. He just was. And Atticus had no intentions of spending any longer in that shop than was physically possible.
The brightly painted windows fast approached as Atticus rounded the final corner, featuring a giant chameleon with its eyes pointed two different ways, along with some colorful birds in the foliage of a green jungle, aka series of giant leaves. “Sale on all cats and kittens!” it said, in total disregard of logical correlation. “These prices will disappear fast!” He stared disapprovingly at the big orange letters the size of his face. “Come in today!”
With a sigh, he set down the two bags of cans on the bench outside, along with the third from the backpack, and stepped in. The door jingled merrily as he stepped onto the smooth tile, glancing around for the shop's proprietor. Not in at the moment, thank goodness. He walked hurriedly to the back of the store where the bags of food were kept, ignoring the chatter of the budgies and the odd glance of the snake. The resident parrot that nobody wanted politely said “hello,” as he passed. He ignored it.
“Hey there!” Atticus flinched as Miles walked up from behind him. “How's it going?”
“Fine, thank you.” The older man turned, almost mechanically, to face the shopkeeper.
“How's Dragon doing? Still running you ragged?” Miles stopped a few feet away, smiling cheerfully.
Atticus made a rather forced. attempt at smiling back. “She's fine, thank you. I need dog food.”
“Oh, well, you know where that is! We've gotten some new stuff in that you might like to try though.. Or she might like to try, rather.” The younger man laughed. “Unless you're not telling me something.”
“What we've been getting is fine, thank you.” Atticus turned back to the shelf of dog food, trying to find a size of bag that would fit in the small backpack. “Yellow bag, yellow bag...” he muttered. Behind him, Miles turned to the rack of empty animal spaces that were normally used to house the strays people brought in to the adjoining clinic's humane society, and opened one of the little doors. Atticus ignored him mostly, watching out of the corner of his eye as Miles reached in and pulled out a tiny white ball of fur. The little ball stretched, and yawned, and as Miles massaged it with gentle hands, it opened its eyes and looked up. Atticus found that he was rather unabashedly staring, and quickly looked away.
“She's a stray.” Miles was more observant than Atticus gave him credit for. “She and her brother were found last week under someones deck. They said that the mother was hit by a car.”
“Is that so.” Atticus tried not to look back at the kitten again, and failed rather miserably. “What's her name?”
“Doesn't have one yet.” Miles rubbed the cat's ear gently, and she purred. “Do you want to hold her?”
“I, uh...” Atticus looked away, then sighed. “Well... why not.” He took a few steps over to Miles, and the younger man carefully deposited the kitten in his palm.
“Careful not to drop her. She's fragile.” Miles reached into the box and lifted out the other kitten, a little black one.
“She's beautiful.” Atticus held the kitten up near his face, and watched her as she examined him with brilliant green eyes. He was shocked to be able to feel her heartbeat through his hands. “And neither of them have names?”
“Well, they're not very old.” Miles carried the other one over to the register and set him down on a towel as he pulled a bottle of milk from behind the counter. “Only about four weeks, we think.”
“...What is that in cat age?” Atticus followed him over, still carrying the white one.
“Definitely not ready to leave their mother.” Miles held the milk away from the cat, and watched as it struggled to stand and move towards the bottle. “They can walk, barely, and they're about ready to start eating solid food, though they'll make a mess about it. Not litterbox trained, yet. And of course,” he said, as the little black one toppled over. “Their balance will be off until their tails become flexible.” He let the black one get it's feet under it again, and it once again started moving towards the food bottle.
“Goodness.” Atticus examined the little cat in his hands. “So basically, they're not cats yet.”
“Well,” Miles shrugged. “No, not really. But see her eyes?” He barely paused before continuing. “They're developing their permanent eye color right now. That one actually seems to be almost done; it hasn't changed at all over the past few days. That's the color her eyes will be for the rest of her life.”
Atticus went a long moment without saying anything, gray eyes roaming from white kitten to black kitten to brilliant green eyes that stared up at him, until the little bundle of fur in his hands started purring.
“...That sale you have on cats.” He never once looked at Miles as he spoke. “Do these two count?”
“You don't want to wait until they're a little bigger?” Miles finally let the black one get the bottle. “They'll make a mess.”
“I know.”
“They'll take a lot of looking after.”
“I figured.”
“You know...” Miles looked up at him, carefully. “Kittens need a lot of love.”
Atticus met his gaze with steel resolve, softened by a genuine smile. “I know.”
“Then yes.” Miles returned the smile. “They count.”
Atticus left the shop having a considerably better day than when he'd gone in.
After all, he'd never been able to say no to a sale.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Someone who mattered

“I'm not going with you.” The illusionist shook his head. “If you want to kill us all, fine, but if I'm going to die, I'm going to die here.”
“But we need you, Morris!” The hero sat on the conference table, swinging his legs back and forth. “I don't think we can even get in without your help.”
“You'll manage, I'm sure.” Morris folded his hands behind his back as he stared out the room's huge window. “I'm staying here.”
“But don't you care that people will die if we don't?”
“They'll manage.”
“But...” Cable trailed off, staring out the window for a moment. “We have to.”
“So a criminal syndicate will control one more city. They'll live.” Morris' voice was cold as ice, cold as it ever was, and his face was hard.
Cable turned back to the illusionist. “Don't you care about them?”
“None of them? I mean, they all care about you!” Cable hopped down off the table and joined his friend at the window, looking out.
“Do they?”
“Well, yeah! They care when we disappear.”
“We are passing entertainments, nothing more. A distraction.”
“Morris, they really do care about us! I've talked to them, believe me! Why don't you care about them?”
“I can't care about all of them, Cable.” Morris' voice turned to a hint of condescension, as though he was speaking to a child. “There are too many.”
“So think of one, then! One person that you care about. Don't you want to save them?”
“There isn't anyone.”
“Nobody?” Cable stretched as he spoke, nervous. “Come on, I know there's...”
“No. There wasn't. End of story.” Morris turned away, staring out over the city below.
“But...” Cable paused. “What about that one kid?”
“What kid?” Only through careful concentration did Morris keep his voice level.
“The one you visited... You went a couple times, actually. I know you didn't want us to know, and I'm sorry I followed you, but...”
“Cable, shut up.”
“But...” The redhead shuffled his feet nervously as he spoke. “I saw you when you talked to him, and it seemed kinda like you were...”
“Shut up.” Morris put a hand against the glass, tension clear in his fingers.
“And you did magic tricks for him, and you talked for hours, I think, because when I left and came back you were still there, and...” Cable looked back at his friend. “You seemed happy.”
Morris was silent for a moment, stern faced but shaking almost imperceptibly, free hand clenched into a fist.
“Morris, don't you want to save...”
“Shut up!” Morris whirled. “He's dead! He died, and I couldn't do anything! You never saw him, I never saw him! I don't want to remember him!”
Cable at this point normally would have shrunken away, apologized, and never mentioned this again. Something about this time, though, whether it was Morris' words, or his tone, or the sheer weight of the bitter sense of futility he felt in his oldest friend, was different, and Cable rankled at it.
“So you're just going to forget?” The angry tone of his voice was new, unfamiliar, and he was almost afraid. “Pretend he didn't exist, that you never met him? I don't know how it was with him, and I don't pretend to, but he was real, Morris! You can say we don't exist all you want, and for all I know, you're right, but he did! He existed! And he mattered to you!”
“Shut up,Cable!”
“I will not...” Cable paused for half a heartbeat to regather his nerve. “I will not shut up! Don't pretend he wasn't real, that he didn't exist. He was, and he did! He mattered to you, and he still does! Don't disgrace him like this.” Cable stopped, fists clenched and breathing hard. “If you were his friend,” he said slowly, deliberately, “the least you could do is remember him. Even if it hurts.”
They stood for a moment, staring at each other with anger in their eyes fading into shock, before Cable turned away. He opened his mouth to say something, but closed it again, and walked out.
And Morris alone stared after him.
And slowly, surely, Morris slumped against the window, and mourned.

Once again, new story. You might be a tad confused by the "we don't exist" thing, but it makes sense in context. Anyway, enjoy, and comment!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Nameless Fruit

“What are they called?” she asked as he handed her another of the strange, sweet fruits.
“They don't have names.” He took a bite of his. “These are 'the blue spotted ones,' and those over there are the 'yellow square ones.'”
“...They don't have names? But even if the kid didn't name them, haven't you?”
He shook his head softly as he stared into the soft colors of the fog. “I don't want them to have names.”
“But you're a scholar, an explorer! You're supposed to name things.”
“Am I?” Marcus looked at her for a moment before looking away. “That's what I used to think.”
“What...” She stared for a long moment.
“There's something fundamentally selfish in exploring, you know?” He sighed. “To desire so much of newness, of the unknown, and all for yourself. Sure, you write books about it, you keep logs and diaries so that other people can know what you found, what you saw, but you take something from a place when you are the first one there. There's a... power, in the unknown, and to explore it is to take that power for yourself. And so we might not be forgotten,” he laughed bitterly, “we name it, and pin it down, so that power will never regrow.”
“...I'm not sure I understand what you mean.” She stared at him, fruit forgotten.
“I'm not so sure either.” He sighed again. “But if I name what I find, then it isn't as new. It's used; it bears the weight of my memory instead of simply it's own.”
They were silent for a moment, as the mists rolled around them and the soft light flickered from nowhere in particular.
“That's an odd way of thinking about it,” she finally said.
“It's a work in progress.” He finished his fruit and stood. “We'd better get going. Chris will be waiting for us.”

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Two Blank Pages

I don't know how the story ended.
Perhaps it was something I missed, or something that was left out. Perhaps there was a line, a word, an inference, an accent even or a word that was more important that I saw it to be, something that would make it all fall together, all make sense, and the lines would connect the unnumbered spots into a picture of something I understand and have seen before.
But I am left with half a picture, a feeling of incompleteness, and something I've never known. A portrait of a face inhuman.
That face is deathly familiar all the same.
I don't know how the story ended. They went their separate ways (or did they?) and they agreed to meet again (I think, I hope, I really hope.) and they loved each other. (This, at least, is sure.) But I don't know how the story ended.
I don't know that the story ended at all.
When there are no more letters joined into words joined into sentences, when the black marks turn to white nothingness and there are two blank pages at the end of the book, is it really over? It must be, because there is nothing more.
But loose threads still dangle, and the story echoes in my head, and I hear it back as something strange. A voice I don't know answers from the other side of the canyon, and I am almost afraid. And the story cannot be over.
But it is, and there is no more, and there are two blank pages at the end of the book.
And I don't know how it ended.
I don't know it ended.
It ended.

Friday, July 31, 2009

When It Got Dark

The last rays of the summer sunset reflected off the soda ad on the side of the bus as he stepped off, waving to the driver and shouldering his backpack. The driver waved back, and the bus rumbled away, back to the stops it had actually intended to make. Jason turned and watched the old lot for a moment. The rotting log was still there, and the old car had gained a few coats of rust since the last time he's seen it. Insects buzzed around the permanent rain-puddles in the cracked cement. And in the far corner stood the tree, the ever-silent guardian of the broken neighborhood. He almost smiled.
As he walked closer, he could see the carved names in the bark still, though some had almost grown out. The boards nailed to the trunk had almost rotted through, and some of them were missing. He glanced down. The wild grass was growing over them. Not a recent fall.
But from high above, he could hear breathing, heavy like a sob. He looked up at the old treehouse, then sighed, and set down his backpack before he sat down with his back to the tree.
And very slowly, with the air of someone with a very important story to tell, he began to speak.
“Once upon a time, in a kingdom so far away that not even Mr. Woods has been there, there lived a princess. She lived in a beautiful castle, all up in the air, and all around the clouds were her subjects. The skies were hers to command, and if she were ever sad, the clouds were sad, and the world rained all around. But if she were happy, all the skies were happy, and there was blue as far as anyone could see. And sometimes she was happy, and sometimes she was sad, and the world went round beneath her.”
The breathing above him had gone very still.
“Now in one of the kingdoms below, there lived a knight, who wandered from place to place and saved people, for that is what knights do. But while some knights served a king, and others served a prince, this knight served nobody, for as long as he could remember he had been alone.”
A sudden flash of memory hit him, of a broom-headed horse and a pot falling over his eyes, and he paused for a moment before he continued.
“The princess in the sky, sometimes, was lonely, and sometimes came down from her castle, to see what was below. Sometimes she found adventure, and sometimes she didn't, but once, she found the knight, and then for a while, neither was alone. Once, they fought a great dragon, and chased it into it's lair, and killed it, and another time they defeated a wizard who'd turned a village into monsters, thirsty for blood, and they turned all the villagers back. And they had many adventures, the knight and the princess, and the knight vowed to serve the princess so neither would be alone, really alone, for even when they were apart they knew they would be together again sometime.”
A white car splashed by through the remnants of last night's rain, and the clouds that gathered on the horizon spoke of a storm coming fast. He paused a moment to gather his thoughts.
“And every adventure they had, they started at her castle in the sky, and ventured out all across the land, and at the end they came back, but...” He trailed off. “Then it got dark.”
Jason sat for a moment beneath the tree, silent, and watched the last of the sun vanish and clouds cover the moon.
“And they had to go home when it got dark.”

New story! This isn't even the whole scene of this, but I like this bit, and anything else would require explanation. Anyway, Enjoy!

Monday, June 22, 2009


Eleanor winced as the little girl's ear peircing shout carried across the parking lot, then smiled as the six year old tackled her knee in a hug. “Hello, Bianca. And how are you today?”
“I'm ok! Up up up up!” She held out her hands pleadingly. Eleanor laughed, and picked her up. “How're you?”
“I'm good. Where's your brother?”
“Camping.” She stuck out her tounge. “Dad and Gabe are camping cause they like icky bugs and dirt. They're weird.”
“Silly boys.” Eleanor giggled, despite herself. “And your mother?”
“Right behind her!” Denise Stonewood followed her daughter across the parking lot, breathing hard. “Thank you so much for agreeing to take care of her today, I...”
“It's no trouble.” Eleanor smiled. “I have to spend time with my favorite granddaughter sometime, don't I?”
“Gramma, I'm your only granddaughter!” Bianca pouted in her arms.
“That doesnt mean you're not my favorite!”
Denise smiled. “Thank you. Can you drop her off back at the house at... oh, four, I guess?”
“You'll be lucky if I ever bring her back,” joked the older woman and the little girl squirmed in her arms.
“Mama, gramma's kidnapping me!” squealed Bianca.
“You better bring her back, or I'll send her daddy to rescue her.” The young mother smiled, laughing, and Eleanor understood not for the first time why her only son had fallen for her.
“Hah! Roger never won against me when he was a kid, and he still can't.” Eleanor started tickling her granddaughter, who was giggling uncontrollably. “Anyway, don't you have a doctors appointment to get to?”
“Oh!” Denise glanced at her watch. “I'm late! Thanks again, bye!”
Eleanor smiled after her daughter in law as she drove away, then turned to her granddaughter. “Well, what do you want to do?”
“Swimming! Swimming swimming swimming!” Bianca squealed. Eleanor flinched again.
“Bianca, not so loud, please.”
“Because it hurts my ears.”
“But Mama said that I need to talk loud so people can hear me!”
“Well, not quite so loud, ok?” Eleanor set the girl down, and took her hand as they walked towards the little green car. “I can hear you just fine when you talk normally.”
“Gabe says I'm good at being loud. I'm louder than anyone else in my class!”
“Honey...” Eleanor took a moment to process just how much her granddaughter must annoy that poor teacher. “Louder isn't always better,” she finally said as she fiddled with her car keys.
“Because if people can hear you, that's loud enough.”
“But the louder I am, the more people can hear me!” Bianca was jumping up and down in her seat as her grandmother tried to buckle her in.
“But what if you don't want someone to hear you?”
“But I like people to hear me! They all look at me when I'm loud!”
“That's not a good thing, honey.” Eleanor buckled herself in and started the car. “You use your inside voice when you're talking to people.”
“I can be even louder inside!”
“That's not what I mean.” The stoplight at the edge of the shopping center parking lot turned green, and Eleanor's foot hit the gas.
Bianca was strangely silent for the next few minutes. Eleanor glanced over at her, somewhat worried.
“Oh, honey, you're so pale!”
“Look out Gramma!” The little girl squeaked, and Eleanor swirved without taking her eyes off her granddaughter.
“Are you feeling alright? Maybe we shouldn't go swimming.”
“Car! Car car car car!”
“Bianca, didn't I just say not to talk so loud?”
The little girl covered her eyes as her grandmother screeched into the parking lot of the city pool. It took her a few minutes after the car had come to a complete stop to open them again. “Gramma, why do you drive so fast?”
“I don't, honey, it just seems faster because my car is lower.” Eleanor was digging around in her huge purse for that medicine that she was sure she had in here somewhere.
“But the dialy thing said 80!” Bianca pointed to the spedometer, still white as a sheet.
“No, honey, you must have misread it. I wasn't going faster than thirty.”
“Gramma, your car is scary!”
“Don't be silly, dear, I have anti-lock brakes and air bags! If someone runs into us, we'll be fine.” Eleanor finally gave up on the medicine and took Bianca's temperature with the back of her hand. “You feel fine to me, dear. I wonder what that was...”
“Gramma, they've gotta catch us to run into us!”
“Bianca, dear, didn't you want to go to the pool?”
Bianca nodded, then unbuckled her seatbelt and stumbled from the car. “Mama can pick me up here, right?”
“No, honey, I've gotta drive you home.”
The girl paled again. “Gramma, can we take the bus?”
“No, honey, my car works just fine.”
“But I like the bus!” Eleanor flinched at the return of the full fledged outside voice. “The bus is... the bus is cool!”
“But yesterday you said the bus was full of icky boys and...”
“The bus is cool! I like the bus!”
“Maybe we can ride the bus some other time, honey.” She opened up the back of Bianca's backpack and pulled out her swimsuit. “Now go get changed. And stop talking so loud!”
“I like the bus....” mumbled Bianca as she trotted dutifully off to the changing rooms, swimsuit in hand.
“Strange girl.” Eleanor turned to the ticket window directly in front of which her car which her car was parked. “Two, please.” The attendant was white as a sheet as she took Eleanor's money, never taking her eyes off the green car parked less than six inches away from the front of the building. Eleanor glanced behind her at the attendant as she headed for the changing room herself. “Huh.” She shook her head. “Must be a virus or something.”

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Atticus stared increduloulsy at the high school's office secretary. “You want me to do what?
“Teach gym.” She fidgeted. “Just for today! I know you can't do it every day, but Mr. Clemmence finally agreed to go see a doctor about his... um...” she coughed. “And Mr Meeps is already teaching history, and nobody else could come in...”
“And so you're flagging down random people on the street?”
“Well, I was gonna go to the temp agency, but I've heard Mr Clemmence talking about you before, Mr. Knott, and so I just figured...”
Atticus set his grocry bags on the sidewalk and crossed his arms. “I doubt Mr. Clemmence has been saying anything even remotely resembling a reccomendation.”
“Well, no, but please sir, the first class starts in fifteen minutes and nobody else is available, not even Gabe cause some kid threw up in the bleachers, and I have to watch the study hall and the only other person that could do it is Ms Knockings, and that just doesn't work, sir!”
Atticus tried to picture the small, stern woman trying to coach a group of highschoolers, and failed. “But... don't you need background checks or something?” he protested weakly.
“No time! Just don't shoot anyone and we're good.” She grabbed his arm, and his groceries, and dragged him into the school, something that if he'd been at all in doubt of her intentions would've gotten her shot. Two minutes later, he was standing in the large gym, staring at the ceiling and wondering how exactly he'd gotten here. He sighed visibly.
“Well, what exactly am I supposed to do now?”
“Well, I'd recommend changing into tennis shoes, at least.” The door of the janitor's closet opened, and a blonde head popped out. “You're gonna have some trouble in loafers.”
Atticus jumped back, startled. “And you are?”
“Gabe. Gabe Stonewood. I'm the janitor around these parts.” He tipped his blue box cap to one side respectfully. “I take it you're the famous 'infernal brit'?”
“That would be me, yes,” he replied as he looked the younger man up and down. Tall, blonde, blue eyes. Ben could probably disguise as him fairly well, if he ever had to. “Any idea as to what I'm supposed to be doing here?”
“Well, if I overheard correctly, teaching gym. Good luck with that.”
“Well, yes, but what exactly does that...”
“Laps, pushups, whatever.” Gabe shrugged. “Mostly just yell at them.”
“Yell at them. Oh, joy.” Atticus turned his gaze back to the empty basketball court, wracking his brain for an activity that could entertain sixteen high school boys for an hour, especially given most of them were significantly larger than him. “I don't suppose you could teach gym, and I could go clean the...”
“Nope!” Gabe grinned. “I've got a date with the bleachers. I'm happy to leave the hard job to you.” He watched cooly as the first of the students made their way through the double doors at the far end of the gym. “Careful. I've heard they can sense fear.” With a chuckle, he picked up his bucket and started walking away.
He was a little surprised to find himself unable to move. The smaller man had some kind of nerve grip on the back of his neck, and his whole body was tingling.
“Sorry. Getting your attention.” Atticus wasn't even looking at him, just staring at the students congregeating at the other end of the room with a look in his eyes that would've sent anyone who knew Atticus running. “I need your help for one last thing.”
“Speak, o master, and I shall obey,” the blonde quipped as Atticus let go of his neck.
“Unroll that wrestling mat.”

The boys were milling around near the locker room when Atticus finally approached them. “Right. Get changed, you lot.”
One of the football players spat on the ground. “What do you want, Brit?”
“Where's Mr. Clemmence?” another asked.
“Does it matter?” Atticus's voice had an edge like a knife. “Get. Changed.”
The football player, a huge boy almost a head taller than Atticus and twice as thick, stepped up. “We don't take orders from you.”
“Well, then, I suppose you'd like to run twenty laps without changing.” Atticus's glare spoke volumes. “Get moving.”
The boy didn't move.
“I said...”
“We heard you, brit.” The boy glared. “Mr. Clemmence warned us about you.”
“Oh, did he.” Atticus stared at the boy for a minute before he broke into a wide smile. “Well, if you don't want to get changed, I can't make you. Follow me, then, boys.” He waved them to follow them as he walked back to his original end of the gym. They followed, bewildered at this sudden change of attitude. The football player who'd stood him down puffed his chest out like an overblown turky as he walked, reveling in this newfound power.
The small man stopped at the edge of the wrestling mat, kicked off his shoes, and stepped onto it. “Ok, here's the deal. I'm just an old guy, and a tiny one at that, right?” There were a few reluctant nods, with some of the brighter bulbs wondering where this was going. “So if any one of you can pin me down, you have the rest of the class to do what you want.” He spread his arms, letting the whole class see just how skinny he actually was. “Shouldn't be too hard, right?”
The class murmured for a moment before one of them stepped up, a boy that Atticus vaguely remembered as someone Ben had talked about, somebody Johnson. Tristan? “I think I can do it.”
“Ten laps if you can't.” Atticus held out his hand to shake on it. “Agreed?”
“Fine.” The boy took his place across from Atticus on the mat, assuming what he thought was a proper fighting position. Atticus barely shifted his feet. Gabe watched them from atop the bleachers.
“Whenever you're ready.”
The boy lunged at him, and it was over almost before it began. Atticus whirled out of the way, barely tapped the boy's knee in the right place, and had him on the ground before he fully realized what had happened.
“One. Two. Three.” The brit calmly counted off. “Don't rush your opponent like that. I win. Go get changed and start running.”
The boy stared up at him in shock for a moment, then dumbly went and did as he was told. His classmates hooted at him as he left, and Atticus dusted off his nice slacks before he turned back to them.
“Who's next?”
There was a sudden silence. Then the football player stepped up. “Let's see how you do against a real man,” he muttered as he took his place. “He's a wimp anyway.”
“Fine.” Atticus shrugged as he moved into position. “Sometime today, please.”
The boy swung for Atticus' head, and he stepped back neatly. The boy didn't overbalance nearly as much as he'd hoped, and almost managed to make a recovery before Atticus wound up behind him.
“You're moving your torso too much. Try that again.” The boy obliged, Atticus dodged, and tripped him neatly. “One, two...” The boy sprung back to his feet. “Oh, you're still up!” Atticus dodged another fist. “Don't lock your knees. Move your feet! Oh, for goodness sake.” He caught the boy's arm as he tried to hit him again, pulled his fist apart, and put his thumb on the outside. “Are you trying to hurt yourself? Try that again.” He almost touched Atticus that time. “Much better, but...” he quicly ducked under the boy's arm, and with a simple push the boy was on the ground again. “One...” he jumped back to avoid the kick. “Oh, finally using your feet, I see!”
The other boys were cheering their compatriot on, forming a ring around the wrestling mat. Gabe was laughing hysterically. Atticus smiled brightly as the football player scrambled to his feet. “Well, you're pretty good, I'll give you that, but let's give someone else a turn, shall we?” He dropped quickly, sweeping the boy's feet out from under him, then put one hand hard on his shoulder. “One, two, three. I told you not to lock your knees.”
Atticus smiled. The boy glared.
And then he got up and walked slowly to the locker rooms.
“Alright,” said Atticus, stretching, “Who's next?”
Forteen hands shot into the air, amid shouts.
“Right. You lot would probably stand a better chance if you changed first, right?”
The rush for the locker room was overwhelming. Atticus just smiled.
“How the heck?” Gabe dropped down from the bleachers with his bucket. “I thought you were gonna get creamed.”
“I know some tricks.” Atticus didn't look at him.
“You think you could teach me some?”
“You think you could beat me?”
“Never hurts to try.” Gabe put down his bucket and stepped onto the mat.
“Oh, I beg to differ.” For a moment, the small man looked genuinely scary.
And Gabe really hated to admit that he was right.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Atticus awoke sharply to a particularly loud crack of thunder. It was a sound that he was beginning to get used to, but forty years of sleeping with both ears open made the habit hard to break. He glanced at the red numbers on the little digital clock he'd bought for himself the day before, and sighed. 4:30. Could be worse.
He groaned as he sat up, rubbing his eyes wearily. Another bolt illuminated his sparsely-furnished room, with the still packed up boxes stacked tall in one corner and two empty bookshelves standing next to the door like sentinals. A thin coating of dust still lay on the dual windowsills, from the house's long emptiness before they'd moved in. Atticus resolved to clean as soon as he had the time, or sometime eventually, at least.
The long downstairs hallway of the brick house was empty. He moved along it silently, headed for the kitchen. A soft clicking greeted him as he made his way in, and a wet nose shoved itself against his hand. The dog was trembling, scared stiff of the thunder. He scratched her soft ears and made a comforting noise, which sounded so strange coming from his own throat. The lightning flashed again, and Dragon dashed back under the table. She cowered in her dog bed, and Atticus sighed. He was no good at this comforting thing.
He flicked on the kitchen light, and moved to the sink. The dishes from all three day they'd been there were piled in the sink, and takeout containers overflowed from the white trash bin. He vaguely considered starting breakfast, but then realized that they were out of eggs, and the toaster hadn't been unpacked yet, and the diner wouldn't be open for another half-hour, at least. The dog's wet nose found his hand again, and he scratched her almost subconciously, mulling over the situation.
He wondered if Ben would mind leftover pizza for breakfast. Probably not, come to think of it.
Another crash of thunder sent the golden retriever skittering under the table again, and Atticus wondered how Ben was doing. The boy had been doing better, as far as he could tell, but an illness like this could reverse in a moment. He sighed, and headed upstairs to check on the boy.
The old wooden stairs creaked wearily as Atticus went up. The second door on the left was cracked open, and the orange night-light shone through like a beacon. Atticus pushed it open with all the quietness of a man who's long known how to move unheard, and stepped in.
He made slightly more noise when he nearly fell on his face. He cursed under his breath, and warily let go of his death grip on the doorframe. Water. There was water all over the floor. A quick glance upwards told him why as a water droplet hit him in the face
The roof was leaking. He wiped his face with the sleeve of his nightshirt, barely refraining from cursing again. Bloody American craftsmanship! And in the one place in the house where it actually mattered! Ben needed dry air, for...
Ben. He glanced over at the bed, and was relieved to see his young charge still sleeping. The twelve year old's small frame was twisted all around the blue-checked bedspread, and both of his pillows had somehow migrated to the floor. But he was still breathing, and still sleeping, and that's what mattered at the moment. The two de-humidifiers next to his bed were both still functioning, though the puddle was beginning to reach the one on the far edge. Another drip hit him in the back of the head, startling him. He sighed, and went back downstairs.
He wasn't entirely sure if they'd unpacked a bucket, or if there even was a bucket to unpack. Atticus eventually grabbed his tea kettle off the stove and a towel out of the downstairs bathroom and creaked his way back up the stairs.
Benjamin almost stirred this time as another huge flash of lighting broke the sky. He twisted another rotation, wrapping his bedspread more tightly around himself. He mumbled something as Atticus set down the tea kettle where he thought the drip was. One of Ben's feet was sticking out from under the covers now, and Atticus almost smiled. And then another drip hit him in the shoulder. The smile vanished, and he went back downstairs.
He returned this time with the frying pan. The dog followed him upstairs, tail tucked between her legs. She slid across the wet floor, suprise and fear painted on her face. He rubbed her head again as Ben flopped one arm out, still sleeping, looking for his pillow. Atticus handed it to him, and in a moment the boy was still again.
And then the splash of water in the puddle hit his ankle, and he knew there was a third leak.
All he could find this time was a teacup. By this time, the kettle was beginning to get full, and the dog smelled wet, and there was a fourth leak somewhere, he was quite sure of it, because a full half of the ceiling was shining with water at this point, and he went downstairs to get another teacup.
Nearly half an hour and his full tea set, two cocoa mugs, a couple of dirty glasses and a cereal bowl later, Atticus sat on the now-mostly-dry floor, leaning against the annoyingly-damp wooden door and staring at the absurdly-wet ceiling and feeling almost helpless. Ben had started coughing, and no matter how many times he emptied the teacups, the room wasn't getting any drier. The dog picked it's way through the teacup maze on the floor, headed for the closet as lightning flashed again, and in a panic Dragon knocked two of them over. Atticus sighed, and grabbed another towel from the pile he'd set outside the door. He hadn't felt this frustrated since... well, for a very long time.
He didn't know why this was bothering him. He'd stayed in leaking houses hundreds of times, many times worse than this. It barely crossed his mind anymore; if it didn't mess with his mission, it didn't matter. He'd always been able to deal with it himself. Why was this different?
He threw the wet towel at the bathroom across the hall and stared upwards. He was retired now. The mission wasn't what mattered anymore; he knew that. He'd spent the past year trying to convince himself of that, but forty years is a heavy weight to shake off.
Lightning flashed. Ben coughed. The dog wimpered, and Atticus swore under his breath. Bloody rain, bloody leak, bloody retirement. He wasn't himself without a mission.
Or maybe he was himself, and he had yet to figure out what that looked like.
He sat back, taking stock. Who was Atticus Knott? Not a spy anymore, not a retiree, technically, not even who he'd told them he was. Just an old man who'd spent his life learning what to do in situations that he would never encounter again. He didn't even have a family anymore.
He sat in silence for a moment, listening to the rain hitting the roof and the drips falling into the teacups, and thunder rolled in the distance, and Ben was breathing softly, with the same sick rasp to his voice that had brought them both to America, and to this bloody leaking house. This bloody leaking house that was going to keep him sick, with this bloody rain that had followed them all the way from England and this whole bloody situation, and Atticus wished that he just had to steal someone's briefcase so it would be over, and he could get on with the next bloody mission.
And then it hit him.
Ben. Ben was his mission. He was in another country, in a leaking house, with unknowns on every side and the odds against him, and he had an objective and a base and a full town to recon and two people to report to and quite possibly some enemies. And maybe, he barely thought, he did have a family, kind of. He twisted his ring around unconciously as he mulled it over.
And quite suddenly, he was alright.
“Alright.” He stood, stepping around the near-overflowing teacups to pick up his twelve year old charge. “Come on, Ben, we're going downstairs.”

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dr Doctor and the Viking Kid

“Is it on?”
Timothy peered up at the camera from under his plastic viking helmet. Seth nodded, making the camera rock up and down.
“Ok! Um... Hi! I'm Timothy! And... um... Seth?”
“You're introducing your story.”
“Start with Joscar.”
“Yeah! Joscar's great. He's a pirate, and he fights bad people and stops them from taking stuff cause that's what pirates do! I wanna fight crime with Joscar someday, so I've got my viking helmet cause I'm gonna be the viking kid!” The camera followed Timothy as he climbed onto a picnic table in the middle of the park. “And this is the story of... Viking Kid!” He posed dramatically, and the camera shook slightly as Seth tried to keep from laughing. Timothy looked out of the corner of his eye at the camera. “Is that good?”
“Yep.” Seth pushed the stop button on the camera and set it on the table next to Timothy. “Now all you have to do is think of a story.”
Timothy scowled. “This assignment is hard.”
“It could be worse, you know. She could've made you write it.”
“No she couldn't have, cause we don't know how to write yet.” Timothy crossed his arms over his knees as he sat on the tabletop. “I don't know how to make a story!”
“Well, you've got your protagonist already, so it shouldn't be that hard.”
“Pro..” Timothy struggled to pronounce the word. “Protag...”
“Main character. Hero.”
“Oh! Hero! Ok.” Timothy thought for a moment. “But if there's a hero, there's gotta be a villain.”
“Oh really?”
“Yeah, there's always a villain! Haven't you been paying attention?” Timothy stood up again, and Seth quickly rescued the camera from being kicked to it's death as Timothy marched up and down the table. “Whenever we go to the store, there's a villain, and whenever we go to the bank, there's a villain, and sometimes even when we're at the park! Villains are everywhere!”
It momentarily occurred to Seth that Timothy was actually right, and he didn't know quite whether to be disturbed by that or not, but he shook off the thought and went on. “So your story needs a villain, then.”
“Yeah.” Timothy thought for a moment, hovering without actually meaning to. “But if I'm Viking Kid... You're the villain!”
“But if I'm the villain, who runs the camera?”
“You do. You can hold it up with your powers, right?”
“Tim, that's not how we're supposed to use our...”
“But you can!”
“Ok, you're the villain!”
“Fine.” The teen sighed, and put his free hand into his jacket pocket. “But you have to tell me what sort of villain to be.”
“An evil one,” Timothy said, as if it were the most obvious thing since the sky being blue, or his parents being able to fly. “What other kind is there?”
“Um... Misguided...”
“Those are boring! You're evil.”
“Ok, I'm evil. What's my villain name?”
“Um... Dr Doctor!”
“Dr Doctor.” Seth was not impressed.
“Or you could be Dr Dentist, cause that would definitely be worse.”
“Let's stick with the first one.”
“So you're Dr Doctor, and I'm the Viking Kid, and I'm gonna stop your evil plan!” Timothy was looking heroic again, and Seth almost laughed.
“What's my evil plan?” Seth went digging through their big red bag of costumes, looking for something evil. Timothy flew down next to him and started helping.
“I don't know, it's your plan!” Timothy examined a jester's hat and stuck it on Seth, looking critical.
“But it's your story!” Seth took off the hat and continued looking.
Timothy pouted. “This is too hard!”
Seth looked a top hat over, removing two plastic daisies from the rim, and put it on. “How's this?”
“Not evil enough!”
Seth tried to look very evil. “Now?”
Timothy thought for a moment, then shook his head. “You don't make a very good evil.”
“I'll take that as a compliment.”
“A what?”
“A good thing.” He found a fake mustache and went searching through the bag's infinite pockets for the glue. “Now what's my plan?”
“You're trying to take over the world, I guess.”
“How am I gonna do that?”
“Um...” Timothy thought for a moment as Seth tried to stick the mustache on with double-sided tape. “You're gonna... um... You're gonna use a baseball bat.” He pulled the offending item out of the bag, and examined it. The purple plastic could not have been less intimidating.
“To take over the world.”
“Um...” Timothy tried on a pair of purple glasses as Seth's mustache fell off.
“Destroying the world would probably be easier.”
“Yeah, probably.” Timothy put the jester's hat on top of the top hat. “That way we can just say you're using a bomb.” The hat fell off, but Timothy wasn't paying attention anymore. “A really big bomb.”
“Is that alarm clock still in here?” Seth wondered aloud. “That would make a good bomb...”
“Yeah, I think so!” Timothy laid waste to the bag as he searched. “And we can use the beach ball for the world! My mom drew a map on it a couple weeks ago!”
Seth decided against objecting to using a red-and-yellow striped earth, and clipped a bow tie to his collar. “Right. So I'm blowing up the world, with my evil alarm-clock bomb, and you're going to stop me.”
“Right!” Timothy thought for a moment more. “I need to be saving someone.”
“You're saving the earth.”
“That's not the same! Joscar always has to save one person every time, even if he's saving the earth too! So I've gotta save someone.”
“But if I'm evil, and you're the Viking Kid, who are you going to save?”
Timothy thought for a moment. “You.”
“But I'm Dr Doctor.”
“You can be the daring explorer too! He's always getting captured.”
“But then I'd have to capture myself.” Seth looked skeptical. “And that wouldn't work.”
“This is too hard!”
“Just think it through, it's not that bad. We'll get ice cream when we're done.”
Timothy sat silent for a moment as Seth rustled through the bag, finding a black sheet that made for an excellent evil cape. He shed his jacket and tied the sheet around his neck.
Timothy suddenly had a moment of epiphany.“Maybe I'll be the daring explorer for the first part when you capture me, and you'll be the daring explorer when I rescue you!”
“But then it'd look like there were two explorers.”
“Not if we have the same hat!” Timothy had that it's-so-obvious expression again. “And we have an explorer hat, see?”
Seth blinked, and shook his head. “Right. Well, we'd better get started, then.”
“Right!” Timothy jumped on top of the table again. “I've come to stop you, Dr Doctor!”
“Not until the camera is on!” Seth shoved most of the costumes back into the bag and stood. “And don't I need to capture you first?”
“Oh! Right!” Timothy snatched the explorer hat from his bag, and switched it with his viking hat. “I'm exploring, daringly, exploring for all the world to see!” he sang, switching keys in the middle.
Seth winced. “Um, no singing, ok? Just look like you're exploring.”
“I need to explore over there! Trees are much more exciting to explore!”
“Right, um, ok.” Seth followed his young charge over to a big pine tree. “Ok, so you're exploring here...”
“And you kidnap me.”
“Cause you're evil! Duh!” Timothy adjusted his hat. “Is the camera on?”
“Um...” Seth flicked the switch to the on position. “Yep.”
“I'm exploring, exploring, oh look a tree!” He shot Seth a sharp glance, which Seth took to be his cue. He suspended the camera carefully by it's own battery power, giving it a faint blue glow as it hovered. “A fantastic tree of wonder!”
“Not so fast, er, Daring Explorer!” He tried to look dramatic as he burst into the camera's field of view. “I, the villainous Dr Doctor, am here to capture you!”
Timothy tried to look shocked. “Oh no!”
“Muahaha!” He picked the first grader up and slung him over his shoulder. “You'll never escape from me!”
“The Viking Kid will stop you, evildoer!”
“The Viking Kid has no hope against my bomb of evil!” Timothy produced the alarm clock with a flourish, taking care to keep the camera on them. “When it goes off, the world shall be destroyed!” He finished with another flourish of maniacal laughter, vaguely hoping that no superhero was in the neighborhood to hear and come to the rescue, then turned off the camera. “Good. Go get your viking hat.”
A sudden jingle filled the air as the ice cream truck rolled past the park, and Timothy's attention span followed it all down the street. “Are we done?”
“Not unless you want the world to get destroyed.”
“Ok.” Timothy was off like a bullet after the truck. “Come on, we're getting ice cream!”
Seth sighed, and stuffed the camera into his hat as he followed Timothy across the park.
Destroying the world was easier anyway.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Nothing I

There's nothing more I can do for him. I know this, and he knows this, and he still smiled like that.
And somehow my gut tells me, “no, no, you can do something. Wait.”
So I wait.
He's lost a lot of blood, I know. The doctor said he might survive, might, maybe, if he has a transfusion.
There is no blood for a transfusion, not for him. My blood does not match his, but I know this, and it is true in too many ways. There's nothing I can do here.
But I wait.
The steady rise and fall of his chest is half matched by the slow beep-beep-beep of the heart rate monitor, occasionally in sync and most of the time not, but it doesn't matter anyway. Both will stop soon. He fell into unconsciousness a few hours ago, as his body slowly started shutting down. The mountain of blankets on top of him seems to be crushing his frail form, but they're his best chance. And he's pale, so pale, and there's nothing I can do.
I am waiting for a miracle.
The nurse comes in every half hour or so, asks me if there's been any change. There hasn't been, just the rise and fall and the beep beep beep and the slowing of them both and he's dying and I don't want to let go of his hand.
And there's nothing I can do.
Lucas is going to die tonight.
All I can do is wait.
His eyes are closed I think, still covered beneath the bandages, and I know that it's better this way. He has always been ashamed, so ashamed of them, and I know he wouldn't want to be ashamed in his last moments.
But he shouldn't feel that way, because there's a bullet hole in his shoulder instead of in my heart, and it didn't have to be that way.
It's dark outside the little window, but the blinds are down regardless. A policeman shifts outside the door, listening to the beep-beep-beep and the hospital carts rolling past and the sheer weight of the air, and I know he's afraid, but not like I am. He is afraid that someone will come to kill me too, and he'll fail and I'll be shot, or he'll be shot this time, like Lucas was. But I am afraid because Lucas is dying, and I am living, and I don't want it to be that way.
And I know, I know, that my testimony will avenge him, but it doesn't matter. The man who shot him is in custody already, and the men who hired him will be in custody soon enough, and I will nail their coffin without Lucas by my side. That is what I can do, and what I will.
But it doesn't matter, because Lucas won't be there, and that's not how it's supposed to go.
We were supposed to do it together. I promised him, really promised, that I'd stick with him until we brought them down. And he promised, with all the sincerity of a man who never doubted anyone but himself, that he would stay with me until the end.
I doubt he has much time left for that.
The nurse comes in, her shoes click-clicking against the white tile, and she smiles at me in the way of someone who knows there is nothing to smile about, and I try to smile, but realize that I'm crying. She hands me a tissue and asks me if there has been any change. There has been no change.
She moves to remove the cloth from his eyes, the one thing still clean, still untouched through all this bleeding and dying and catching bullets, and I move to stop her. She says she has to clean off his face, because he's sweating, and for some reason that's bad. I still can't let her do it, and I'm crying, and she's still trying to smile that same way, but can't. So I say let me do it, if I do it it might be alright, even though I know it's not, and he would be ashamed.
And she agrees.
So I carefully, careful not to rip the bandage or touch his skin or wake him, carefully remove the bandage. I apologize as I do, but he cannot hear me.
It is surprising. The nurse doesn't know, so she goes to work washing his face. But there's nothing wrong. There's nothing different, nothing to hide. His skin is just as pale, just as smooth as the rest of his face, and his eyes are closed, with long black eyelashes and I am curious now. There's nothing wrong.
And there's nothing for him to be ashamed of, and he shouldn't have to feel that way.
The nurse is leaving now, and I don't say goodbye. The rise and fall and the beep-beep-beep are unchanged, the sky is still dark and the policeman still stands there and the blankets are still far too heavy, and Lucas is still dying, but now I don't understand and I never will.
And there's nothing I can do.
I watch him now, like I did at the very first, a man who looks dead in a thin blue hospital gown, except now he really is dying, and there is no panic to hide my feelings with. And all I can do is wait for him to die.
He shifts, almost imperceptibly, with the same weak, barely fighting spirit he's always had as he tries to hold on to life, but there's not enough blood for him to hold on to, and I'm crying again.
We're still for a moment as he lies there, weightless beneath the mountain of blankets, and I reach out to brush his black hair out of his face, because I want to see his eyes (and I am sorry, Lucas.)
And my hand lingers for a moment, and the beep-beep-beep is going steady and I am crying, and there's nothing wrong except a hole in his shoulder and I'll never understand, never understand why he was always so ashamed, and there's nothing, nothing, nothing I can do.
He opens his eyes.