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.”