Sunday, March 28, 2010


I promise you've seen at least one of these characters before, so it totally counts as continuation. Yes.

He blinked at the sudden brightness, struggling to follow the fast-moving shadows that swarmed across the room. There were close to thirty of the children here, he realized as his eyes adjusted. Some played on the floor with battered toys, some worked on small projects on the scattered wooden tables. A few were sleeping, on benches or tables or whatever came to hand. Everyone looked up at his entrance as his young guide dragged him inside, slamming the door behind them.
For a log moment they just stared at him, battered toys and games forgotten, and he shrunk back just a little, back towards the world of mud and exhaustion that had been his only home for so long. Nobody moved, nobody spoke. Everyone simply watched, with cautious, suspicious eyes, and the room hung frozen.
Finally, one of the girls spoke up. “Who'd you find, Mikhail?”
And then the noise crashed into his mind like a wave, sweeping him up in the rush of children. They ran towards him, swarming around him like moths around a light. One took his backpack; another helped him out of the battered coat. He could barely make out single voices in the massive barrage of questions as the kids took both his hands and pulled him towards the room's big open fireplace.
“Did you walk all the way...” “Where'd you get that big mark on...” “Do you like potato soup, or...” “...Have a name?” “Did you come to see...” “Can I...” “...You want me to...” “Theia?” “...Look in your backpack, please? I won't touch...”
“Hang up!” shouted his rescuer, clapping his good arm to the bandaged one with the odd crash of resounding metal. “Quit with the questions! Give him a chance to catch his breath. The guy's been walking for like, ever! ”
“How long is like ever?” asked one of the littler girls, staring at him with wide eyes.
The boy—Mikhail, he corrected himself—paused a moment, then turned to the chimera, momentarily lost. “How long have you been walking?”
“A... A long time. Four years.” The words sounded strange, his own voice unfamiliar. He hadn't spoken to another living creature in almost that long. Four years. Really?
The children gave a simultaneous “Oooooh,” clearly very impressed. “That's longer than Tina's been alive!” piped up one boy. “And she's old enough to punch!”
A crash sounded from one of the small doors that edged the big central hall. “I got a blanket!” Another boy, this one with shaggy blonde hair only kept out of his eyes by the speed at which he was moving, skidded through the doorway, stumbling as he made the sharp turn. “Three of 'em!” He dumped all three rather unceremoniously on the chimera's lap, smiling widely.
“Thank you,” he said, trying to return the smile.
“Not a problem!” The boy ducked his head respectfully. “I'm Wilbur. What's your name?”
“I...” he paused, momentarily lost. “I don't really have one anymore,” he admitted quietly. The whole assembly stared for a moment longer until they again exploded into sound.
“You should be Gilgamesh!” shouted one, waving his hand wildly.
“No, Izangati!”
“That's a girl's name!” someone shouted indignantly. “You should be Antonio!”
“You can be Misha, cause that's my name too! We'll both be Misha!”
“Vincent! You should be Vincent!”
“Compass! Umbrella!”
“...Not even real names!”
“Hang up!” yelled Mikhail again, clapping twice. “He can't be named everything.”
“We should vote,” suggested Wilbur. “Like we do with babies.”
“That won't work.” Mikhail said flatly. “Babies don't care what their name is.”
Wilbur thought for a moment. “Right. How about he picks one, then?”
“I was gonna suggest that,” muttered the older boy. He turned to the chimera. “Well, how about it? What should your name be?”
“I...” He paused for a moment longer, thinking, then shook his head. “I really don't know.”
“So should we vote then?”
“We always end up with something stupid when we vote without Thiea here. Like Toastpants.” Mikhail crossed his arms. “Let's vote on some names, and then he can find one he likes off of those.”
“That'll take forever!” Wilber whined.
“Toastpants.” Mikhail enunciated, like that one word would win him the whole argument.
Apparently, it did. “Fine.” The blonde boy sulked. “But what are we supposed to call him until then?”

Sunday, March 21, 2010

More story bits

“Because, I mean, it seems so indefinite, really.” He gestured vaguely off to one side, floppy sleeve almost totally covering his hand. “You say you've grown up, you say I haven't. You're probably right, you know, but really, if it's so necessary you'd think I'd have got the hang of it by now.”
“You are grown up. You just refuse to admit it; you see the world like a kid and you refuse to believe anything else!”
“And is that really so terrible?” The magician stopped. “I do believe in other things. I know bad things happen. I know the lies. I know the truth. But I don't have to believe that all the good things are gone either.” He looked away, out the tiny windows. “Grown-up, I think, is when you decide to stop believing that things can be amazing. Maybe not big things, but little things. You stop seeing things as beautiful, and just start seeing things as there. You don't think it matters anymore.”
“It doesn't.” The inventor stopped as well, finally turning to face the magician.
“Why not?” He spread his hands, palms up. “It mattered then. It was beautiful then. Does the magic of the world really have to die that quickly?”
“It's just... not anymore.” The inventor leaned against the doorway, really thinking about it now. “Things just aren't amazing, and aren't beautiful.”
“Not anymore.” The magician sighed, taking off both top hats and closing his eyes in the afternoon sunlight. “Do you know, it's so much easier to grow up than it is to grow back down? I did grow up, you know. It was the worst thing that ever happened to me, and it was so hard, so very hard to grow back down. I had to choose to believe in the magic, every day. I had to look for it.”
“You can't grow back down. Not once you've grown up.” The inventor shook his head. “It's impossible.”
“No.” The magician smiled, then put his hat back on. “Just hard.”

He was a secret, once, before. A real secret, like between two lovers, whispered quietly or not at all, and for no one else, no one, not ever. He was hidden well, hidden perfectly. He may have been loved, he may have been hated. It didn't matter. He was simply secret.
But she, she is the child, who looks in at the wrong moment and sees. Only a child, knowing not what she's found, not what it means or what desperate lovers will do to take their secret back. She only knows that she has found it, and she likes it. And it is her secret too, now. He is her secret, not hidden so well, but still hidden. Better loved, at least.
But she is a child, and children cannot keep secrets. She may whisper it to one, perhaps only to herself, but the other children will hear. And whispers, only ever whispers, spread like fire. The whole world will burn before too long, but she doesn't know that yet, for she is a child. He is still secret, now and for as long as she can keep him. But her parents will whisper, and her neighbors will whisper, and whispers echo and burn. The secret will be a secret to all of them, until he is a secret to none.
And then the world will burn, and he will burn, and be gone. Ashes.

“You amaze me.” Crash shook his head. “What, did you trade the part of your brain that handles emotions for a double dose of mechanical knowledge?”
“I guess.” Jack shrugged, blandly trying to explain himself. “I can't see any other reason I could be this bad at this.”
“Lack of practice would be my guess.” Crash looked his employer over skeptically. “Though I honestly can't say I was ever as bad as you.”
“Whatever,” Jack sat against the wall with a sigh. “She's not mad at me, I think.”
“There is absolutely no way you can be certain about that.” Crash warned. “She is still a woman.”
“What if I'm 75% certain, based on a number of different variables, that she is not mad at me?”
“Then she's mad at you.”
Jack swore softly. “I said I was sorry...”
“Then she won't be mad at you for as long. Maybe. I don't really know.”
“Whatever.” Jack pulled his mask off, setting it aside as he pulled his knees into his body. “I tried, at least. That should count for something.”
“It doesn't.”
Jack swore again.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Airplanes and books

“This is ridiculous. Ridiculous. The plane was supposed to leave an hour ago! It's not even here yet!” Jack stormed down the row of seats for the thousandth time, glaring darkly at the big airport windows overlooking the tarmak. “It's ridiculous. What, did the airplane run out of wings?”

“It probably hit some bad weather,” Amy said for the thousandth time, not looking up from her book. “Sit down.”

“I will not sit down! The plane should be here already!” He kicked the row of seats, vibrating it all the way down to where Crash was sleeping with a magazine over his face. The taller man groaned, and rolled over. “Why isn't it here?” The terminal was fortunately mostly deserted, save the occasional sleeping businessman, and two college students playing games on their phones on the opposite end of the big room. Nobody took notice of the blond man as he strode back and forth, gesturing wildly and ranting about the plane. Small blessings, Amy thought.

“Any number of reasons,” Amy replied calmly. “Most of which we went over an hour ago, and some before that.”

“But it's been an hour! When is that stupid plane going to come?” he asked, turning to her as if she knew.

“It'll come when it gets here. Now sit down.”

“I'm not going to sit down,” he pouted, crossing his arms. “And that's final.”

“Fine.” She turned the page of her book. “Suit yourself.”

Jack glared at her for a moment, then collapsed in the chair next to her. “It's supposed to be here already!” he complained. “I just don't get why it's not!”


There was a moment's pause. “Can I have another sandwich?” he finally asked, hesitantly.

“Those were supposed to last the entire flight,” she sighed, setting down her book and digging through her carry on bag.

“That is entirely Crash's fault,” he pointed out as she handed him the sandwich. “I've only had one.”

“And he's only had three, so you're only one behind him now.” She closed the plastic bag with one hand, picking up her book again with the other. “What happened to that book of sudoku you bought from the gift shop?”

“I finished it,” replied Jack as he slouched against the hard gray plastic of the airport chair, his mouth still full of sandwich. “Too easy.”

“It was the hardest one they had...”

“Marketing.” He waved the sandwich in one hand. “All marketing. Crash could've done those puzzles.”

“The gift shop is still open, you know. You could go get a magazine...”

“I don't want a magazine!” He exclaimed. “All they have is lame stuff like TIME, and Newsweek. Who cares about stuff like that?”

She sighed again, having rather unpleasant flashbacks to her highschool days of babysitting her neighbor's seven year old. “Fine.” She snapped her book shut, and handed it to him. “You read my book, and I'll go get myself a magazine.”

He blinked, choking on a bite of pastrami. “But...”

“No buts. If you won't get yourself something, you read that.” She was two aisles away before he managed to swallow.

“But it's a romance!” he objected, turning around in his seat. “I can't read...”

“No buts!” She shouted back. “Read it or stop whining!”

“...Ok.” He turned back around. “Wasn't whining,” he muttered. “Perfectly legitimate complaint. Plane was supposed to be here an hour ago, should've been halfway to San Francisco by now.” He stared dismayedly at the cover of His Rose, which featured, in addition to some of the most illegibly beautiful pink cursive text he'd ever seen, a swooning woman in the arms of a man with his shirt half open. He raised one eyebrow as he read description on the back.

Rose is beautiful,
it read, but terribly lonely. Spending her life under the control of her widowed stepfather, she feels she is doomed to die a spinster. Until one day, a handsome stranger collapses at the edge of the gardens, and she finds herself...

He covered his eyes and guessed at the rest of the paragraph. “...Strangely drawn to the mysterious enigma of a man. But will their love survive her stepfather's suspicion, or will the dark secret that brought him here destroy them both?” He opened his eyes. “Oh, enigmatic mystery of a man. Got it.”

“Don't even wanna know what you're talking about,” muttered Crash from the opposite aisle of seats.

“Shut up,” replied Jack cordially as he opened the book.

Amy returned a few moments later to find Jack calmly engrossed in the romance novel, and Crash asleep with the travel pillow over his eyes. She set down two motorcycle magazines easily within Jack's line of sight and reach, and opened up her own copy of Celebrity Homes and Gardens. She glanced up, a few minutes later. No good.

She pouted inwardly. She'd just gotten to the good part. With any luck he'd finish the novel as quickly as he'd finished the sudoku book.

It was nearly half an hour before Jack spoke again. “Oh, come on!” he exclaimed. “Using a poker in a swordfight is good and all, but it'd cool down by four minutes in! There's no way Morringston could've burned him!”

She very calmly attempted to ignore him, turning the page of an article on water gardens and acting like she was very engrossed in yet another picture of koi. Unfortunately, Jack had never been a quiet person.

“Come on, man, how are you missing this? She just freaking stole a horse to come find you, least you could do is say thanks,” he muttered. She glanced up at him, mildly annoyed. He didn't notice. “And she somehow magically knew to bring medical supplies. Yes. Great. Way to miss the moment, dude.”

“Jack, they can't hear you,” she reminded quietly, hoping he'd get the point.

“But he's a moron! He likes this Rose girl, and it's so obvious that she likes him, but he just doesn't see it! He's being all 'oh, she'd never want to be with a scoundrel like me,' and every conceivable piece of evidence is all like 'yes, dude, she does. Duh' and I'm guessing it will take her either getting kidnapped or terribly wounded before he finally admits this!”

“Well, it is a romance novel. If he got it right away, the book would be over already.”

“Dude's a moron.”

“They always are,” she muttered, going back to her magazine.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Flirting 101

A bit of introduction is in order for this one. This isn't an entire scene, and as such, it's almost entirely dialouge,between Alice, a librarian, and Marcelle, a much older librarian. This coversation came out of Marcelle wanting Alice to flirt with library patron Quinn, in order to get him to play the Mad Hatter for the library's upcoming book day. Alice refused flat out, and the conversation proceeded to here. It's short, and a bit different than what I normally try to write, but I liked it so much I just had to share.

“Well… We were going to plan the whole thing out, but then I mentioned Quinn, and Janice…” She blushed a little. “She’s been spending a little too much time in the historical romance section, if you ask me. She has some very… creative… ideas.”
“You’re impossible.” Alice turned away again.
“It was Janice that wanted to… Oh, fine. If you won’t flirt with him, I will.”
“You?” Alice did her very best not to look horrified. “But he’s twenty years…”
“Maybe he likes older women. That’d be quite nice, actually.” She mused. “Me, Mrs. Hunter, most envied woman this side of central branch. ‘Oh, Mrs. Hunter,’” her voice went up several octaves as she spoke, “’how did you ever catch such a prize of a man,’ they’ll ask me. ‘I’m so jealous, Mrs. Hunter!’ ‘Share with us your man catching secrets!’ And I’ll tell them—being sure to show off my huge diamond wedding ring from that fancy jewelry store where he works—I’d say ‘oh, it’s easy girls, you’ve just got to wear a short skirt and heels, and red lipstick, and you have to tell him just how handsome that fedora makes him look, or how much you admire his hairstyle every time you see him—don’t pay any attention to it if he seems a little creeped out, that’s just how men show affection. And of course, of course, you have to bat your eyes at him all the time. Wear lots of mascara, or fake eyelashes; that’ll be sure to get his attention. And swoon, girls, you have to swoon. Men love it when you swoon. Try and aim it so they can catch you in their big strong arms, because it’s not half so romantic if you get a concussion.” Marcelle acted everything out as she spoke it, batting her eyes and fake swooning, and Alice began to laugh. “Be sure to always act dainty and womanly… Though chivalry might be dead for some of your men—not for mine of course, but if they won’t be a gentleman, than I suppose daintiness isn’t required. It may still help though. Be sure to be afraid of spiders. Scream whenever you see one; this will give him opportunity to prove his manly courage and rescue you without expending too much effort. And of course…”
“Stop! Stop, alright!” Alice couldn’t stop laughing. “You’ll scare him into never coming here again!”
“Well, what choice do I have?” Marcelle acted injured, though there was a smile in her eyes. “When our only single, young, pretty blonde librarian refuses to do a little flirting in the name of literacy?”
“I’m still not gonna flirt with him.” Alice said, wiping here yes. “But…”
“But the flirting’s the fun part!”
“But I will ask.”
“That’s better.” Marcelle looked as smug as a cat. “He always comes in on Thursdays, so tomorrow, try not to look quite so much like a nun, alright?”
“I do not look like a nun!”

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Sir (Meeting Old Crow)

Short introduction: Skie is a series of flying islands, ruled by a small number of city states that all hate each other. They've agreed to ban flying machines (Skyships) with the exception of a small police force for the sake of not killing each other, and of course, as for every law, there are those who live to break it.

The room was dark. Isaac peered in nervously, clenching the note in one balled fist. “Hello?”
There was no reply. He stepped through the doorway hesitantly, glancing around at the ashen shadows of the hanger. Huge, curving forms were suspended high overhead, with walkways interspersed here and there, with dangling ropes and curling pipes winding along the pathways. His eyes adjusted as he stood in the darkness that ate all the color out of it, staring. There was a window, somewhere high above him, but most of it's light had been lost to the thick coating of dust that fell heavy in the air.
Something moved near his feet. He jumped back, and the black and white cat stared at him, curious. He breathed out, relieved.
“Hello, uh, cat.” He knelt, holding out his hand to the creature. It examined him with a disdainful air, and paused for a moment, thinking.
And then it bit him.
“Ow!” he pulled his hand back abruptly. “Dumb cat!”
“His name is Ferris.” A woman's voice came from behind him, barely hiding a kind of sadistic, braying laughter. “He does that.”
“Oh!” Isaac whirled, forgetting his bleeding finger. “Who are you?”
“Same person that gave you the note, of course!” She laughed, switching on the lights. The room was not lit by a single bulb, but by close to a dozen separate light sources—ranging from an old, flickering fake-flame bulb to a string of Christmas lights. This oddity was lost on him, though, as he stared at the woman in front of him.
Old Crow looked remarkably like her wanted posters, it occurred to him. The high ponytail was a little longer, of a dark brown the color of dirt, and she looked a little younger—though, perhaps, that was the wide smile more than any actual indicators. The wrinkles around her eyes certainly didn't make her look any younger, but the freckles that dotted her face made her seem almost childlike as she stood, laughter plain in her face and her stance as he stared. Her clothes were baggy and warm, an old green sweater over burned, greasy work pants, and a leather tool belt that extended down one leg, not unlike his own. She wore combat boots, stained with mud, and he glanced back up at her face, feeling half afraid and half incredulous.
“Didn't your mother ever tell you it's not polite to stare?” she asked, moving in on him like a freight train. “Stand up straight, shut your mouth, and try not to look like a fish.” She prodded him into position, then surveyed him with a discerning smile. “Better. Now, you're the halfwit flier that I saved from the police ships today.” He nodded dully. “First time?”
“Um, yeah.”
“Yes, Sir.” She emphasized, looking pointedly at him. “Honestly, what do they teach you...”
He stared a moment before he finally caught on.“Yes Sir.”
“Better.” She gestured with a wrench at his ragged toolbelt. “Doesn't look like you know quite what you're doing, now does it.”
“Well, ah, no, sorry.” She shot him a glare. “Ma'am.”
“Sir!” He held up his hands apologetically. “But it was my first time.”
“Flying or building?” She inquired, holding the wrench threateningly.
“Both... Sir.”
“Hm.” She surveyed him for a moment longer, like a general surveying their troops. “Not bad, then. Not bad at all.”
“Um, thank you.”
“Could've been a lot better, though!” She whirled, striding across the workshop. “Come with me. I'll teach you a thing or two.”
“Um, about what, exactly?” He followed her cautiously, being careful not to step on any of the myriad bits of ship scattered about.
“Building! Flying! What makes things go! Come on, boy, keep up!”
“Right.” He sped up his pace to where he was almost running. “So, um, Sir? Where are we going?”
“Workshop, where did you think?”
“You mean this isn't...”
“This is a hanger, boy! What did you think it was, a pretty princess powder room?” The gestures Old Crow made as she spoke would have been hilarious had she not been holding the wrench in the other hand. “Hanger, H-a-nggg-er! Say it with me now, haaaang-eeeer.” She stopped so abruptly that he almost ran into her, and whirled again. “I can't hear you.”
“Hanger.” He very hard not to look as shocked as he felt.
“Haaaaang-eeeer” She enunciated, though he couldn't quite tell what he'd said wrong.
“Haaaang-eeer.” He repeated.
“Better.” She nodded, turning again. “Hanger. Just do what I do, boy, and you'll learn the ropes in no time!”
"What ropes am I learning, exactly?"
"Look," She whirled to face him again. "Apparently, you're as smart as you are pretty. So let me spell this out for you. You have two choices. You can work for me, become my apprentice, and learn to build, maintain and fly faster than you ever could on your own. Ooor, this is the dumb choice, you can say no, and I hit you with this wrench and feed you to my cats."
"...The first one, please."
She glared at him for a moment.

This story is three years old. I swear. I just haven't posted any of it before.(Have you heard that before? Yessss.)
That being said, I think I'm actually running out of stories I've had for forever and not posted, so maybe we'll eventually get some continuity going on. Maybe. Unless I think of some new ones.