Tag Archives: modern setting

Silent Photograph

Consider this proof of life! I have my wits and my fingers, still. I will return more consistently, and soon, I hope. I miss my friends here.

I offer a snippet for BeKindRewrite’s InMon, for the prompt Silent Photograph. It is very short.

Enjoy!

 

On every world where creatures have both sight and sapience, the technology follows: translating light into matter.
Lens, mirror, silver nitrate, ammonium thiosulfate… It’s easy to take it for granted once it becomes commonplace. But I think when people see it for the first time, they know the truth of it.
Photography is witchcraft.
I smirk, but I mean it.
Go on, roll your eyes. I know you want to.
Then stop and think for a moment. You take a camera, point it towards some map of light and take your exposure. What have you done? You have frozen a moment of light that will never come again and trapped it in static silence.
Think of all the photographs taken. How many outlive those who know what they are, or why? They lose context, they lose names, they become nothing but a static, silent record of light.
Yet you laugh at the thought that a camera captures essence and soul.
Take your shot.
The camera will be more honest than your eyes, if less sensitive. It will record exactly what it sees.
There. You have the record, my essence trapped in silence. I don’t envy you, in that darkroom, when you finally see what you have caught.
.
Advertisements

Angelus Ferri

My cat died. I will post on it soon, but it’s had me down.
In better news, though, my muse is perking up. So while I hope to do better soon, I will at least post some fictiony stuffs.
This is a continuation of Prism Sentence and Light Reading. Both of those stories were based on Inspiration Monday posts by BeKindRewrite.
In keeping with tradition, so is this one. I give you the dissonant serenity of the Angelus Ferri. I am starting to figure out where this is going. I think.
.
What are you doing, cowering like a five-year-old? You’re Angelus Ferri. Get up. 
Tenebrae pushed herself to a crouch. Her whole body was shaking uncontrollably causing the bladed ‘wings’ shielding her back to make soft metallic sounds.
The blue searchlight that had been chasing her for days beat down on her, but nothing else had happened. She felt exposed, cornered, but her tormentors remained maddeningly silent.
Shading her face with with one ‘wing,’ she looked up and roared.  “If you want me, come for me!”
The blue light flickered. Shadows cast by nothing she could see began to look like forms and faces. She squinted at them. Her attention fell on one that looked familiar. Realization trickled through her like cold water. He was one of her former comrades, left to die when she defected. That connection caused her to recognize the others. All of them were dead. Either she had killed them under orders, or they were collateral damage from her shifting allegiance.
She turned, again, and ran.

“Shift change. Thank God!” Sertor stretched and handed a clipboard to his replacement, Adrian. “Everything’s been pretty standard. No issues.”
“Thanks,” said Adrian, flipping through the notes. Aula’s replacement, Marius, was already practically asleep at his desk.
Sertor snorted at the sight, “Lazy lump,” and kicked the leg of Marius’s chair. The man startled awake, glared groggily, then rested his head on his arms again.
Some time after Sertor walked out, Adrian moved to check Marius’s pulse.
Oughta sleep for a while, after a dose like that.
He flipped through the notes to find the cypher Sertor had left him.
-It’s starting to get to her. We need to act quickly. See prismer 71.-
Adrian felt his stomach tighten. What if she won’t cooperate? What if she breaks?
Swallowing his anxiety, he quickly checked both his own prismers and Marius’s. The last thing he needed was the oneirologist checking in on them.
Everything looked good, for now. But he had only one shift to do what needed to be done. He glanced over the list of prismers to find the most recent addition. The longer anyone had been there, the less likely they would be of any help.
As Sertor had said, it was prismer 71. “Octavian  Laurentius,” Adrian mumbled. “Nasty list of charges. But nothing she can’t handle, assuming she’s still herself.” Carefully, he adjusted the prism for 71. Then for prismer 67, bringing them to a slightly closer frequency. Little by little, over the next few hours, he continued his adjustments.

Tenebrae’s feet pushed the ground behind her until, finally, a step met no resistance and she fell. It was almost a relief to be helpless, to know that there was nothing she could do. Falling was very like floating until the end.
She landed hard, but not hard enough. Her wings, never designed for flight, had closed together to protect her from their sharp edges. She flexed them open again and stood up.
The searchlight was gone, now. Instead there was a globe of light near her feet, shining up through a translucent floor. The ground stretched out, featureless, as far as she could see in any direction, until it met the unnaturally still storm-cloud sky.
Picking a direction at random, Tenebrae started off at a loping, energy-efficient run. Every time her foot struck the floor, there was a flare of light.
I might as well be screaming “hey, I’m here!” Not that I’ve got any better option.
As she covered more ground, she began to see shapes moving under her. They were difficult to make out, but a moving curve, here, and a flickering reflection there, brought her to a halt.
She watched the floor intently. There. What is that?
The line of a flank slipped by, as graceful as an eel, and the size of a whale.
The creature moved out of sight. Then it struck at her feet, causing the floor to vibrate. Tenebrae saw a wide orange eye and a flash of inward-curving teeth before it withdrew, only to ram the floor again a moment later. She tensed to run.
Run where? Why?
The calm she had while falling came over her again. Another eel-monster had joined the first and was also striking at the ground under her feet. Tenebrae knelt down, staring at the teeth with a dissonant, disconnected serenity.
When the creatures struck again, she began pounding in the same place with her fists and the wrists of her wings. Cracks formed between them.

Octavian had no idea how long he had been walking before he emerged from the forest. He came out onto a dry red landscape under a cool twilit sky. It was beautiful, but no more settling than the forest. The hateful giant lightning bug was drifting along beside him, but he tried not to think about it. The only thing he remembered clearly about his recent experiences was the pain of touching the thing.
A sound like the first crack of lightning, without the accompanying echoes of thunder, split the air. Looking up, Octavian realized that what he had taken for roiling clouds were giant eels, as big as dragons, swimming through the sky. Several of them had converged on a bright point, from which spread glowing cracks.
The sky shattered, raining down shards as the eels escaped up into the black expanse above. Octavian dove for cover against a tree.
When he looked up again, the red landscape was dusted with something too crystalline to be snow. It crunched under foot, and sent up puffs of dust if he wasn’t careful.
Ahead of him was another light, like the one that followed him. He felt desperate at the sight of it, though he could not have said why. Slowly, he made his way towards it.
His light, and the one he was approaching, flickered together. They both looked like bio-luminescent jellyfish suspended in midair.
There was a person lying on the ground in front of him, very still.
Angelus Ferri.
The metal wings reflected the dim light and cast the rest of the body in shadow. When it moved, Octavian took a step back. The face that looked up at his was scarred, and the eyes were unreadable.
The Angelus only spared him a glance before taking in the rest of her surroundings. Then her face twisted in what could have been anger, or frustration, or anguish, and she slumped back to being a heap on the ground.
“You… have a light, too.” He said, after a while.
The Angelus twitched, but did not respond. Octavian sat down and wrapped his arms around his legs. There did not seem to be anything to do but wait.

Adrian studied the readouts, holding his breath as they finally synced. He waited for a few minutes, his heart racing, to be sure that they were stable, then he sat back and closed his eyes in relief.
.

Phantom Library

A bit of fluff inspired by Be Kind Rewrite’s Inspiration Monday prompt: Phantom Library

It is also a sequel to Raised by Dragons. The names of characters have been altered to protect their identity. Any resemblance to real people is unintentional and highly amusing. ;)

 

You know what it’s like in the morning when you really don’t want to wake up? Your bed is comfortable, the air is a little too cold on your face, your body feels twice as heavy as usual.

It’s even worse when you’ve been working hard, and I had been.

Some people talk as if magic’s the easy way to do things. But real magic is only easy in the same way that lifting a huge weight becomes easier once you’ve invented, and then built, a pulley. And of all forms of magic, wizardry is the most complex. With nothing more than a mediocre high school education under my cap, my teacher had me studying higher mathematics, the sciences, the arts, and most of all, philology. In some ways, I’d never felt more alive. But living is tiring.

I had been training for months, only getting breaks when Ren, or my foster-parents, would kidnap me for a holiday. Teemu, my teacher, didn’t seem to know, or maybe he just didn’t care, what holidays were.

So there I was in bed, with the morning light screaming in at the window. My blankets smelled faintly of cedar, I was warm, and the room itself was chilly. So I did the natural thing. I stretched a little, rolled over, and closed my eyes.

That’s when a sound like a large ball-bearing spinning against frosted glass made me leap up.

Never ignore a growling dragon.

Teemu was standing just outside my room, teeth clenched, lips barely parted. He was wearing human form, as he usually did for our lessons. A full grown Draconis Major in its true shape is awkward indoors, to say the least. Still, he had a way of being scarcely less intimidating as a ‘human’ than when he showed scales and row on row of teeth.

Without a word, he turned and walked down the hall.

I scrambled into my clothes, trying to ignore the twinge that suggested breakfast. It was unlikely that Teemu, already angry at my oversleeping, would wait for me to grab anything from the kitchens.

Maybe, I thought,  Tesni will bring me something…

I caught up with Teemu on the stairs and cleared my throat. “Sorry. I’m, uh, still not used to being without an alarm-clock. …Or electricity.”

Without looking around, he lifted one hand and spoke a word in Draconic that I didn’t know yet. Before I could react, he turned on his heel and planted one finger on my forehead.

Have you ever had an unpleasant encounter with electricity?

It felt like a combination of that moment when a roller-coaster starts to plunge, and being punched in the face.

The next thing I knew, Teemu was glaring into my eyes.

“Better?” he said, emphasizing the hard consonants, a sure sign of annoyance. “Don’t make weak excuses. Do you want to learn how to weave an alarm? Or how to power a toaster?”

I dug my hands into my pockets to keep from punching him. Speaking of which, just in case you’re ever tempted to punch a dragon in human form. Don’t. Remember, they may be smaller, but they still have the same mass.

I took a deep breath and answered him. “…Yes.”

“Then dedicate yourself to this apprenticeship. Potential is meaningless when not applied. And don’t give me disrespectful one-syllable answers.” He turned and continued down the stairs.

“Yes, teacher,” I said, following.

I had expected to stop, as usual, on the ground floor. Our lessons mostly took place outside, in Teemu’s workshop, or in the mansion’s little library. But Teemu kept following the stairs down into levels I’d never seen before. It was still clean and tidy, Tesni would have it no other way, but it was not as airy. We sank down into subterranean cold and scents of cavern and cellar. There were still plenty of lights, leaping up in niches when we approached, and falling into darkness again behind us.

“Where’re we headed?” I asked.

“I’m going to teach you how to use the phantom library. That way you can continue your theoretical studies when I’m too busy to give you practical lessons.”

“Phantom library?”

Teemu laughed, always a disconcerting sound coming from him, and gave no answer.

As we continued, I began to realize that I would have to climb back up the stairs in the near future. I wished I’d insisted on getting breakfast.

Two more flights down and we stopped. Water covered the steps a little way ahead.

But I soon realized that it wasn’t water.

It was translucent, and rippled along the surface, but it didn’t reflect the lights in the cavern walls, nor the helictite-encrusted ceiling above us.

Whatever it was, I could see slowly-moving blooms of glowing color, and pale points, like stars, beneath the surface. I wondered if these were living things, algae or fey, or chemical reactions of some kind, or simply images projected from who-knows-where.

Teemu turned left and stepped out onto the surface.

I followed. The first step was the worst, for though I could see the edges of a platform about an inch under the ‘water,’ I didn’t really know what I was stepping into. Whatever it was, at least it didn’t seep into my shoes.

The platform led to an alcove, raised just above the surface of the pool. For being in a cave, it was shockingly homey.

There was a massive roll-top desk, well-supplied with notebooks, pencils, pens, and various old-school calculating tools. Several armchairs sat by a stone platform, like a coffee-table, and there was even a worn couch with a blanket thrown across its camel-back.

There was, however, only one small bookshelf. I found this terribly disappointing. Three shelves, none of them full of books, with book-ends and knickknacks taking up valuable space. The books themselves were an odd mix. An Ethiopian cookbook, a technical study on some planetary cataclysm, volume “Q” from an encyclopedia, and Through the Looking Glass were among them.

“This is the biped study,” said Teemu. “If we’d turned right, we would have reached the dragon’s study, but you wouldn’t be comfortable there. Still, if one of us is down here, you know where to find us.”

I moved over to the desk and picked up a yellow ruler-looking thing. More accurately, it looked like two rulers bridged together with metal brackets, and a third ruler between them that slid back and forth.

“Slide-rule,” said the dragon, pulling a worn book from the shelf. “You’ll figure it out. But first, let’s show you the catalog.”

I came up beside him as he knelt down over the edge of the not-water. Several pale, glowing points converged like nibbling minnows when Teemu placed his free hand against the surface.

“It’s a communal library,” he said, “shared among the Draconis Major and Draconis Minor as well as a few select members of other species. You won’t be allowed to access the restricted works, of course, but that leaves plenty of trouble for you to get into. So the first rule is: Theoretical Study Only. This is not the place for experimentation. If you defy that rule, I’ll know, and your free-study privileges will be revoked.”

“Yes, teacher.” My earlier anger had vanished. The only thing I felt at the moment was excitement.

“The first step is to identify yourself to the library. That’s what I’m doing, now. Place your hand next to mine.”

I obeyed. Little lights clustered around my hand, too. The surface of the ‘water’ felt like mist, insubstantial and a little warm. The lights dispersed, leaving a blank space around where we were kneeling.

Teemu began to write with a finger on the black surface, leaving a silvery trail. Title: boolean AND search.

A moment later, the images of several books appeared under the surface. Teemu flicked one of them and it opened. A few more flicks and he had ‘turned’ several of the phantasmal pages.

“This is how you select a book. Then, once you have found the one you want…” he dipped the physical book he was holding into the image of the book in the mist. When he withdrew it, it had become the book he had been looking at.

He opened it to the cover page, and I saw his name scrawled in Draconic runes. “This is my copy. That is the next important thing to know about the phantom library. You will not be able to draw my copy out. Instead, you will have your own copy where you can, if you like, take your own notes. And every time you draw out a book, it will be that copy, your copy, just as you left it. Do you understand?”

“I think so. What… what happens to the notes I’ve taken if, for instance, I die?”

Teemu smiled, as he only did when he liked one of my questions. “Marginalia is absorbed into the library and can be retrieved, if one knows how and has the right level of access. But this is enough to keep you busy for now, don’t you think?” He offered the book to me. “I suggest you read this, first. Otherwise you will find searching the catalog very hard. Dip it in to change it to your copy.”

I was obeying his instruction when I asked the wrong question.

“What happens if I fall in?”

The dragon casually batted me off the edge. For a moment I was in freefall, and I screamed accordingly. A moment later, and I was blinded as the bright points of light mobbed me. The next thing I knew, I could feel solid stone under me again, and my vision was full of afterimages. Teemu’s amused voice drifted to me from not very far away.

“The library doesn’t absorb life-forms.”

I answered him in language I won’t repeat here.

“If I hadn’t thrown you in, you’d have been curious. Now you know, and you can focus on your studies instead of wondering.”

My vision was clearing, and I looked at the book that was still in my hand. The cover was a patchwork, shreds of countless books mashed together, and the pages were sticking out at odd angles, words overlapping words until they were nearly black.

“Go ahead, dip it again.” Teemu backed up to reassure me that he wouldn’t push me off the edge again. Grudgingly, I obeyed.

“There is a water-closet over there,” he pointed to a little door beside the desk that I hadn’t noticed earlier. “The penalty for peeing in the library is a five-decade ban, so don’t be stupid.”

I nodded and sat down in one of the armchairs. The book looked dry, and I don’t mean in terms of moisture. I began to regret, more and more, not having breakfast. Teemu seemed to be going over the list of things he meant to tell me.

“Oh, and I almost forgot.” He knocked on the stone coffee table, then wrote with the tip of his finger on the surface. A few minutes passed, and a knock sounded from the table itself as a cup of tea appeared on it. “There’s a direct line of communication to the kitchens. But don’t over use it, and always say ‘please’.”

“Yes, of course.”

He paused to think for a moment, then nodded. “Tomorrow, 8 am, sharp.”

“Yes teacher.”

As he turned to go, the realization of where I was, and what was now in my reach, began to sink in. Boolean method book notwithstanding, I was on the brink of a literal sea of books.

I called after Teemu, hoping he was still in earshot. “Thank you!”

No answer.

He probably heard, but didn’t bother to respond. I would thank him, again, in the morning. I settled comfortably in the armchair, with the cup of tea, and started trying to absorb the book as quickly as possible. It was going to be my map to this sea.


Raised by Dragons, and Other News

The Mythgard Institute’s Writing Contest, mentioned before, is still going strong. This week, Twitter Fiction! My muse growled at me last week, and it doesn’t seem to like 140 character limit of this week, but we will see if I can goad it into being poetic without losing fingers (or a limb). It has been voracious and unruly. It had me writing snippets from what will probably be book 4 or 5 of my W.I.P. when I’ve yet to complete books 1 and 2, though I should also blame one of the characters involved in that little detour. I’m looking at you, Kee, and shaking my fist. No, you cannot pacify me with cookies!

In the Mythgard contest I am thrilled to say that I won 1st runner up in week 1, and 2nd in week two! (Yeah, so much for keeping my name away from this blog, but hopefully I can bury this post, or at least edit it later). This means I get to be published in their special-edition e-book!  My 2nd entry for week 2 also made an honorable mention, and I will post it below for your reading enjoyment.

Is it weird that, in the face of all of this, my brain is trying to tell me that I can’t write anything worth printing? Because it is. Somehow, I think that brutal voice will follow me all of the days of my life no matter what comes of my scribbling.

Brenton Dickieson has also won the privilege of publication twice! You can read his devastating and humorous tales in the linked pdfs above, as well as the other fantastic winners. Enjoy the honorable mention: Mud, by my good friend, David. Hopefully a wonderful dragon story of his will be published to his blog soon, too. Other honorable mentions are being posted at the Oddest Inkling: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4. I don’t know the author of this one (though after reading this, I want to!) but it is brilliant: There is Not a Unicorn in the Bookstore. If any of y’all post a story for this contest to your blog, let me know because I want to link it here!

And now, for my own honorable mention. Sørina Higgins said that it made her cry, which is an overwhelming encouragement to me! Brandi, and anyone else who reads this who knows a certain dragon-connected wizard from my canon, here’s his origin story. I bet you didn’t know that fudge pie and E. A. Poe played such important roles in his wizardy history.

Raised by Dragons

At eighteen, my world popped like a bubble. I was standing in a cavern where I thought there was an ordinary basement laundry-room. That is what it had been the day before.

.
In my hands I held my first grimoire, my birthday present, heavy and bound in old leather and brass filigree. In my ears echoed the revelation: “You have wizard’s blood in you. You have to choose. Leave this world, and follow your blood, or stay and ignore it forever.”

.
But what held me rooted was the sight of my foster parents. Until yesterday, they were nothing if not ordinary. A middle-aged husband and wife, counselors for “at-risk youth.”

.
“At risk” would be a mild description of me when I came to them. Before that, my life was a succession of strangers, some nice, some cruel, most in between. I ruined every good situation. There was too much anger and far too much fear to control.

.
But they were different, strict, but also dauntless. After a while, when nothing I did seemed to rattle them, I settled in.

.

Then the blackmail began. I hated reading. Books were boring. “Fairytale” meant “Disney,” and dragons were only tattoo designs.

.
He handed me a book of short-stories and pointed one out. “We can discuss it over dessert.”

.
What he meant was “if you can’t discuss this with us, there’ll be no dessert.”

.
After months of similar extortion, he handed me Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.” My foster-father smiled and said “we can discuss it over dessert. I’m thinking hot fudge pie and ice cream.”

.
I wanted to punch his smug face, but I wanted that pie more, so I sat down to suffer through another story. I was bored, at first. Archaic language, weird names, references I didn’t get, and this mysterious “armadillo,” but, by the end, I was caught. No spoilers, but the gothic darkness of it all, the tension, the subtext, left me chilled and hungry for more. He had dog-eared several other stories, the beast. I read the next one. And another.

.
After that, I looked forward to dessert discussions.

.
As I approached eighteen, I feared I would have to make way for the next “at risk” kid.

.
The night of my birthday, I came home to find my foster-mother waiting by the door. Without a word, she took my hand and led me to the basement stairs. I figured they had a surprise waiting. I wasn’t wrong.

.
And then they stood before me in their true forms. Dragons are like living cathedrals, with wings of stained glass, Byzantine mosaics for flanks, smoking-censer mouths and eyes that glow with soft, prayer-candle light. I knew I could not go back.

.
“I’ll follow my blood. Tell me how.”

.
My foster-dragon-mother nosed the nearest cavern wall. It opened on a grassy field at night.

.


Light Reading -continuation of Prism Sentence

This is a continuation of Prism Sentence. I’m not sure, yet, where this is going, if indeed it is going anywhere, but then that’s part of the fun. Again, this is based on a prompt from BeKindRewrite’s Inspiration Monday: “Light Reading.”


Octavian lifted a hand to his face and noticed that his own arm was draped in layers of dark fabric, the same that covered the inhabitants moving around him. He grabbed the nearest passing figure and jerked back its covering.

A rounded, tortoise-like head blinked up at him before the creature shoved him back with a short, but powerful, arm. It shrugged the covering back over its head and wandered off at a faster shuffle than before.

Again Octavian was aware that the world moved while he remained still. When the tortoise-man shoved him, it shoved itself, and its surroundings, off of him. He took a step back and  nearly lost his balance. The movement felt strange, but he could not remember why.

He pushed the ground under his feet until he shifted it to the nearest doorway. The place had the appearance of a public building, drab with dirt, but decorated in elegant, carved scrolls and fern fronds. It was familiar.

His light came in contact with one wall, and as it did, it shifted into a sconce.

Octavian paused to stare at it. He took a step sideways. The light traveled along the wall in pace with him.

With a shaking hand, he opened one of the large doors and bolted inside. The light followed, silently, now matching the interior fixtures, glass flowers hanging from spiked chains. It was farther over his head, but the increased distance made matters worse. He knew it was present, but could no longer watch it without craning his neck.

The room he entered was a quiet, open gallery with a floor of dark granite, polished to a mirror-like shine. One of the fabric-draped figures was slumped at a long central desk, its back rising and falling slowly, as if in sleep. Octavian ran forward until he hit a flight of stairs, then pushed the whole world down with each step. His feet echoed loudly. When he reached a landing several flights up, he paused.

His instincts were screaming for him to jump off the balcony. Will the world move when I don’t touch it? Or will I move in it?

Jump.

He was over the railing before he had time to think, but the space below made him pause. A soft creaking sound drew his attention and he saw his light sway above him, just barely.

It cast a strange shadow and, turning, Octavian saw the shrouded desk-keeper moving up the stairs. It didn’t shuffle like the other creatures had. It didn’t move as if it had feet.

He released the railing and fell. The stairs rushed past. When the floor hit him, he felt an impact, but not much pain. A bright burst enveloped and blinded him.

 Sight returned gradually. Sparks popped across a dark field, then they shifted into dim fireflies, drifting about on either side. For a long time that was all he could see until, looking up, he found a silhouette of evergreens framing a patch of sky barely lighter than black.

A whispering sound caused him to look over to his left. A firefly, about the size of a grapefruit, was sitting on the ground beside him.

He tossed a handful of pine-needles and dirt at the thing. It flicked its wings, but otherwise did not seem to care.

Anger outpaced his terror and he rolled over and tried to smash the insect with his fists. But touching it filled him with burning pain that centered on his heart and flowed through his whole body. He collapsed, writhing until the feeling abated and he lay still, breathing hard.


Aula pursed her lips as she studied the read-out from Octavian’s prism. Then she laughed.

 “I win!” she scooped up the small pile of coins sitting on the table. Her companion, Sertor, groaned and put his feet up on his desk.

“Dammit. The cocky ones’re usually too cowardly to try that for days.”

“This one’s gutsy, I’ll say that for him, but he won’t try it again any time soon.”

The voice of  Secunda, the on-duty Oneirologist, crackled through the intercom. “Aula, you need to even out prismer seventy-one. At this rate, you’ll give him a stroke.”

Sertor rolled his eyes, but Aula obediently fiddled with her controls, tweaking the light through Octavian’s prism.

“She’s new.” Aula shrugged. “Scared of having an accident on her watch.”

“Maybe I’ll leave his record on her desk. A little light reading might give her some perspective.”

“Bad, huh?”

“You didn’t read it?”

Aula twitched. “You know how I feel about personality violation. If I’m going to do my job, here, I’d rather not have the details.”

“Fair enough. He’s a dear.” Sarcasm drenched the last three words. “So, when do I get a chance to win my snack-money back?”

“Hm. Well, what’s your newest prismer up to?”

Sertor glanced over at the read out of one of the prisms under his charge. “Not much. She must be worn out after that chase-dream.”

“Ok. If yours gets going first, you get your money back. If mine does, you’ll watch all the prisms while I take a nap.”

“Done.”



Prism Sentence

Results of several InMon prompts from BeKindRewrite! The prompts are: Prism Sentence, Afraid of the Light, and, to some extent, Autoimmobile.

“Any parting words?”

Octavian glared at the ceiling and did not reply. The Lightkeeper pulled the final strap tight around his arms, then stepped back, out of sight.

“For the crimes of dream-theft, subconscious manipulation, and personality violation, you are hereby sentenced to ten years in Prism.”

Ten years. That number was bad enough, but in Prism, time was a variable. Once released, most of its inmates claimed to have wandered for hundreds of years, being pulled from dreamscape to dreamscape, nightmare to nightmare. They would have no more stomach for dream-crimes. Most were afraid to go to sleep, afterwards, and had to be drugged.

Octavian closed his eyes. Soon, the motion would have no effect. There is no closing one’s eyes in a dream.

He heard the first switch flip, and on instinct, opened his eyes again. The doors beside him slid back and he could see the Prism, it’s sharp edges just catching the ambient light. It was such a small thing, about the size of a grapefruit.

The second switch ticked over, and he was bathed in fractured light.

At the sounding of the third switch, nothing happened. He lay there, waiting.

Nothing.

Had he been reprieved? Had his lawyer caught, last minute, some mistake made by the prosecution?

“Hey, you bastards? What’s going on?”

The rainbow flickered. He looked at the Prism again, and his whole body tensed. It wasn’t a prism anymore. It was a lamp, an old gas-lamp with a blue flame in it. He shuddered. The light frightened him.

Without thinking, he sat up. A faint memory crossed his mind. Hadn’t he been strapped down?

But then it was gone. The light flickered again. The lamp had changed into a globe dangling from a curving stalk. It pulsed, bright, dim, bright, dim, as if it were breathing.

Octavian could feel his grasp of time slipping. The lamp had changed. It had, hadn’t it?

A sound came from the darkness on beyond. He stood up and made his way towards it. The light followed, and as he moved it changed again. Now it was a brazier filled with glowing coals. He took a few more experimental steps and realized, to his horror, that he was not moving. When he walked, it was the space around him that moved by him and his inanimate companion.

Dawn, or something like it, broke across the horizon and he watched the first dreamscape unfold itself. He was in a city, streets wet and shining from a recent downpour, air heavy with the humidity. His light-fetter shifted with the surroundings, blending in as an unassuming electric street-lamp.

People, or at least he thought they might be people, shuffled to and fro, backs bowed, heads low, all hidden under layers of dark fabric. One of them bumped into him, mumbled something that might have been an apology, and stumbled on.

Octavian closed his eyes. Nothing changed.


 

Part 2: Light Reading


well I have to deal with my fear of zombies somehow…

This is just a character sketch. It is not part of any work in progress, nor anything larger I am planning on writing at present. This piece has been around for at least four years, though it has been revised a few times since then. I thought I would share, as I like it.

For those who like to know, there is a little cussing in this piece.

_____________________________________________________

This image belongs Maryrose Roque on Stockvault.net

Alex lit a cigarette. The motion was almost subconscious now; almost, but not quite.  Once, smoking was just another bad habit. Now?  A cigarette was a reminder to keep breathing. He flicked a little ash into the red-glass tray on his table. Not even breathing was subconscious anymore.

“You do find the darkest corners, don’t you.”

Glancing up, he saw Geoffrey walking over to him.  The man was profoundly nondescript; nothing flashy, nothing memorable.  Rather than answer the rhetorical question, Alex mused on how much effort he must put into being invisible.

Geoffrey took a long look at him, then turned to the bar. When he came to the table again he was holding a couple of shot glasses and a clear bottle.  Without asking, he sat down and poured.  He added something extra to the drink he set by Alex, who decided that ignorance was bliss.

“I thought no drinking was allowed,” said Alex, taking another pull at his cigarette.  He wondered if secondhand smoke from his lungs would be better or worse for a bystander than smoke from the lungs of the living.

“You can have this one.  In fact, consider it coroner’s orders.”

Alex decided to smile a bit at that.  Smiling had become completely conscious, too.  At least that made keeping a deadpan effortless.  He took the drink and downed it.  There was no taste, but possibly burn.  That was something he had yet to figure out: how to process taste and touch.  Nerves spoke, but how did one understand them?

Geoffrey downed his own drink and winced. “Yick.”

Alex flicked more ash into the tray.  Now that there was someone to talk to, there was less need for a reminder to breathe.

“Am I needed for something?”

“Nah. I just got off work and sensed you were nearby.  Thought I’d check on you.”

Alex snorted softly. “‘Disturbance in the force?’”

“You’re a nerd under all that black-ops, aren’t you?” Geoffrey grinned.

“It’s hard to hide if you’re not versed in the culture.”

“Riiiight.”

Geoffrey reminded Alex of someone, but he could not remember who. “Look… I am grateful that you keep me in one piece, but if you join forces with Lucy in trying to make my… almost-life miserable, I will have to kill you.”

“Don’t say that. I’m not teaming up with Lucy.  I’m your friend, remember?  Whether you want one or not?”

“So you’ve said.”  Alex put out the cigarette.

“And unlike some, I mean what I say.”

“That’ll get you killed.”

“It hasn’t yet.”

Alex shrugged.

“So… are you planning to come home tonight or are you going to wander around again?  You know… if you keep doing this, someone around here is going to notice that you don’t sleep.”

“That will take a while.  They all sleep… and they all assume that I sleep when they’re asleep.”

“Not forever they won’t.  You at least need to make an effort and pretend.”

Geoffrey was right, as he was irritatingly often.  ‘Sleeping’ was miserable, though.  Staying in one place, doing nothing, feeling nothing.  It was like being a thought floating in space, completely alone.  Alex once believed he understood being alone.  He thought he had been alone for most of his life.  He had been wrong. Geoffrey was watching him. Alex snarled softly. “What?”

“Well… I can keep your body in one piece, but I can’t do a thing about your mind, and it’s that that has me worried.”

“Then why haven’t you tried sending me to a shrink?”

“You mean apart from the fact that you’d shoot me? Can’t say I know a shrink who could help you with this. Might be worth a try if you want one, though.”

“I don’t.”

“Shocking.”  Geoffrey looked at the bottle again, then sighed, poured himself another, and downed it. The face he pulled was comical. “Ughhh.”

“If you don’t like it, don’t drink it.”

“Good advice, that.”

“You’re stupid, for a Jap.”

“You’re racist, for a corpse.”

A soft chuckle sounded in Alex’s throat. His instincts whispered not to get attached. Geoffrey was unlikely to last long.  Why he had been assigned to the team was still something of a mystery. It couldn’t have been simply to keep him in one piece; that would be a waste of personnel.

“So, are you going to come home or do I send Lucy out to chase you back?”

“Do and I’ll shoot him.”

“Go right ahead.  He says it stings.  I bet he’d pout at you.”

“Fucking soup-monster.”

“Speciesist, too. Still, come back and I’ll keep him away from you.”

“’Home’ gives me the creeps.”

“Says the living dead. …why does…”

“People, normal people, are scary enough.” Alex toyed with the snuffed cigarette. “I’ve dealt with that kind of scary for a long time.  Freaks like the ones you work with though?  That adds a whole new dimension to scary.  I add a whole new dimension to scary.“

“If anyone should be freaked out it’s me,” replied Geoffrey, shrugging.

“It’s not as if you’re defenseless.”

“I might as well be.  Please, just… come back.  What do you have to lose?”

“Anything that’s left of my sanity.”  Alex considered for a moment, then nodded. “…Point well made.  I’ll come back.”

Geoffrey puffed out his cheeks in relief. “Good.  I was afraid I was going to have to tell our boss bad news on her first day. From what I’ve heard of her, that would not be a safe thing to do.”

“You drew the short straw, huh?”

“More like the ‘too polite’ straw. The consensus was that I would be the least likely to piss her off.”

“It’s a good test. If she will tear pieces out of you, then she really is heartless.”

“Thanks for the reassurance.”

“You’re welcome.”

Geoffrey stood up and straightened his blazer “Take the bottle back with you, but don’t drink the rest.”

“Coroner’s orders.”

“Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” sighed Alex, lighting another cigarette.


%d bloggers like this: