Posted on 10 December 2014 | No responses
The old man sat down in his arm chair and waved a hand. “Gather around, children. Grandpa wants to tell you a story.”
He waited, slowly unwrapping a mint and popping it in his mouth. The wrinkles that lined his face were cast into stark shadow by the singular lamp on the other side of the room, and he rocked back and forth in his recliner while he waited. Finally, once he was satisfied, he leaned forward.
“Grandpa has a ghost story for you.” He smiled and leaned back again. “Yes. See, once, long ago . . . .”
He stopped and furrowed his brow before shaking his head. “No, that isn’t how this story starts. Not that way at all. Ahem.”
“Not far from here, there is a town much like ours. It has all the things a town needs to be a town. Houses, for sure, and grocery stores. Churches and clinics, gas stations and stores of all kinds, dry cleaners and warehouses and even factories. What made this town special, though, was that it had only one graveyard, to the south of town. It was a curious thing, surrounded by a high, cast iron fence with points that curled inward. The gate was likewise cast iron and twisted into shapes with meanings long since forgotten. What is more, is that no one ever entered this graveyard.”
“Now, that isn’t fair to say. People did go in, for how else would people be buried? No. People entered it, but they did not do so lightly. It was on a day when people did enter it, one a day when two little boys were attending the funeral of their grandfather, that those very boys learned the truth of this hallowed ground. At the funeral parlor, there were so many people, all speaking in soft voices of how much they missed the old man the two little boys barely knew. Perhaps that was why they could see: they were not bereaved as the others. Of course they were sad the kindly old man who had given them mints was gone, but they hadn’t known him, not really. So they looked at the others, and they did not just see sadness in the eyes of their family. They saw fear.”
“When the clock struck one, the men of the family gathered in a huddle and talked in short, harsh whispers. The funeral director had to come over to them before they would finally decide whatever it was they were debating, and six of them walked with him back to the casket, where they surrounded it, three to a side, and carried it out to the hearse. The men seemed ready to leave, but the funeral director gave them a sharp glare from the driver’s bench, and they climbed onto the side of the large, long wagon. The rest of the family seemed content to stay in the parlor, but the boys’ mother did not see as they followed after the hearse.”
“Now, there is no law that forbids people from entering the graveyard. The iron gate, while latched, is not locked, and the boys knew from books and television that family were supposed to be the burial itself, too. Why had no one else came expect the six men, and them seemingly unwillingly? The boys slinked as well as one could in the heat and light of day, and they followed the procession into the graveyard. Tall tombstones lined either side of the cobbled path that lead deeper and deeper into that singular, large plot of land, and before long the boys could not even clearly see the fence. All was spires and angelic statues, urns and arches that lead to nowhere.”
“The hearse stopped near a spire with a hole before it. The men jumped down quickly from the hearse and, quickly and quietly as possible, moved the casket onto the straps that crossed over the grave. The funeral director watched, and soon as it was done, he triggered the mechanism that lowered the casket. The boys thought he mumbled something, soft and low, that could have been a blessing. Then, with a quick and practiced hand, he freed the straps from the frame, carried it to the hearse, and started it moving, even as the six men hurried back onto the sides. The hearse moved quickly now, and the boys tried to run after it, but soon it was lost to them around bends and past forks in the path.”
“The boys wondered, moving and trying not to be scared, but they had been left unknowingly behind in a place grown men fear, and they knew it. The sun continued to move, and the boys continued on, staying to the cobbled path, hoping to find their way out. Several times they found the fence, but all they say beyond it was barren plains, and no matter how far they looked in either direction, they never saw the gate.”
“As the sun became low enough to start casting long shadows from the tall grave markers, the boys found themselves somewhere familiar, but not where they wanted to be: their great grandfather’s grave. It was still open, the pile of freshly turned earth still sitting in a heap a shovel’s throw to the side. And that was when they heard the creak. It was the sound of hinges not quiet mean to be used, and it had come from the grave. Slowly, they tip-toed up to the hole and looked in, and there, looking back at them from the open casket, was the old man in his Sunday best.”
“’Hello boys, here to help fill in the hole?’ he asked. The boys stared for a moment, and then screamed and ran. And they did not stop running, following twists and turns blindly, until they at last came to the cast iron gate. The sun was just sinking below the horizon as they ran through the gate, and at that moment, they glanced back into the graveyard and saw hundred, thousands of people moving about, all dressed in their best.”
“The boys ran and ran all the way home to their worrying mother. When she asked them where they had been, they lied, saying they had snuck off to play in the park. They never spoke of that day again, but nor did they ever go back into the graveyard again, not until their dying day….”
The old man leaned back, finished with his story and sighed contently. A door opened, and an orderly looked in. “Oh, I thought I heard you talking to someone.”
“Just the children,” the old man said. “Just the children.”
The orderly smiled at the old man sitting by himself in the room and only nodded, closing the door softly behind him and leaving the man alone to his thoughts.
Posted on 8 December 2014 | No responses
The factory stood in the center of a slum, although whether the slum was actually part of the factory or simply one of its many products was up for debate. Likely, it was somewhere in between. Multistory tenements held the squalid and destitute workforce that manned the behemoth structure are their center that every eight hours, on the dot, ebbed and flowed a wash of humanity that blended together by its common traits: dirty faces and defeated eyes.
The building itself soared over the crumbling buildings that surrounded it, taking pains to both make the slums look even more pathetic and small, and at the same time to be a testament to just how little care could be taken to a structure that still stood. Smoke stacks bellowed black clouds out of not just their tops, but from gapping maws along their sides where masonry had given way to heat and grime, and more often than not, the tops of those towers were jagged, seeming to hint at days long forgotten when they touched the sky.
Below the spiky crown of chimneys, the factory was a cobbled together mess of buildings that were once a compound but had grown and bloated until only a single decadent building remained. Through, old walls with the faint lines of once glorious murals could be found, relics of a day when even the common workplaces were meant to be beautiful works of art that inspired. The happy, healthy images were hidden by sooth and worn by acidic rain, or had been knocked down in their entirety to make way for larger and more complex machinery that twisted through a maze of industry.
And just what did the factory produce? Each worker one might coax to speak would give a different answer. Gears, some would say. Barrels would say other. Machined levers, pistons, engines, cogs, flanges, gaskets, furnaces, and rollers. Even the foremen would only know what their specific lines produced, and beyond that, the managers did not care so long as it was being paid for and there were hands enough to produce it. And the dark, truth? The factory produced itself, ever expanding, ever changing, twisting, bloating, inflating, and consuming. It was its beginning and its end, and none could escape its loathsome reach.
Posted on 6 December 2014 | No responses
“Are you sure this is–?”
“Do you want to get caught?”
“No, I just—“
“Then stuff a rag in it!”
Sergey huffed but didn’t say anything else. John knew he would hear it all again, later. Hours of complaining and huffing and accusing in exchange for a couple minutes of blissful silence. Granted, those hours seemed to come no matter what. If only Sergey’s father wasn’t paying so well for John to take the little runt under his wing…. at least this time it would be worth it.
“Okay, Ginny, you circle down over that way.”
She ran off where John pointed, and he looked at Sergey.
“Because I do,” John said quickly. “Now, you, go left, keep an eye out, and don’t get caught. If you see even the slightest bit of red, hold completely still and don’t make a sound.”
“What…” Sergey fought to lower his voice. “What if it doesn’t go away?”
“Then just stay still, alright? We’ll come and get you.”
“No you won’t.”
I wouldn’t leave a cash cow like you behind. That’s what John wanted to say, but he was forbidden by the contract to let Sergey actually know that his place in this little group was being paid for. He had to think they wanted him. What kind of lesson was that for a dad to teach his son? Sergey would learn one day or the other. Little good lying to him now did.
“We don’t leave squaddies behind,” he said instead. “Now go! And try to at least hit the switch, okay?”
Sergey blushed but nodded and ran off. The last time they tried something like this, Sergey went exactly where he was supposed to, waited exactly as long as he was supposed to, then ran back to the rendezvous, all without actually doing what he was sent out to do in the first place. And yet, somehow, it had been John that had to endure the hours of Sergey crying and blubbering and saying how it wasn’t his fault.
Some small part of John hoped Sergey would set one of them off completely. Yeah, it would make a whole other mess of things, but at least John knew how to handle that kind of problem. How do you turn a nitwit into a competent thief?
John finished a slow count of fifty he had been running in his head since Ginny ran off, and then started down the central aisle. It was too dark to see detail, but he knew the walls were lined with severe statues carved from strange, green rock that seemed almost too vibrant to be real. He’d also seen other statues, smaller, made of the same rock, just before the guards had removed them in the morning, most likely to take them out back and smash them, although occasionally one was put in the great square as a warning. No one stole from the Phirantium, and all paid the price. Would Sergey be out there tomorrow?
He felt a stone shift under this feet and he froze, moving only his eyes. Pressure plates? Really? Was it that simple? He had researched the place for a month trying to figure out how the statues worked. Bribed guards, hidden in shadows and watched, found the little secret door to a guard shack that surely had some sort of controls that made the statues docile, and it all came down to simple pressure plates? John nearly wanted to scream.
But he didn’t. Red eyes lit near him, and he did not move a muscle. There was only one thing truly known about the statues: if you stand still, they won’t hurt you. Thieves had stood still before the entire night until the guards lined both sides of the hallway and the eyes finally closed. Although not before the guards would throw rotten fruit instead, trying to hit the thief and make him or her move. So this was to be the end of the great John. Done in by a statue or a tomato because he was too busy worrying about a hapless kid he’d been saddled with.
And then the unexpected happened. That kid came tumbling down the hall.
“I did it! I got there without setting a single one off. Why are you just…?”
John couldn’t see Sergey—he was facing the wrong way and moving would be death, but he could almost hear realization sink in through the boy’s thick head. Yes, that’s right, even the best can get it wrong, thought John. What hope do you have? Now just run back to daddy and leave me to die.
“Hold still,” Sergey said. “Try and relax, that will make it easier.”
Yeah, like I was about to just start dancing the Corenda. Stupid kid. And then he heard Sergey running. Yeah, just what he thought. Now to try and think—
And something hit him hard from behind. The hallway flashed red. Not just red, but Red. Every shade from deep maroon to bright crimson, it was there all at once. And then it faded, and John tried to roll over from where he fell, but he found that he couldn’t. It was like something heavy was stopping him from moving anything at all. So this was being a statue. They didn’t say you could still feel. What would it feel like when they started to break him apart?
“Thank the six, it worked!”
The weight lifted, and John did roll over and look up at the sight he least expected to see. Sergey, big doofy grin splitting his face.
“I tackled you,” he said. “And carried us to the end of the hall. It worked!”
John sat up and looked around. Sure enough, they were in the wide antechamber after the hallway of statues. He felt like each and every one of them had fallen on him, but he wasn’t one himself.
The boy cringed, seeming to know what was coming. Insults. Chastisements. Yelling.
“You saved my life. Thank you.”
That big doofy grin came back, and John shook his head.
“Come on, let’s get on with this. That was only the beginning.”
Posted on 5 December 2014 | No responses
The sky stretched out in front of him, the perfect frame to the setting sun straight ahead. Below were only clouds, and above he could see the stars starting to come out. It was the stuff of stories.
“Lieutenant Hannigan. We have what we need, you can turn around and bring her home.”
The voice, distant and tinny through the radio, was an unwelcome intruder on the moment. He ignored it.
“Bill?” His partner’s voice could have been on the other side of the world.
“I need to do something first” he said. “I have to see….”
“See? Oh, don’t tell me—“
“Can it Barry, and just tell them to keep their pants on.”
He looked down at the instrument panel and smiled. He didn’t know why they accepted his application to be a test pilot, but he wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. They said the SR-71 Blackbird was the fastest plane that could ever be built. Good. The Air Force wanted to show off to some Navy Aviators? Well, they could pay the price, at least for a few minutes.
He eased the stick and brought them to the heading he needed. 270 degrees on the money.
“Lieutenant Hannigan, we show you off course.”
“There is a bit of turbulence we are going around,” Barry said into the radio. He then clicked off the transmission. “Bill!”
He punched the throttle. He didn’t need all the speed they said these birds had, but he needed most of it. He double-checked his altitude and looked at the scrap of paper he had written the math out on. There was a spot he had to hit, just pefect. Too high or too low, too fast or too slow, and it wouldn’t work.
“Bill, just give it up, already.”
“Barry, I said—“
“Lieutenant Hannigan! Return to—“
And then the sun changed. He looked out at it, and slowly, he lifted the visor on his helmet. It was still there, yellow-red in the early evening sky, but there was something more. No, not more… less.
“Do you see it too?”
Silence. He looked down at his instruments and smiled, and then the ship shuddered, a ripple of the imagined turbulence made real, and the moment was lost.
Cursing, he lowered his visor against the painful glare of the light and looked at the instruments again. Their altitude and velocity hadn’t changed, but somehow, that didn’t matter.
“Let em know we’re on our way.”
Despite his words, it was a long moment before he could bank the plane back towards the airfield.
Back on the ground, as they exited, a ground tech chuckled and shook her head.
“Mad Bill Hannigan. I’d heard stories, I didn’t expect them to be true.”
He smiled at the tech. “I’m sure you haven’t heard the best, though.”
She smiled. “Offering to tell me?”
Before he could respond, Barry grabbed his arm.
“What was that, Bill?”
He glanced back, but the tech was walking away, although she did glance back herself. He sighed and looked back at his co-pilot.
“Remind me to tell you a story sometime, Barry.”
“Yeah, a story. The story of the Sun Chasers.”
Posted on 4 December 2014 | No responses
Smoke drifted up slowly from torn ground. Dead were strewn about much like the toys of a child, forgotten where they fell and without order. The field was silent, though. There were no dying, just the dead. One could almost close their eyes and imagine none of it was there, that this was nothing more than an overcast day in the middle of summer.
“That’s all you have to say? Sorry?” Erika’s throat tightened as she looked across the field at the other woman.
“No, but I don’t think it really matters, now does it?” Kira slowly turned around, looking at the field, but somehow never letting her guard fall. “Although, I’m not saying it to you.”
Erika took a deep breath, smelling smoke and death. “You didn’t have to do this.”
“Neither did you.”
Erika almost shouted back that of course she did! How could she not? But the words caught in her throat. Kira could have easily said the same. Surely she felt the same, but it didn’t change the fact.
“No, but we did, didn’t we?”
“We could stop, I suppose.” Kira laughed to herself. “Just stop and go back, as if nothing happened.”
“I never wanted to do this.”
“Bad decisions all around, it seems.”
Kira nodded and turned back. “And today really won’t make a difference, will it. Not in the grand scheme.”
They stared at each other. They had been friends. Were still friends? Did something as little as war really just end a lifetime of connection? Summers spent running to wherever whim took them? Nights up late, talking about philosophy, religion, or who was seeing who. Somehow, the gossip felt so much more important, now.
Erika shook her head. “Not going to stop us, either.”
Kira smiled, but there was no joy in it. “Probably not.”
Erika took a step back, drawing her sword as Kira did the same.
“I’m sorry, too.”
Posted on 3 December 2014 | No responses
Dust drifts down in the beam of light, a galaxy of motes drifting in the otherwise stagnant air. Her eyes adjust to the light, and she rises to a single knee and squints out into the darkness. The air smells of dust and old paper and forgotten stories, and as she stands, her boots scrap against the floor like the sound of a blade against the strop.
She glances up to where the light is bleeding into the room to make sure no one is following, and then steps into the darkness. As if the light somehow held back not just darkness, but the room itself, she is swallowed by darkness, its velvet cloak wrapping around her, not hostile, but not friendly either. More as a host unaccustomed to guests but still polite. Oh, come in, it says. Let me make you some tea. There might be scones.
Her eyes adjust, and the room is cast in blues and blacks that are felt more than seen. Shelves lined with unlettered spines of books, a desk with an antiquated terminal and printer, a slightly padded chair, comfortable but not cozy. Oh, the darkness seems to say. I hadn’t expected company.
“You rarely do,” she says. “I’m sorry.”
Sorry? Yes. Sorry. There should have been company. The darkness should not have been here, alone, all this time. Company besides empty books, dust, and regret.
She walks to the shelf and crouches down. There, on the lowest shelf, is a single stamped spine, gold leaf flaked and faded and barely legible. She pulls the book off the shelf and the darkness takes a breath and holds it in, becoming heavy. It is a weight that sits on more than the shoulders, but down in the heart, where dark secrets that yearn to break free are held in to die silent.
She does not open the book, but only runs her fingers along the spine, feeling the rise and fall of pressed lettering, the different texture from rough to smooth back to rough back to smooth. She cannot see the lettering, not really. There isn’t enough light for that. But she can feel it, and it can feel her, and the darkness feels them both and for a moment hopes and fears.
She glances to the chair, but opts instead to cross her legs and sit in the floor, looking back to the light and the dust. She smiles, book in her lap and still unopened. It had been so long, so many little reasons, like pebbles ignoring they were part of the avalanche. She had been here before, just like this, returned and vigorous. She had left before to, disillusioned and broken. Why not one more time? The darkness exhaled, bowing to the inevitable, and settled in. If there was more, it kept it to itself. But in some small, distant café where light and darkness take afternoon tea and discuss their affairs, it knew it would say it was glad.
She leaned her head back and closed her eyes, still smiling.
“Let me tell you a story.”
Posted on 3 December 2014 | No responses
A friend of mine is organizing a “Writer’s Gym” thing to help encourage writers to build the good habit of writing daily. Her project is starting on Jan 1, but I hate things linked to the supposed New Years Resolution. Any motivation derived from New Years Resolutions from community pressure to follow “New Year New Me” fades as the community hive mind hits the walls of “Maybe not.” So yeah, I’m starting now. I won’t be writing all that much “admin”-ish a blogs or thoughts on writing or anything like that. I’m going to go much more micro. My goal is between 100 and a 1000 a day for exercise. Maybe once I get my prose warmed back up, I’ll get back into longer form story telling. Hell, maybe Tijervyn might even get rolling back up in a slightly different format. Who knows. enough meta, on with the art.
Posted on 26 April 2013 | No responses
I find it funny, how you can think you know your character, but then you get into this corner where you can’t get them to do what you want. You try and you try, and pound your head against them, saying “WHY WON’T YOU MOVE!” and then, suddenly, months later after almost giving up on the project, you hear a voice. It is the character, and they are telling you why they wouldn’t. It is because it wasn’t them. The words on the page are a lie, and they need to be fixed. And so you do. You agree with the character that, no, maybe they actually already know this other person, and they kind of like them instead of distrust them. And you realize that they always did, and you had just been lying about it from the get go.
Yeah. That happened. It is strange, how characters are their own things. Half the time I think writers are truly schizophrenic. Well… maybe we are. But at least keep it on the page, right?
Posted on 28 February 2013 | 1 response
This is not a post apologizing for not posting. Nope. I have no shame. Yes, this space is kind of going unused. Sue me. But here is why!
-I have been super busy with JordanCon prep, and the Writers’ Track this year is going to ROCK! (If I say so myself)
-I have also taken to directing an Improv troupe as my involvement in the Browncoat Pub and Theatre here in Wilmington has been expanding. Yeah, that eats up time.
-And finally, not on a writing notice but a general grouse about society: why do 1st graders now have 2 hours of homework a night? Who ever in their right mind thought this was a good idea? Seriously. /rant.
So, this space is probably going to continue to be somewhat neglected for now out of simple prioritization. Tijervyn and the short stories will still be there, though, as well all the back log. So that’s something, eh? And I’m sure one day I’ll get back to here. Just dunno when. You can still follow my shenanigans on facebook and twitter, though. Just saying.
Posted on 14 October 2012 | No responses
So, I’ve been noticing lately that I have a penchant for loving the bittersweet ending. Not just in my own writing (hey, I’ve had one or two happy endings!), but in what I take in as well. What is it about the bittersweet that has so enamored me, and if I may be so bold, people in general?