Saturday, June 30, 2007

Of Sexual Energy

There are many types of energy implicit in the League. There are but a few I wish to discuss tonight.

The classical Potential and Kinetic energy - used for moving and springing, irrespectively. Certain types of tropical fruits are particularly known for their use of these - their springy nature renders them partial to Kinetic energy, whereas Ethan's love life is better known for its use of Potential energy.

Another kind of energy is Fanboy energy, generated by Firefox evangelists, webcomic advocates and Trek geeks. Fanboy energy is generated by putting a team of fanboys in harness and dangling a 'previously-unreleased' item of their fanaticism. The fanboys will generate hundreds of kilowatt-hours in no time at all!

But, of course, the energy that we came here tonight to discuss is Sexual energy - generated by those frustrated in love and foiled in their ambitions. David is known in the field of sexual energy as a paragon of his type, and experts expect to power all of South Haiti by his sheer frustration by 2015. Truly, a beacon for all of humanity.

Awakening XI

I stand in the corridor; my girlfriend, past self, past life fallen behind me. I need to figure out the robed figures' plot; and do it swiftly, before they find me. I walk briskly along the corridor; it just looks like a corridor in any other office building! There, a coffee stain in the corner - there, a loose staple lying on the floor. I can almost believe that I am back in the life I led before I saw the great heart; back in a life devoid of temptress daimones and imprisoned giants.

After a minute's walk, the corridor comes to an end. It's completely empty; I have no idea what purpose it holds. There are two elevator doors at the end of the corridor. One is marked 'Service Elevator', has an 'Out of Order' sign, and, to add injury to insult, is locked. The other one is completely unremarkable - and, having a key, I take the elevator that the robed figures seem to want to keep off-limits. It chugs as it moves upwards; not very comfortable. Perhaps it really is out of order.

The elevator finishes its ascent, and opens onto an unbelievable expanse of green. Somehow, a greenhouse - a greenhouse that I saw no sign of from the outside - lies atop the building, filled with (from what I can see from the elevator's position at the top of a rise) exotic vegetation and sprawling paths. It must be at least a hundred feet - no, a hundred yards! - from the lowest dip in the ground to the top of the glass roof, at least three times that long - and there's no sign of any of it from the outside. Do they conceal it with magic, or something?

Looking across the greenhouse, I notice immediately as files of robed figures begin gliding out of a building on the far side. They must be coming to hunt down the fleeing prisoners! They're coming down all of the paths (to get to the elevator fastest) - I can't hide in any of them. I look about quickly. There's another building to my left - looks like a large cabin, very nice, with a raised patio on the other side from the elevator. I dash towards it.

There's someone inside - I notice just before I'm about to enter! I quickly duck to the left of the door, hardly daring to breathe. Barely two seconds later, the robed figure opens the cabin door and glides to the elevator, not even bothering to glance behind himself in his hurry. I can't expect to be so lucky twice.

More cautiously, I open the cabin door and look inside. It's clearly a resort of some sort. There are consoles, TVs, PCs, kites, telescopes and any number of other recreational items. Perhaps this whole vast greenhouse is just a retreat for the robed figures? There's no time to contemplate that, though - from the patio in the rear of the cabin, I can see that the robed figures have gotten nearly halfway to the elevator! For all I know, one of them might stop in here to retrieve their car keys or some-such. I've got to find a hiding place.

I look around desperately - I've got to get out of here. I can use the Device, but using it might draw other robed figures to me, and I don't know what using it too often, too quickly might do. Considering the risks... I'll do it only if I can't find any hiding place. Unfortunately, that's looking rather likely. There's no place to hide in this dang cabin! And hanging off the kite patio hardly seems likely.

I do a double take. The kites! They're pretty big - maybe they can carry me? I take one, two, three, tie them to my belt. I look before I leap. There are some particularly cushy-looking plants in front of the patio - if the kites don't hold, at least I won't be any worse off than if the robed figures caught me in the cabin. I hesitate. My pulse thuds in my ears. Do I have a fear of heights?

I think back. No, not really.

Then I jump.

I fall terrifyingly quickly - the plants loom up before me (what if I miss them? what if I hit the ground?) - then I feel a jerk as the kites pull me upwards, and I'm soaring, flying across the greenhouse. It's glorious! The robed figures shoot past - none of them look up! - and I'm past, out of danger, shooting towards the other side of the greenhouse as fast as I drop.

I hit the ground.

Friday, June 29, 2007

David and the Titans

At birth, David's parents swore him to Dart-Toothed One, or as he is known in the West, the Dart-Mouth. David was promised to enter the Dart-Mouth when he came of age; in exchange, his parents were granted wealth, wisdom, and power, for the mere sacrifice of their firstborn. And it was good.

As he grew older, David told himself clever lies to endear himself to the terrible Dart-Mouth, which he knew well he was doomed to. He taught himself the words of Daniel Webster, praising the virtues of the hungry god, as a mantra - but it was to no avail. His mind began to wander - he began to think of other gods, whose propitiation might bring good fortune to David himself, rather than his parents. One night, as David lay twisting in the summer heat, a dream came to his anguished mind.

Three gods stood before him, their faces shrouded in shadow and mist. One by one, they stepped forward. David recognized them as they approached: the automotive vision of Stan's Ford, the hundred identical Johns of Hopkins, the befrosted eye of You-See Bercli. They spoke at once, in an unearthly chorus: "SACRIFICE YOUR YOUTH TO US, RATHER THAN TO THE DART-MOUTH OF YOUR PARENTS, AND THE REWARDS BESTOWED UPON YE SHALL BE TWOFOLD THAT WHICH YOUR PARENTS GAINED."

David awoke with a sense of great excitement. Tempted beyond his ability to resist, he began packing his bags - surely, if these titans would accept him, then it would be a far better thing to go to them than to the Dart-Mouth, which offered reward only to his parents. David was a reasonable person, in general, but he saw no reason that his parents, already healthy, wealthy and wise, should profit further at his expense. He spent the day packing and planning for his visits to the three titans. That night, sleeping peacefully, another vision came into David.

This time, only one figure towered before David, and it was one terribly familiar to him. The gleaming, pointed teeth of the Dart-Toothed One were bared as it instructed David, "IF YOU DARE BREAK THE COMPACT MADE AT YOUR BIRTH, NO MORE SHALL BE GIVEN TO YOUR PARENTS - THEY SHALL CRUMBLE AT ONCE INTO DUST, BARRED FROM THE GIFTS OF THE EARTH." David awoke shaking and trembling. How could he go to any other than the Dart-Mouth if it would mean the death of his parents, the abandonment of his filial duty? David was wracked with moral indecision.

David decided to visit the others, at least - then, when the time came to make his choice, he would have enough information to choose truly between his life, and that of his parents. In secret, he snuck out of the house, visiting Bercli - then, the next week, again escaping his parents' vigilance and glimpsing the wonders of Stan's Ford. The Johns of Hopkins were too far to visit, but he perused many pictures and books on the Johns, and considered.

He has not decided yet.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

In the Ruins

Jacob grew up in the great city of Ninev, a bustling metropolis counting nearly eight thousand inhabitants within its walls. His aunt raised him on fables and fairy-tales; stories of the Dragon of Presh, the Lamb and the Ewes, and the Three Heroes of Kvatch were among his favorites. At the age of twelve, he began his apprenticeship to the most important leather-tanner in the city; a fate which he found not particularly pleasant, but which was forced upon him by his parents. Happily for Jacob, and rather unhappily for most of the citizens of Ninev, it was in the same year that Jacob's apprenticeship began that the Korinians broke King Ahriman's armies and, thus unimpeded, put Ninev to the torch. The Korinian army, under the Duc Soloi, slaughtered over half of the populace and took all surviving men and women of fit bodies to serve as slaves. Jacob was not entirely happy with this; but, he fully realized, freed him forever from the threat of a lifetime spent dipping animal hides in vats of urine.

Jacob was marched north with the triumphant Korinian army to Soloi itself, where he was sold into the household of a rich merchant, who owned many slaves. Another of these slaves, in Jacob's second month of slavery, told Jacob a secret: far to the east, beyond all the lands inhabited by mortal men, an ancient ruin of green stone stood on atop a barren plateau. This slave claimed that the ruins showed an example of the power of the one god, Ahura Mazda, who cast down the towers which sought to challenge Heaven itself; but Jacob knew better. His aunt had once told him the tale of such ruins - though she knew not where they rested - fallen merely to the ravages of time, but holding great treasure within. Jacob resolved that he must seek such wonders - for, if others were deterred by fear of God's fury, then the treasures must remain intact for someone as brave as he to claim!

In half the moon's cycle after Jacob was told of the ruins, the merchant who owned him saw fit to expire. Jacob escaped in the confusion, stealing a mule and riding east along the Evros River. Dissatisfied with the slow pace of such travel, Jacob found passage working aboard first a cargo raft on the Evros, and then as an overseer on the galley Fair Wind on the Kythican sea. Months flowed by as did the miles. From the port of Samothrace, Jacob rode his mule east (ever east!) along the Thyme Road, where he was ambushed by bandits and robbed quite literally naked. In this state, starving and unclothed, a patrol from the nearby city-state of Patmos came upon Jacob and promptly conscripted him. Jacob was thus forced into the third Ipthic War, fighting bravely if without great skill in the battle at Karpathos, and later at Naxos Mountain against the Delian League. When the commander of the Patmos army fell short of payroll, however, the officers mutinied and the army dissolved into chaos; never having lost a battle. Jacob, having no stake in the affair, resumed his journey, fording the Kasos River and at last leaving the lands of men.

Jacob traveled the White Road; straight as an arrow, cutting through hills and bridging rivers and gorges alike. Even overgrown, it was a wonder to behold, especially for Jacob, grown as he was in a land not overly favoured with engineers. The wilderness in which Jacob traveled was a cold and harsh land, but nonetheless one with ample game and wild fruit to sustain a single traveler. Jacob walked for two moons' turning before he saw the great plateau of which he had been told. At last, his destination was within reach! The White Road zig-zagged evenly up the slope of the plateau; overgrown with trees and shrubbery, Jacob walked onward without clear vision. At long last, though, two years after the sack of Ninev, Jacob crested the last rise and set eyes upon the ruins he had long sought.

The ruins were built with blocks of green stone, pitted now from long exposure. Five towers there were, linked with soaring bridges of perfect regularity, criss-crossing across a pentagonal complex below. Complex designs were worked around the outside, swirling lines pulling the eye upward to the rounded dome at the ruins' peak. Time had wreaked great damage on the magnificent design - two towers had fallen altogether, and holes gave the three remaining a patchwork feel - but enough of the high bridges and fine stonework remained to imply all the magnificence that had been. It was a building - no - a work of art - unlike any Jacob had ever seen, or even conceived of.

Jacob stopped and stared for a while; marveling, wondering, examining. Then, the lure of treasure to match the architecture drawing him, he entered the ruins.

The lower building was utterly ruined. Falling stonework had crushed the arches and pillars, destroyed the fountains and gardens which once stood between the five towers. Hoping that the treasure was not secured there, Jacob set his gaze at the dome above the towers, and began to climb. The stairs in the three remaining towers were largely intact; only once did a stair threaten to collapse under Jacob's weight, and by traveling along the wall Jacob averted such disaster. The man-sized holes in the walls, as well as the intentional windows, gave Jacob ample view of the great distance between him and the ground. Twice, he had to stop as vertigo overcame him.

At last, Jacob came to a dead-end. The stairway above Jacob had crumbled entirely, just short of the dome. Reluctantly, Jacob ventured down the last stairs he had climbed and traveled along a bridge he had previously noted; thankfully, to an tower yet standing. The bridge seemed too thin to be real; the stones almost seemed to shift under Jacob's weight, the unsupported arch defying Jacob's comprehension. When at last he finished the crossing and climbed to the dome, it was a great deal of relief.

The dome shone with light; Jacob was blinded at first, and his eyes took long seconds to adjust. When they did, Jacob shouted with joy. The source of the light was a disk of stone, the point of the dome, studded with precious stones. Each refracted the light through itself, turning the small room into a kaliedascope of colour. The jewels in the point of the dome were worth a king's ransom - most certainly the treasure of which Jacob's aunt had told him. Jacob reached for the disk eagerly; and then he looked down.

Below the disk was a hole, giving a clear view of the entire ruins. The light shining through the dome's cap gave the complex a beauty even surpassing that which Jacob observed before; and, as Jacob looked once more to the stone disk, he realized the true purpose of the stone. It did not only light the room; it was the entire complex's keystone. If Jacob removed the stone, the towers would fall. Not immediately; not within minutes, or even hours; but, within days, the dome would crumble, and what of the ruins yet remained would fall into a pile of shattered stone, leaving nothing but dust where a wonder once stood. Jacob looked at the vast wealth within
his reach. Jacob looked down at the ruins. Then, a little sadly, Jacob turned and walked away.

Author's note: Credit where credit is due: My earlier story Sun's Grave and the excellent Shadow of the Colossus were both inspirations for this story. It was intended to be a little shorter and, now that I have come to the end, a little more focused, but... I am satisfied enough. Perhaps I will try to re-write it some day.

Awakening Fanart

Tuesday, June 26, 2007



Websnark, by Eric Burns, is not a webcomic. It is a webcomics journalism blog; reviewing and commenting on webcomics, though sadly updates (especially webcomic-related updates) have been scarce for the last six months or so. Regardless of his update schedule or lack thereof, Burns is an excellent writer. You can blame him for me linking you to so many webcomics; after all, he introduced me to quite a number of them. (Yes, yes, some of those aren't blogged. Some of them I forgot about, some just aren't right for the League.)

He's cool! Sample his better days. You're sure to find something you like!

Awakening X

I walk alongside myself through a seemingly endless corridor - the Cells of Forgetting. I pass black doors as I go, featureless and solid. Ventilation ducts criss-cross the spartan ceiling above. I spend the walk talking to myself - to Roshan. There is so much I must tell him - of the unbelievable events that took place in the bubble outside reality, and of his own past, which he and I both lost in the Cells of Forgetting, but only I have recovered. Roshan himself seems increasingly doubting of me - perhaps he thinks that I am some sort of doppleganger, a trick of his captors. I can think of no way to prove otherwise.

At last, five minutes after passing the cell we were both prisoned in, we reach the end of the corridor. At it is a plain white door, with a blurry glass pane in the top. Roshan reaches out, turns the knob and pulls the door open.

A robed figure whirls, saying the first words I have heard from any of them: "What? Who are y- the new prisoner!" Over Roshan's shoulder, who is blocking the doorway, I see the robed figure draw a knife and cut a deep gash in his palm. Roshan is already moving toward the man, but already he is pulling out something reddish and unpleasant-looking - a chunk of the giant heart? - and pressing it to the bleeding gash. Instantly, he vanishes, with a faint poom as air rushes in to fill the space where he stood.

Roshan turns to me - perhaps now more convinced that I am who I say I am - and says, "We'll have to move quickly - he's probably going to warn others." I agree, and begin searching the office for anything useful. One wall is completely covered with shelves holding bottles of some ambiguous liquid. I suspect that this is the drug that our captors use to induce amnesia. The robed figure who fled left behind a newspaper, dated June 25th, two days after Rebecca and I entered the office building. I picked it up from his desk - and beneath it is a switch-board, a row of pairs of tiny toggles marching through the middle. I call Roshan over, and we agree that this must control the cell doors. I flip one up, and sure enough, a door just outside swings open. Roshan flips them all up.

You know, I'm starting to think that he might be a little more impulsive than I am. Perhaps I shouldn't have given him the Device - I know that if I hadn't seen what I had beneath the beating heart, I'd be a little too eager to just escape the building, no matter whatever else lurks here. But I suppose I shouldn't criticize myself too much. Besides, there's no time to waste - more robed figures could arrive at any moment. Roshan is already calling me onward.

Most of the cells were empty, it seems. They look like they were never used. Eighteen prisoners in all emerged from the cells, scattered along the long corridor. Most of them are already walking in one direction or another by the time Roshan and I find them - they had to be explorers to get in here, after all. Roshan and I split the job of explaining their circumstances to them - most of them are quite incredulous, but follow us nonetheless. The sight of the beating heart, by the time we get there, silences most of them.

Rebecca is the last one found; she is brave, as always, and was almost to the heart by the time we catch up to her. It is an awkward moment, as she looks between the two of us. I speak up first: "I am Roshan - do you remember me?" She shakes her head; but there must be something about us that is familiar to her, or she would not look at us so. Roshan continues, "I am your boyfriend; we went here together on a date, and were caught by, um, robed figures and imprisoned." I consider whether to add that I am also her boyfriend, but time is running short until more of the robes arrive, and she looks confused enough as is. The rest of the prisoners are catching up behind us.

So we stand, Roshan and Rebecca and I, with some very confused prisoners behind us, gathered around the living heart. Two doors lead out; I have unlocked both. The prisoners look to us for leadership; and it is time for me to make my choice, though I have delayed it. Should I escape, or try to unravel whatever plot the robed ones make? I look at Roshan, who is thinking his own thoughts; I could predict him before, but now he has taken a path quite different from mine. While I delayed making my decision, events made it for me. I tell Roshan, "You must lead Rebecca and the other prisoners to freedom. I'll stay, and try to stop the robed ones." I'm the only one who can. Roshan replies, "Good," and walks out the left door. Perhaps he's grateful that I did not try to come after him; after all, only one of us can reclaim our life.

Well, we'll see about that. I have some ideas of my own on that count; but now isn't the time to voice them. I take the right door and run through the corridor beyond. I need to figure out what the robed ones' plot is, and then stop it. Time is running short; enemies might arrive at any moment.

Where first?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Nikolas Story: Part I

One unremarkable day in late Spring, a surly, greyed, perhaps even dour little Nikolas hopped his way towards my doorstep, jauntily bouncing down and crunching the stone pathway in the manner of the sun's rays glimmering on the lawn, splashing in the air like a terrible sturgeon, his scales opalescent, flopping so absurdly that for a second I almost felt what seemed like pity for the poor Nikolas, and eventually arrived at his endeavoured destination. He wore upon him, along with his aged wool waistcoat, dead brown trousers and cracked leather shoes, a nearly tangible air of hopelessness and despair. Upon approaching my door, he bid me a dubiously cheerful hullo, and flashed his business card, which were printed on thin, yellow paper, which, if anything, mirrored perfectly the state of his soul at the present. Then suddenly, with neither provocation nor just cause, he sprang to life, his countenance shone radiantly, his sullen manner now unquestionably animated, and even his pallid colour seemed, at least for a fleeting moment, to increase in hue and saturation. As he spoke, the words he uttered so resounded in my being as to be a crash of thunder, but magnified a thousandfold.

"Sir! I need a womon."

"Dear God," I breathed.

It was nearly four years ago this very day. The sempiternal day which will remain in my memory until the instant when all matter ceases to be, and existence itself is wiped off.

It was the summer of 1834. I stood outside my small shop in Bradfordshire, tending the little trinkets on the windowsill; I, as well as everyone else knew the inherent worthlessness of those small toys, and yet, their popularity with the town folk never ceased to amaze me. I glanced at the local times--recent abolition of slavery. Hmph! What would it matter to me and this small town? We all knew life would go on, as it always had, in all honesty, there were no slaves to be heard of in this area for as long as it had existed. None of this could have any consequence on my inner thoughts. At that moment, nothing in the material world itself could remove me from my mental concentrations--for at that moment, I saw the womon.

To be continued...

Author's Note: In case you haven't figured it out by now, this takes place in England.


As some of you may be aware, I play many video games. These are selected excerpts of recent experiences. I do hope you will find them of interest.

Supreme Commander, Gas Powered Games.

...dueling artillery pieces have created a no-mans-land, wherein any visitors are swiftly destroyed. The guns themselves are safe behind glowing energy shields, impervious to the others' firepower, but they wreak swift vengeance against those lacking similar protection. For some time now, my opponent has mustered his forces just out of range of my guns, drawing up an army of powerful, blue-shielded 'mechs'. Unfortunately for him, I have a similar force within the protection of my own shields; and what's more, I have a gigantic, six-legged superweapon that my engineers have completed with great expenditure of time and resources. Marching forward with surprising speed, it outpaces my lesser troops and destroys my foe's entire army with two sweeps of its hundred-meter-long microwave laser. His attacks damage my robot, but don't come close to destroying it. Undaunted by enemies of land or air, it marches across the battleground - wrecking minor fortifications as it passes - and annihilates my opponent's commander, who explodes blindingly. His own superweapon lies sadly unfinished.

Oblivion, Bethesda Games.

In the land of the mad, I enter a village as twilight descends; rows of strange plants extend through the swamp as far as the eye can see. A villager beckons to me; furtively, he complains that the woman who lives in the nearby house 'controls his mind' and generally tyrannizes the villagers. After winning his trust by retrieving a wooden spoon, he gives me a mission: neutralize this petty tyrant, either through murder or the uttermost wrecking of her perfectly-organized house. Either way, her journal must be retrieved, as it supposedly contains observations of the villagers, which she uses to control them. I enter the house cautiously; after finding no trace of the journal, I begin throwing the house into disorder, casting a spell of my own invention which, while causing little physical damage, knocks about items in a large area. The inhabitant, enraged by my attacks, draws a sword and charges! I finish the disorganization and flee out the door; when she pursues, I draw a cloak of shadows about myself and withdraw, to finish my task another day.

Sins of a Solar Empire, Ironclad Games. ally's homeworld is protected by layers of powerful gauss turrets and ranks of fighter-craft; all of which sit passively as my war-fleet moves past them to his homeworld itself. He and I have worked together to rid the star system of all opposition; and now that he is my only foe left around this yellow star, it should not surprise him when I break our peace treaty and begin shelling his most critical world. Waves of fighter craft spew forth from the bellies of my carriers as my bombardment craft begin their grim work, wreaking havoc from beyond the reach of his fixed defenses. His flagship charges insystem to attack; then, belatedly, his lesser warships. My bombers rip them to shreds as they trickle in. My other worlds repel his petty attacks with ease, gauss guns pounding the light warships that attempt raids. At last, my fleet is forced to withdraw from his homeworld, one of my capitol ships significantly damaged by repeated attacks; but it is too late for my opponent. His homeworld has been rendered uninhabitable; his cause is lost.

That's all for the moment; I may have more of these later, if they met your taste. (In any case, Awakening X will likely be posted tomorrow; a most momentous occasion, to be certain!)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Awakening IX

I climb out of the beating heart, risen from the depths. That was a long climb - it feels like it took days! I look around. The room is just as I left it - the trapdoor atop the heart was closed, and all the other doors in the room are just as closed as they were when I descended. I climb down the moist, pulsing heart (and I never want to say that again!) and look at the two metal doors - presumably locked, as they were when I climbed down. I want to see what's inside them before I continue, so I can better choose an escape route once I've freed Rebecca. I dither for a moment, and then decide to open the one I saw that small creature (?) scurry through. I'm not too worried about defending myself - I still have the Device in the lockbox, after all.

I turn the giant's key in the lock, and try to open the door - it won't budge. I look at the door - it's wedged shut! Someone's put a little wood wedge just below the door - perhaps the creature that fled from my approach, just in case I managed to open the lock. I crouch down and poke it out - and just then, I hear footsteps. I quickly turn and look.

Rounding the corner - it's me! Just as I was when I entered this room before - covered in dust, holding only a roll of duct tape... I don't know what will happen if he sees me, but I don't want to risk it right now. I open the door and, before he gets a good glimpse of me (I hope!), dash inside, closing it behind me.

Breathing deeply, I realize what must have happened. The cavern beneath (?) the heart was a 'bubble outside reality', the giant said. Somehow - when I was in it, or entering it, or leaving it just now - I must have traveled back in time, to just before I entered the heart. Remembering what I saw in the room, I realize that there were slight discrepancies - I'd wedged the trapdoor open, and I doubt that the wooden wedge was in the door the last time I was in there. I'd examined the room pretty well, I'd probably have noticed that. I'm... in a time loop? It sounds improbable, but when a living heart as tall as I am is just a door away, I'm inclined to believe it.

So - what now? I guess I'll just wait until he - until I enter the trapdoor. Gotta keep causality intact - otherwise, I have no idea of what will happen. I hear a crash from outside, made tinny by the metal door - that must be me smashing the lock on the trapdoor. I wait a moment more, and then cautiously open the door and step back into the heart room.

I look back at myself, posed breaking a broom over my knee to use for keeping the trapdoor open.

Well, there goes that.

I decide to break the impasse - I am, after all, the older and wiser of the two of us. I walk towards myself - I'll call him Roshan from now on, to keep things simple. Simpler, anyway. I greet Roshan politely: "Hello, me. Sorry to surprise you like that - I expected you to be down the trapdoor by the time I stepped out."

Roshan still looks pretty startled by my appearance. "Who... who are you? Are you... me?" I - okay, he - stares at me. I respond, "Yes. I'm you, an hour and a half later. I just came out of there," pointing to the heart.

Roshan looks a little less shocked now, and more confused. "Did you come to warn me not to go in there? Was it a mistake?"

I consider. "No, not really. I actually came out pretty well from the experience. Learned a lot about my past and this place, got some very useful items... running into you really was an accident."

"Well... what do I do now?", inquires poor bewildered Roshan.

"I... don't know." I consider. "Going down there got me a great deal, but I'm not certain that it would do the same for you. The place down there is strange - it's entirely possible that it's left the way I last saw it, not the way it was when I entered it, and in that case you'd risk severe injury just getting down there, and likely have to make a deal with a daemon to get out." I consider further. "Investigating might prove my fears wrong, or it might prove them right... but either way, there's a pretty large chance that you'd be somewhere entirely different when you came out, and I don't think I - you - have much of a chance at escaping without the items I got there."

Roshan looks down. He looks up. He thinks. Then he closes the trapdoor and climbs down the moist, pulsing heart (dang it!), and stands at my side. "Where do we go now?", he asks. "Can you open the other doors back in that corridor?"

"I can, but not yet. First I want to see what's past these metal doors - they seem like the most likely escape route." As it turns out, they're just more corridors - bland, featureless, each turning in the same direction about twenty feet past the door. Roshan's getting a little nervous, though - worried about being caught? Oh, right! He doesn't have the Device! - so I close both doors, and we enter the corridor to the Cells of Forgetting. As we walk, I ask him for the lockbox, and open it for him. "What is this?", he asks. I explain, and politely ask him not to trigger it while I'm around.

We walk down the Cells of Forgetting. I know I should explain to Roshan what's going on - how he was trapped here, where I'm going, what I know of this place - but I am distracted. I wonder. What is the robed figures' plot? What do they hope to accomplish? I still haven't decided whether I'm willing to settle for simple escape or not - and now I'm accompanied by myself! I need more time.

...what first?

Gunnerkrigg Court

Gunnerkrigg Court.

Gunnerkrigg Court; created by Tom Sidell. It's not been around for as long as many of the other webcomics I recommend here - only started in April of 2005. I started reading it very nearly when it started, and I can tell you that it's quite good - really, a webcomic unlike any other that I've encountered. It's a story about two schoolgirls (in the British equivalent of middle school, if I recall correctly) who have adventures in a very strange boarding school. There are robots! There are ghosts! (Sort of.) There are dragons! It's really quite nifty. It's mainly plot focused - while there is frequently humour, it's not the focus of the strip. It updates three times a week, and begins here.

(Not that anyone who reads my blag looks at the webcomics, anyway. Sadness overwhelms me. Why don't you give it a shot? This is no Achewood - it's universally cool!)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Starry Night

I gaze up at the stars, and wonder. What happens there, so far away, so impossibly far from me?

That blurred star to the north - is that a binary system, two great stars twirling around one another in an endless, glorious dance?

Around that twinkling star in the east, is there a planet harboring life - perhaps a great primordial planet, life in all shapes and colours fighting for survival?

Perhaps near that large red star just over the horizon - it's not Mars - perhaps a great battle rages there. Maybe creatures battle with sticks and stones on the surface of some world very different from ours; or perhaps a space battle rages, particle beams and burning ships lighting the endless night.

And perhaps at that tiny star - it's barely visible, you can just see it if you squint - perhaps there is another boy - just like me - looking up at the stars, wondering if there's anyone else out there.

Anyone at all.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007




Tuesday, June 19, 2007

David's Exile

Nine days past now, David was left in a land foreign to him. At first it seemed cool and hospitable to him; but as time passed, and friends failed him, it - or, rather, he - became his worst nightmare. This is the story of that ordeal; the Ten Days of Pain.

Based on a true story.

On the first day, David came to recognize his captivity. He had thought it but an hour's outing, or perhaps an afternoon, at the most. Soon, though, he realized the straits which fate had seen fit to place him. And he was afraid.

On the second day, David refused to recognize his captivity. He sought escape in a dozen different ways; climbing, hitchhiking, hot-air ballooning. But none of David's schemes came to fruition; his ploys thwarted by the terrible nature of his prison.

On the third day, David cursed his prison; his imprisoners; himself. He swore and ranted, finding depths of vileness within himself and within others that he had never suspected. Little was accomplished.

On the fourth day, David wept, mourning his fate and composing emo poetry in his head. Hespent the day in tears. It brought him no happiness, nor understanding.

On the fifth day, David sought to find himself. He sought within his own mind understanding; an understanding that was hard to grasp. He gave it up in disgust at last.

On the sixth day, David sought to find work for himself, so as to make some dull pattern for himself. He laboured for hours over a great drawing - a mural, perhaps - only to discard and ruin it in disgust at the end of the day when a tiny mistake destroyed it in his mind.

On the seventh day, David worked again at escape. He created one grand plan, which he again focused the entire efforts of the day upon. He grew ever more cautious as he progressed, fearing yesterday's defeat; and was then undone by Time, bitter Time, which crept up on him unexpected, ending the day before the escape was accomplished, and rendering all his work in vain.

On the eighth day, David did a thousand different things; bewailing his fate, seeking swift escape, drawing a panda; seeking to avoid yesterday's mistake. Always, his loathing and self-hatred increased; for he found even in his best work nothing but failure. Twice, he looked at the noose.

On the ninth day, David slept.

Now it is the tenth day. Will David rise above his own self-hatred and destructive perfectionism? Or will he fall to knife, poison, or noose - by his own hand - mere hours before he is freed from his prison?

We can only hope.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Awakening VIII

So, here I am; in a corridor outside reality itself, the only route of escape a vertical tunnel fifteen feet above the ground. I have, in my possession, my clothes, $10.27 in stolen money, a key that can open any lock, a great big metal rod, a nearly-depleted roll of duct tape, a pair of scissors, and a lockbox holding a device that vaporizes inanimate objects and sheaths living things in a burning-hot energy-shield.

I'm quite a sight, I imagine.

So how to climb those fifteen feet up? I go to the bunk room and look at the tunnel. After a moment of thought, I grab hold of a bunk bed (not the one I wrecked) and push it underneath the tunnel. I climb on top and reach.

It's still ten feet up. I can't reach quite that far.

I go back to the cavern of the giant. The robed men still stand there, immobilized in fields of sparkling red-and-white energy. I stare into the closest one's face. Even up close, the energy blocks a clear view. Mysterious even while trapped. And I can't touch them; my fingers or my clothes would burn equally well... but will metal? I take out the rod used to open the daimone's vault; on consideration, I wrap the end in my shirt before gripping it, to avoid worse injury than the blisters I've already suffered. Gingerly, I touch the rod to a robed figure. My shirt grows hot in my hands, but... the metal remains intact. It doesn't even glow!

I may have found a solution.

I begin experimenting; the figures are easily pushed around once they start moving, gliding across the floor smoothly. I nearly get hurt when one of them bounces off a wall and comes back at me faster than expected. As a plan forms in my mind, I push them all, one by one, into the bunk room, shoving them into a large pile in the center of the room. I look at the pile nervously; it's about nine feet high, robed figures piled about in a most undignified manner, and
I know that they won't give much traction. Reluctantly, I begin shedding my heavier and more awkward items; the metal rod (too big) and the scissors (too likely to end up poking me in the side at a bad moment - why did I ever pick those up, anyway?). On consideration, I use the last of the duct tape to fasten the lockbox and giant's key on safely, and toss the roll away. I look at the pile again.

Then I charge up the pile of energy-enshrouded bodies, running as fast as I can with the heap beginning to shift beneath me and my soles growing very, very hot. At the top, I jump the best jump I've ever made; slamming into the bars of the ladder and somehow managing to keep my grip. Beneath me, the pile is collapsing, spreading across the floor. From the feel of them, I suspect that my shoes have a number of holes in them, burnt by the heat.

I hope that I don't have to release the daimone after all. If it was hard getting down before... that mess below would give me quite a warm welcome.

As I climb, I wonder. I've lost my duct tape, opened the lockbox, gotten a bit of cash and a full meal... and a lot of knowledge about just what this place is, what they're trying to do here... what sort of things they can do. (Though I still don't know who they are.) Now I have a choice to make. I can try to escape - with a key that opens any lock, a weapon of immense power in the lockbox, and the exact knowledge of where they imprisoned Rebecca, my girlfriend, it should be easy. Or I can try a harder task - to free all the captives, and ensure that they (again, whoever they are) are stopped, from imprisoning innocents, summoning daimones, and otherwise causing havoc.

Sounds quite melodramatic, doesn't it?

Nevertheless. I've nearly gotten to the top of the tunnel. What now?

What now, indeed?

Awakening, Part One: Fin.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Chronicles of Desmond, Chapter 75: The Great Film

Yea, behold, it be true, that in the goode provynces of Isse-Lande, yea, there werre indeede a greate meeting of the myndes, yea, 'tis most verily true that the Ratte-Kinge, and the Isse-landick councilles, they didde meeteth in the greate towne halles, and yea, they didde prodeuceth the most wonderfulle and brilliante fylme that ever didde been spauneth from the depths of myndes. And now, it beckometh my greate taske to detayle thisse magnificsent ackomplishmente herre, in great detayle and veracity.

And it came to pass, that one verry fyne daye, in the Regiouns and principalities of Isse-lande, it wausse indeede decided that there should be one greate fylme, yea, that would entayle the greate history of the Regions, and of the Isse-landick kronnikles, yea, and the Ratte-Kinge didde dispatch manie messages from hisse most excellent scroll repositorie, yea, they werre indeed launched greatly at the Isse-Lande castle, and the grande councille didde reade upon it, and they didde establishe that it was worthie, and goode, and howevere, the goode King Kessler didde fynde faultes with it, but it came to pass, that he didde propose manie amendments, and yea, he didde dismyss manie aspeckts of the Ratte-Kinge's scripte as apocryphal, and yea, there was muche heated debates, and it wausse goode.

Then it came to pass that the scrpit wausse indeede revised greatly, and yea, it was much loved and enjoyed by the populaces, and yea, it wausse goode. So thusse, the Ratte-Kinge didde invyte the masses to come to the most noble Manor and Castle of the Rattes, and they didde come, and yea, the first fylmingge meeting was established.

And yea, at this meetinge, there wausse indeed much in the waye of provysions, and vittles, and beverages, and yea, there was the consumption of the essence of Sir Strawberrie, and it wausse much enjoyed by the noubles, and yea, it wausse goode. Howevere, the Ratte-Kinge, beinge unprepayred for the sheer grandeure of the fylmminge, yea, he didde manage to miscalculate many aspeckts, and it wausse goode. For example, on severale ockassions, the most excellent Fylm-Camerra didde not posess sufficient energie to powere the capturing of the Actiouns, and the noubles didde often beckme distrackted by the manie magical amusements that the Ratte-Castle didde provyde, and the Ratte-Kinge, beckominge angrie thate the noubles were not wourking to hisse specifcations, didde launch in to mad fits, and yea, he didde execute manie peoples, and it wausse goode.

And on the Second daye, yea, there wausse in the manner on manie Womens that the Ratte-Kinge didde provyde for the amusement of the noubles, and yea, they werre indeede the concubines of the Ratte-Kinge's youngerre brothere, yea, the Womons didde come and entertaint the noubles with manie manners of dancings and songs, and they didde enjoye this, and it wausse goode.

And then it came to pass that the year for the Royale Ackadamie didde come to its conclusione, and yea, the noubles were nowe readie to commence the majour fylming evente, in which there were indeede a great addition to the amount of magick amusementes that the Ratte-Castle had to offere, augmented by the wonderfulle additions of the nouble's own colletcions, and yea, there was massive consumption of the vittles, and there were wheat-based snackes, and yea, the concubuines of the Ratte-Prince were verily there, and yea, they were indeede unclothed, and yea they didde indeede performe many bizzare dances for the gentlelmente, and it wausse goode.

And yea, at last, the greate fylme was complete, and yea, it rocked the Earthe, and it wausse indeed verie verie goode.

Awakening VII

I rise slowly, a little shaky after the blast. I look down at myself; I am, miraculously, unharmed. The lockbox rests open in my hand, the switch now open. I look at it for a moment, and then close it very, very carefully.

The room around me is scarred and blackened by the device in the lockbox. The piles of gold and gems are fused together into one gigantic, useless heap - the chests and paper money are nothing but ash. Looking at the door to the giant's cavern, I expect to see more ash where the robed figures stood - but no! There they stand, frozen in place, surrounded by some sort of red-and-white energy. I look at them, put my hand near one of them - there's no perceptible heat - and then touch it. With a pained shout, I withdraw my hand immediately. Looking at it, I can already see a blister forming.

I look at the robed figures further. Tenatively, I take off my robe and throw it on one of them. Smoke begins to rise; then the robe bursts into flame. I decline to experiment further and walk back to the corridor beyond the giant's cavern.

No-one is about. Seemingly, all the inhabitants of this cavern were in pursuit of me when I used the device. I look around the corridor. I already searched all the rooms... except the dining hall, which was occupied at the time. Entering it, I find it deserted as the rest of this place - did the giant call it a 'bubble outside reality?' There's food about, but I'm still full from the bag lunch - besides, I'm not that much of a hamburger fan. Behind the counter is the most interesting thing in the room - a great big metal bar. I look at it, and decide to take it with me. It's a bit heavy, but a metal rod is a useful thing to have.

On leaving the dining hall, I look at the door at the end of the corridor - with the metal wheel and metal plating - and realize what the rod must have been kept there for. I take it and begin turning the wheel, not without difficulty. Slowly, two plates slide back from the centre of the door, and a key-hole presents itself. I take the giant's key, slide it in, and turn it. The entire door at once falls into the floor. Immediately, I am greeted with hopeful cries: "Oh, thank goodness, someone other than those robed monsters! Please, you must help me!"

I take a moment to get my bearings. The room beyond the vault door is fairly large and circular. Strange equipment (some of it resembling telescopes, or perhaps microscopes) is spaced around the circular cage in the centre of the room - the sole occupant of which, a very attractive girl, is currently plastered across the bars, looking at me pleadingly. "They've taken me here and locked me in for days. They haven't even given me food!" the girl said as I walked closer. "I don't know what they're going to do to me, but I'm afraid to find out! Please, just unlock the cage door, and we can escape this horrible place!"

I have my hand on the giant's key and am about to do just that - and then I remember something. The giant said to me, And then they took this daimone and locked it safely behind steel and ritual... I wonder. Where would a demon be kept, except here? The girl - or 'daimone', perhaps - does not recognize the expression on my face. "Please! What are you waiting for? Those men could return at any minute!

With the state I left them in, I doubt that - though the worry now comes to me that the red-and-white energy might disappear unexpectedly. I push it aside - I can always use the device again, if it comes to that. I have the time to do some testing. I tell the girl - daimone? - "You're a daimone. What will you give me for freeing you?"

The daimone sighs aloud at the failure of her (?) ploy and leans back from the bars, coincidentally giving me a very distracting view. "Even if I'm no human, what I said still holds true. Once you free me, I will help you escape. And I can help in... other ways," the daimone said, flexing suggestively. "Here's one," she said, reaching out with one finger to just within the bars. Nervously, I touched it.

I scream in agony - this is not a good day for my hands - and fall back to the floor, probably bruising myself in several places - but the damage is done. The robed figures charge, knocking my girlfriend and I down - and out. When I awaken, I am bound hand and foot - my girlfriend much the same, next to me. I am in - a throne room? It's huge - over two dozen robed men standing to each side of a great throne, richly decorated, gold and jewels everywhere. (Where does the money come from?, a part of me thinks. What? I'm tied up by strange men, and I'm thinking about the decoration?) The man on the throne - dressed in a business suit! - points at me accusingly. "You came too far, and saw too much. You are not the first, and you will not be the last - but this will be your last trespass." To a man to his right, he says: "Take them to the Cells of Forgetting - double the dose for the first seventy-two hours, as usual." As I am dragged away, he has already forgotten me - not much of a personal touch, there. (Why do I keep thinking about these little details? I'm being dragged off the cells, for God only knows how long! What's going on?) My captors drag me back the way I came, through several turns - I try to memorize the route - and back past the same heart. (It's rather distinctive.) I see my girlfriend tossed into a cell. I'm next. The door opens, and I'm flung in, sprawling on the floor.

Then- nothing. Blackness.

I awaken. The daimone watches me. "See? I restored your memory, just like that. You can remember everything now, right?" It's true. I remember my girlfriend's name, now - Rebecca - my house, my parents, my life. Everything. Whatever they did to me in the Cells of Forgetting, it's gone now. The daimone continues, "I'll do much, much more for you once you release me from this cell." She doesn't need to say anything more about... herself... her whole body does that for her.

I am very, very tempted - in both senses. I'm still not certain how I'll get out of here, since the way I got into this 'bubble outside reality' doesn't really work the other way. (Falling tends to be like that.) And... well. I ask the daimone one last question: "If I do release you, how could I be sure that you won't just kill me and leave on your own?"

The daimone laughs. "You have whatever you used to deal with the, the robed men, right? Whatever you used on them will be more than enough to destroy me - they captured me in the first place, after all. Besides," she asks, "Why would I hurt you after you free me?"

The daimone's appearance isn't quite enough to make me forget the giant's cautions. They summoned a great daimone - a creature of tremendous strength, and greater malice. With horrible sacrifice, they bound it tightly... If the giant was telling the truth - and after he transcended reality itself with purity, I'm willing to bet that he was - this daimone would not only be willing to kill me after I freed it, but very able to do so, unless I was able to muster some 'horrible sacrifice' to match the robed men's.

Still with no little doubt, I turn away from the daimone and begin walking back towards the bunk room. There has to be some way out!

The daimone calls cheerily, "I'll still be here when you decide to free me!"

I leave the vault door open behind me.

Nikoals the Wanderer

Nikolasuad was bourne in a smalle towne in the farre easte, where there wausse indeede a greate famyne, and there wasue a courne, and nikolas did go into the cayve to fetche itte, and the towne rejoicces, and yea, it wausse goode.

And they sang a song of nikolas:

Nikolas wausse a sillie little fellowe
and he lyved in the foreste amonge
the nymphes and the sprytes, and the elfes
and he often pransed arounde the trees
which wausse where he fertylysed them
with his bodilie fluides
and yea it wausse goode

Friday, June 15, 2007


From the website:
"breve is a free, open-source software package which makes it easy to build 3D simulations of decentralized systems and artificial life. Users define the behaviors of agents in a 3D world and observe how they interact. breve includes physical simulation and collision detection so you can simulate realistic creatures, and an OpenGL display engine so you can visualize your simulated worlds."

"breveCreatures is a screensaver that simulates the evolution of virtual creatures in a physically simulated 3D world. Beginning initially with random creatures, the screensaver uses a genetic algorithm to develop creatures capable of realistic locomotion behaviors."

In the West

He leaned backwards, neatly dodging a fist swung his way, and then returned the favor, compensating for his opponent's movement and knocking him down cleanly. He was quite fit; but then, few men of the West were not, in those days. Another man attempted to hit him - Jack, that is, our Western brawler - with a chair. Jack's dodge this time only partially succeeded, and he was knocked back on the floor with a painful bruise developing on his chest. Jack, thinking quickly, kicked the table onto the chair-wielder, knocking both him and Jack's other opponent back onto their backs. Jack rose to his feet and, before either of his opponents could rise again, kicked them in the family jewels with his boots until they showed no further signs of movement. As Jack turned towards the door, having dealt with the goons quite thoroughly, the bartender coughed delicately. Jack turned back to the bar, flipped his two remaining dollar coins to the bartender (who appeared satisfied with their value), and left the saloon slightly more bruised and significantly poorer than he'd entered.

It didn't matter to Jack, of course. As he mounted his horse, giving the stableboy his last nickel for watching the horse for him, Jack paid no particular heed to where his money was going. He wouldn't have anything or anyone to use the money on after today, after all. No one knew Jack, cantering off on his grey mare. No one even knew Jack Flannery's last name, after his mother died in prison of the whooping cough.

Before the brawl, Jack had managed to learn something quite useful from the goons; the location of their former employer, a banking executive out in the West to consider expanding operations to cover the lucrative cattle drive. The goons had been retained for guard duty temporarily, until the guards that the bank itself retained arrived from the East; these guards, and the method of their circumvention, being the current subject of Jack's thoughts.

Jack arrived at his destination after an hour or so of easy riding, Jack being careful not to tire his horse. Ahead of him was the growing town of Abiline, the meeting point of one of the great cattle drive trails of the West and the railroad lines of the East. More specifically, directly ahead of him was the building the banking executive had rented for his residence in the city; presently guarded by eight well-trained mercenaries, four out front with the horses, two just beyond the doors (visible in the windows), and two lounging on the balcony. They were joking and drinking together, but Jack saw them watch him carefully as he approached.

Jack took a deep breath, and then urged his horse into a gallop as he passed the mercenaries, and snatched the hat of the most flamboyant-looking mercenary's head. With cries of indignation, the four mercenaries out front quickly mounted their horses and pursued Jack, leaving only half their number to guard the banker.

Jack was a decent rider; being out in the West for five years tends to teach certain skills, among them also strength, endurance, skill with cards (both legitimate and not), and marksmanship. In that time, Jack had been honing all of those extensively, and while he possessed little of any of those when he came out from the East, now he had some fair portion of all; enough to lead the mercenaries for two long minutes, praying that they would not open fire; enough to make his horse appear to tire as Jack slowed and the mercenaries slowed; enough to conceal Jack's drawing his revolver as he urged his horse to turn, and enough to shoot every one of his pursuers dead as they were caught by surprise with his turn, before any one of them got their gun out of their holster.

Jack knew he had to move quickly now; the die was cast, and he was committed to win or die. He led the horses into a dark alley, and stripped one of the mercenaries of vest, pants, and less-distinctive hat, and then put them on himself, if not without some measure of disgust. The rest of the mercenaries he tied on their horses with rope that he'd kept on his person for the occasion, and then, tying the horses together in a line, urged them to a canter back towards the banker.

When Jack came to the corner behind the banker's house, he took another breath (immediately coughing as quietly as he could from the odor of the mercenary's vest), and then urged all the horses into a gallop. The mercenaries in the building were fooled only for a moment by the grisly ruse, but again, it was enough. Before any of them fired a shot, Jack had already downed both of the mercenaries in the house (one killed, one merely wounded), and the two mercenaries on the balcony, exposed as they were, followed swiftly into death. The last mercenary, walked out with his hands up, bleeding from the shoulder. Jack let him go; his quarrel lay elsewhere.

What was Jack's quarrel? Jack didn't think on it as he entered the house; he'd already put down his thoughts on the lending practices that had put his family in debtor's prison, killed his mother by disease incurred through the filthy living conditions in the prison, and led his father to kill Jack's sister, and then himself. He'd already written all of that down on the piece of paper pinned just under his shirt. No; Jack was here to kill the man he held responsible for his family's death; currently cowering behind a chair.

Well, no, not cowering; drawing a shotgun from beneath a table and opening fire as Jack ducked back onto the staircase he'd just climbed. A most prepared banking executive.

Jack thought frantically as he heard footsteps draw closer; not only would a blast from that shotgun end his mission (and his life) rather abruptly, it would also shred his carefully prepared note. Then another blast roared out, blowing a hole through the wall just a half-inch above short Jack's head. Jack ran down the staircase, nearly spraining his right ankle and just barely managing to get out of the way before the banker finished reloading and blew a hole in the floor where Jack had just been.

A lightbulb lit, metaphorically. Jack leaned out into the stairwell, gun first, and then jerked back without firing a shot as another blast roared past. He leaned back and fired three times smoothly as the banker struggled to reload. A shotgun, after all, has only two barrels.

Jack walked up the stairs once more and looked at the banker's corpse. He felt satisfied. He knew that, in some ways, the banker's actions were just a symptom of the environment in which he lived; that a hundred other bankers had done the same things or worse; that his actions were unlikely to make a great difference, in the long term; that a new banker would replace the one he'd killed faster than blinking. Jack didn't really care. He'd killed the man who'd killed his family. He might not have destroyed the socioeconomic mechanisms that could be seen as causing his family's downfall; but sometimes that's not really the right thing to do.

Now: a choice of two endings! It's like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, but less so.

Jack took the note out of his shirt, checked it over once carefully, and then pinned it back on his shirt, laying it down onto the banker's gory chest. He didn't want it to get stained, after all the work he'd put into getting it here. Jack hefted the revolver in his hand, then dropped it, picked up the shotgun, loaded it and walked several steps away from the banker (to avoid stains), and, as the sheriff pounded up to the door (too little, too late!), Jack blew out his brains.

Jack took the note out of his shirt, checked it over once carefully, and then pinned it back on his shirt, laying it down onto the banker's gory chest. He didn't want it to get stained, after all the work he'd put into getting it here. Jack hefted the revolver in his hand, as the sheriff pounded up to the door (too little, too late!); then dropped it on the floor, and walked down the stairs with his arms held high. He knew that he'd be arrested; that he'd likely hang for what he'd done; but he didn't care. Sometimes, life's not about likelihood, or about socioeconomic causes, or 'the long run.' Sometimes, life's just about living.


Niuklase was a poor man
Who lived in a
Small cottage by the lake
Where mists swirled by
And broke through
The rafters of the dwelling
Though on some days
The sun shone upon the
Grass and reflected
Beams of light came through
And flew in Niuklase's window
And all knew he was among
The greatest fishermen that
did live in the county
So one day when the
streams bubbled and the fish
leapt and sailed through
the air and catched the sun's
rays, Niuklase did go and
take his net
and his poles
and his bait-fishes
and he did go in to the
he dived head first
and saw mauntains
of streaming fish
and living
in a terribly wonderful
and glimmering
and he did cast his net
but something happened
on that day
Nikoulas turned into a
cat man
and once saw
the grace
the cod

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Awakening VI

I stare up at the face of the giant, nailed to the cavern wall several feet above my head. Who am I, I think... I don't know! I can't remember anything!

Then I panic. How could the robed figures not hear that giant voice; not notice him looking at me? I turn slowly, eyes darting side to side. But none of them have noticed. And I suddenly realize that when the giant spoke, his lips did not move.

He speaks again. You do not remember who you are, eh? Then let me show you.

I was... with my girlfriend, in a car. Driving. I was driving her to her house, to drop her off after a date. She asked when our next date would be. On a whim, I suggested a lunch date at an old office building that I drove by on the way to her house; it had always perplexed me, in perfect condition as it was yet never visited. She humored me, and agreed. As I dropped her off, and turned back to the car, she said goodbye... she said, "Goodbye, Roshan." That's it. That's who I am! More and more, the pieces are coming together.

The giant is still looking down at me. So, Roshan. You are not like these others. What are you doing here, in these caverns suspended from the flow of reality?

I wait for another memory, but none comes. Lacking that, I think as clearly as I can, I am a prisoner here. These robed men, or others like them, imprisoned me in rooms above this place. I climbed down here in an attempt to escape.

The giant sighs. That was a poor choice. This place is but a prison writ large.

I am curious. Of the giant, I ponder: What happened to you?

Many, many years ago, those of the robe did a terrible thing. They summoned a great daimone - a creature of tremendous strength, and greater malice. With horrible sacrifice, they bound it tightly, and set it to three tasks: The creation of this cavern, this bubble outside reality. My capture and, the giant attempts to gesture, but is prevented by the gigantic nails in hands, feet, and joints, imprisonment here. And then they took this daimone and locked it safely behind steel and ritual, while they decide what to do next. It has been a very long time since then, but they have not decided yet.

I am a little stunned by this gush of history. Clearly, the giant has been waiting a long time to talk to someone. I wonder to the giant, What have you done, for all this time?

The giant again fails to gesture. I think. Sometimes I try to transcend the constant pain of the nails, but then my captors prod the wounds so as to intensify it tenfold. Sometimes I try to transcend the constant gnawing of my stomache, but then my captors parade rich foods past me, sprinkling drops of water and crumbs into my mouth, and my hunger and thirst intensify tenfold. Sometimes I try to transcend my discontent with my captivity, but then my captors inflict some new indignity upon me, so as to intensify my discomfort tenfold. I look at the giant's current position, raising an eyebrow. There is nothing so uncomfortable, I have learned, that it cannot be made worse, the giant responds to my unspoken question.

Despite my fascination with the giant, I am at wits end. I am trapped in a cavern that is apparently outside reality, in the midst of robed figures who can conjure demons and who imprisoned me here in the first place, and I have no means of escape.

Suddenly, a shout comes from the corridor at the other end of this cavern. A robed figure is standing at the cavern's entrance, pointing behind him up the corridor. They have noticed my theft from the office. Once more I panic, but the giant advises, Wait, and every one of the robed figures runs (glides?) off at high speed, paying no attention to me. One of them turns its hood towards me for a moment, but again there is no repercussion. It is almost as if I am invisible. You are not, the giant comments, but these have spent so long in their fortress that they have forgotten the idea of 'danger' or 'the unfamiliar'.

I look around now, with the robed figures gone for a time. I spot a door, partially concealed by stalagmites, that I had missed before when I dared not look around. It is the door that those of the robe store their rich food and other instruments of my torment behind, the giant remarks helpfully. He is desperate for conversation.

An idea strikes me. Checking quickly to see if any more robed figures are about, I dash to the door, opening it quickly. Thankfully, it's unlocked. Within lies a veritable treasure chamber: gold, gems, stacks and stacks of money, both US and foreign. I stand gawping for a moment, and then rush in, looking for what brought me to this room in the first place. Distantly, I hear another shout; they must have discovered the damage I did in the bunk room as well. Time is running out.

Looking around, I see the poles used to prod the giant; they must be at least ten feet long, but they're thin and flexible, so as to be carried easily. I take each one in turn - five of them in all - and break them, snapping them into three or four pieces. Then I look around, hunting for the food that must be stored in here somewhere. Large iceboxes are lined along the walls; the first one I look at alone holds caviar, peacock, hamburgers and a dozen other things. I grab a platter of hamburgers, grab a pitcher of water I find in another icebox, and take a big, nice diamond, while I'm in the treasure room.

I walk quickly back to the giant, careful not to spill. I give him the food, and, with his mouth just above the platter I hold up, I am able to spill the hamburgers in. I do the same with the pitcher of water. I turn for a moment to look back at the corridor, and to my surprise and dismay, the robed figures are spilling out, moving towards me at high speed. It's hard to tell, but I'm willing to guess that they're not happy.

I turn back to the giant. I am no longer afflicted by hunger, or thirst. With you here to talk to, the greatest discomfort of my imprisonment is lifted. The normal pain of having twelve nails pinning me to a wall may be disregarded, the giant narrates as serenity fully supplants pain on his face. Then, as I watch, he lifts away from the wall - though the nails - and begins to ascend towards the cavern ceiling. The nails are still there - still in the wall - but the giant appears to have transcended those, too.

Behind me, the robed figures have slowed, their hoods pointing toward the giant. The giant himself pauses a moment in his ascent and looks towards me. The material world, which the daimone bound me to, no longer afflicts me - but it is yet your concern. To ease your way to enlightenment - and in gratitude - here is a gift that may ease your way. The giant reaches down impossibly far and hands me a small metal object - a sort of rod, with irregular grooves on all sides. This is a skeleton key. It will unlock anything in the realm of the robed ones. They gave it to me for safekeeping - thinking me the perfect guardian, imprisoned as I was. Use it wisely. Then he vanishes into the ceiling.

Stunned as I am, I'm dazed enough to forget about the robed ones - I mean, the robed figures, starting to close on me again now that the giant has so visibly indicated me as the culprit of his escape. Panicked, I look all around me, and dash towards the treasure room. The robed figures pursue me hotly.

I slam the door behind me, and the robed figures begin to hammer on it from outside, ramming it repeatedly. It's not a sturdy door - it's unlikely to hold for long. I think - what can I do, what can I do? I have scissors, tape, the skeleton key, the lockbox - the lockbox! Fumbling, I take it out of my robe, inserting the skeleton key into the lock as quickly as I can. The door is beginning to splinter. The lockbox opens. Inside is a small box. There's a metal switch on top - an open loop - with wires leading through two D batteries and a tiny jewel. My bafflement ends as the door crashes open, throwing me backwards. As the robed figures charge in, I close the switch.

The room vaporizes in a blaze of light.

What now?

a nikolas tale


I am talking to a ghost
A mere hollow shell of his former self
Nikolas was a brave man
he slew beasts
Mythical beasts
But now
He lives
alone and old
in the fireplace
He smokes his cigars
He burns them up
and watches that ashes fall
on the ground
as his life fell before him
It all started in the year 2349
When the aef
Nikolas planet
A small, lovely planet
the kind you would grow tomatoes on
and start a small family
Nikolas lived there
With his spaceship
He was no match for their beams
of solid steel
they shot down on his wirld
he managed to escape in this shuttlepod
They pursued him for 9 days
And then Nikolas took cover in the sun
The radiation clogged their sensors
Until finally they gave up
But nikolas left his planet
and his cummerbunds
and He sought refuge in a
Dwelling of his wartime-comrade
And there he dwelt
Until one day
As he watched his last cigar dissapear into the ash-heap
He decided the time was ripe for the picking
Like a flower in bloom
He repaired his ships
a fleet once mighty and proud
Now weathered be torrential wars
But still firm and loyal
As the day they were wrought
He boarded them
With a small contingent
of old comrades, long begotten
and they launched into the abyss
until they saw the enemy's patrol ship
Yes, the very same one that had obliterated this planet
his cummerbund-planet
and he fired his telons
they easily and smoothly penetrated the weak hull
Of the enemy's long-obsolete
And then
Victory was had
And now Nikolas lives on a grand planet
With Two cummerbunds!
One for special occasions
and one for everyday use

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sun's Grave

Once, long ago, a little boy named Sunya lived in a small village, by the shores of a great river. He was called Sun, for short. Sun was a brave boy, and he often wandered into the forest around his village, finding new things to see and new animals to meet.

One day, Sun got lost! He wandered for hours and hours, trying to find his way back to the village, but all he found was more trees. Sun got tired, and more tired, and more tired. Eventually, brave little Sun curled up by a really big tree and went to sleep.

When Sun woke up, he was very surprised! Right next to him was a little black-and-white horse. Sound asleep! Sun looked at the horse for a few second - then, when the horse showed no signs of doing anything interesting, Sun got bored. He decided to introduce himself! "Hello, little horse!" Sun said.

The horse snorted loudly, shook itself, and looked at Sun. "Hello there, small human. I see that the rest has done you well. I am Terrorspawn, last of a noble clan."

Sun didn't really understand what the horse was talking about, but Sun liked him anyway. He was sort of cute! "Hello, Ter-or-spawn! Do you know where my village is?" Sun asked the horse.

Terrorspawn shook his mane. "I'm sorry, small child. Time is short, and my mission is pressing. The Doomguard of Loch Inidrien are nearly to the Grave of Three Kings, and the Larch-Knights of the East are hard pressed at Bramble Pass. I have no time to take you to your village."

Sun thought and thought. He thought for nearly two minutes - which was a long time, for a little child like Sun! If Sun just asked Terrorspawn to tell him the way back to Sun's village, Sun might just get lost again! That wouldn't be good. But if Sun came with Terrorspawn, then the little horse could take Sun back once he had done whatever he needed to do - and Sun would get to have an adventure!

Sun looked at Terrorspawn. "Please, Terrorspawn, will you let me come along?" Terrorspawn mused the matter for a moment, and then knelt down to let Sun climb onto him. "We must be off now," Terrorspawn declared, already beginning to canter through the underbrush, "but there will be many dangerous things on the road ahead. If I tell you to do something, little human, you must do exactly that, no matter how strange it sounds. Do you understand?"

Sun agreed eagerly. Already Terrorspawn was galloping through the trees. Sun got sort of nervous for a little while - Sun and Terrorspawn were going faster than little Sun had ever gone before, and Sun was afraid! Once Sun got used to it, though, he had fun on his little horse, shooting through the great forest. He got comfortable enough that he even fell asleep for a little while!

When Sun woke up, Terrorspawn had galloped all the way through the forest. "Where are we now?", Sun asked Terrorspawn. "We're on the Plains of Asgaria, where a thousand armies have marched on the way to conquest and glory, and a hundred battles have left the ground ruined and pitted," Terrorspawn told little Sun. "Now hush - we musn't wake the grass snakes."

Just then, though, there was a great big rustling noise, and a grass snake reared up, just in front of Sun and Terrorspawn! It was pretty big - bigger than Sun or Terrorspawn! It was really shiny, too - the sun glittered off of all its tiny scales very prettily.

Terrorspawn had to stop suddenly when the snake appeared, and Sun fell off. It really hurt! Sun was kind of mad at the snake for making him fall off, so Sun just walked up to it and broke it! He felt kind of bad afterwards, but Terrorspawn still had to keep going, so Sun forgot all about it. In fact, silly little Sun fell asleep again!

The next time Sun woke up, they were in a really dark place. "Where are we now?", Sun asked Terrorspawn. "We are in the Caves of Nightmare, the only road straight enough and swift enough to take us to the Grave of Three Kings before the Lords of the North break the lines at Crossroads and reach the Grave before us."

Soon, Sun and Terrorspawn got to a part of the cave that had a really low roof! Sun had to get off. "Now," Terrorspawn advised little Sun, "while we travel between the Caves of Nightmare and the Road of Giants, you must be very careful not to touch any of the rocks, or lots of little bugs will come out and eat us!"

Sun agreed very solemnly, but inside he was curious. As they walked, Sun saw many interesting rocks, but he kept his promise to Terrorspawn, and didn't touch any of them. Not a one! When they were nearly to the end, though, Sun saw a rock that was just so shiny and smooth that Sun had to pick it up. When Sun did, lots of icky bugs came pouring out - from the walls and the ceiling and the floor! Terrorspawn galloped away, so all the bugs attacked little Sun. Silly bugs! Sun's skin was too thick! Sun stomped all the squishy bugs, and got back on Terrorspawn. Off they rode!

Finally, Terrorspawn came to a stop. Sun got off. "Where are we now?", Sun asked Terrorspawn. "We are at the Grave of Three Kings, where Lundgren, Vivacis and Sophitia are buried, along with the sacred artefacts they used to unify the once war-torn West," Terrorspawn told Sun. Sun asked Terrorspawn, "Who are those little men on the other side?" Terrorspawn solemnly responded, "Those are the Lords of the North and their minions, rebels against the order the Three Kings established, and against the order which I, as the last of the steeds of the Three Kings, am bound to protect. They seek to loot the artefacts, to further their rebellion. This I cannot abide."

One of the men on the other side of the grave called out to Terrorspawn. "Join us, o Sacred Mount! If you joined us, half of the Bramble Knights' forces would desert at once - this bloody war would be over at last! Your line could be replenished - a new peace secured!"

Terrorspawn looked very sad - at least, as sad as a horse can look. Slowly, he said, "Perhaps you are right; perhaps the Regents had grown too harsh. But I am bound by bonds stronger than steel; stronger than reason. I cannot allow this, as much as I wish to."

Then Terrrospawn did something very strange. He grew really big, and his sides got all shiny and metal! He even started breathing fire! He looked over towards Sun for a moment, and said to him "Close your eyes - there are some things that children, even those such as you, should not see."

Sun was a little confused, but he closed his eyes anyway. There were a lot of crashing noises for a while, and some screaming. That was really scary! Eventually, everything was quiet for a long while. Sun opened his eyes, and when he didn't see anything going on, wandered over towards the other side of the Grave.

Terrorspawn was lying there, on some really black ground. He was hurt pretty badly! Sun thought that he could see some of his insides, but he wasn't sure, and it was kind of gross, so Sun decided not to look. Terrorspawn spoke, in great pain. "Little one. I am sorry that I cannot take you back to your village. You can stay here, perhaps; there is ample food to scavenge, and many people who can be your friends. Perhaps, now that I have fallen, you can guard this place."

Sun was a little confused, but he felt kind of bad for Terrorspawn. "Can I help you? I mean - can I get you a healer, or someone?" Terrorspawn shook his head. "No. Just - step on me - once. That will suffice. Thank you." Sun did what Terrorspawn asked. Terrorspawn went crunch! Sun looked at him for a while, waiting for something to happen. Eventually, Sun got bored, and wandered off.

As time passed, Sun learned that everything Terrorspawn had said of the Grave of Three Kings was true. Little deer and rabbits were common, and lots of people would give him things - just for asking! Sometimes people would come to try to take things from the Grave, and Sun had to scare them away, but mostly things were peaceful. He lived happily ever after.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Awakening V

I stand, my hunger sated, and walk towards the doorway of the bunk room. Though I'd stayed several minutes after I'd collapsed the bunk bed (eating my lunch), no-one appeared to investigate; yet there was a bag lunch in here. Someone must live here. Curious, I walk out the door, and look each way.

To the left, the corridor extends further, with open doorways leading off it. To the right, though... I take a step backwards in shock. The rough stone covering of the bunk room and corridor opens up into a vast cavern, easily several hundred yards in length and height, and at least a hundred yards wide. Yellow crystals in the ceiling, walls and floor glow faintly to give the cavern an eerie yellow light. At the other end of the cavern, watched by robed figures (!), a gigantic man easily as tall as the cavern hangs - no - is nailed to the wall! He wears nothing more than a simple loincloth.

He's completely impossible, of course. No one that tall could live. His heart would be unable to pump blood. His muscles couldn't support the least part of his weight. His organs would collapse onto themselves.

But... given the gigantic pulsing heart through which I climbed to get down here, this may not be the best time to question the physical plausibility of the giant - especially with the possiblilty that one of those robed figures might glance my way at any moment, and - assuming that these are indeed my captors - decide to put me back into a somewhat more secure cell.

I duck back into the bunk room, breathing fast. I look at myself. Somewhere in my series of falls and exploration, I've lost my robe. No way I can pass for one of those guys in jeans. I look towards the other leg of the corridor. Time to take a little risk.

The first few rooms appear to be conference rooms - they have blackboards, but they're unused. Not even chairs! After that is a dining hall - I think I see someone in there, so I pass by quickly and quietly - and then an office. Jackpot. I walk in and rifle through the papers. No computers, no fax machine, nothing more advanced than a typewriter. The papers I skim aren't too interesting - financial stuff. I think there's a lot of money moving through here, but I'm not certain - I'm no CFA.

Other loot on the desk - scissors (which I grab), scotch tape (which I consider but reject), and a paper cutter (no.). Also - a clock on the wall! It's two o' clock, by its mark. Good to know. I look around a little further, but there's no calendar. A shame.

At the end of the corridor is a gigantic, black iron door. Rivets on the side, a big wheel in the middle... a real vault. I try the wheel, hoping, but it's locked somehow. Somehow I doubt that this will succumb to a bash from my lockbox.

I stand at the end of the corridor and consider my options. I have my clothes, a nearly-depleted roll of duct tape, a dented lockbox (locked), scissors and a full stomach. And no robe. A robe... as before, memory flashes into my conciousness. I'm looking at the giant heart, my girlfriend next to me. Robed figures sweep into the room, seeming almost to hover above the floor in the dim lighting. My girlfriend and I huddle back, and I try to gesture them back... and the memory fragment ends. AGAIN. I don't even bother examining it further.

Just in case, I check in the office again. There's a closet - I opened it before and, seeing only paper clips and paper sheaves, closed it again. Now, I go through it more thoroughly, alert for any sound of someone coming up behind me. Buried beneath the supplies is a musty-looking robe. I take and don it, and stride out into the corridor to test its fit. Whoever owned this isn't my size, but robes are shapeless enough that it doesn't even matter.

Now properly robed, I take a minute in the corner to gather my courage, and then stride out into the cavern. In rather an anticlimax, not one of the robed figures even bothers to spare a second glance at me. As I walk, I try to keep my curious stares to a minimum, but the wonder of the cavern is (I fear) nearly enough to undo my disguise.

Finally, I reach the giant figure. He is nailed to the wall in a sort of sitting pose, bleeding from the nails in both hands and feet, with that strange expression in his face - a sort of combination of pain and serenity.

He opens his eyes.

You are new. Who are you, little one? his voice booms in my ears.