Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Mistakes We Make






Jyten stared at the bookshelf for a long time. Finally he pushed himself out of the hard chair and went to the shelf. He’d put if off long enough, but today these books were going to be alphabetized. He tugged off one musty, leather volume he hadn’t touched in who knew how many years and tucked it into the crook of his elbow. And so the alphabetizing went on as Jyten shifted books around, holding some in his arms for a moment while he moved others, working his way through the alphabet all the way to the second to last book.
           Then he stopped.
           It was a thin book, almost invisible next to the fat tomes surrounding it, covered not in stiff leather, but translucent, black fabric.
           “For your collection,” Morgan had said, handing it to him for the first time.
           “What is this supposed to be?” Jyten asked, taking the book.
           “A book, what else?”
           “Little…floppy.” Jyten shook it, watching the pages flap around.
           Morgan snatched it back, perturbed. “Well, don’t do that! If don’t want it, just say so.”
           “You made it,” Jyten said.
           The young man looked away with a frown. “It wasn’t being cooperative.”
           “You tried to...you did this with…really?” Jyten said, astonished. “Completely?”
           “Yes.”
           “You. You really are my greatest apprentice.”
           Morgan was silent. He glanced at the ground then straightened. “Sir, why don’t you ever talk about it?”
           “What do you mean?”
           “Witchcraft. It’s what we do. We’re witches. Why not just call it by its name?”
           Jyten tensed, then walked over to his small, rough table pushed against the wall of his small hut.  He leaned on the table and sighed. “Our kind has enough problems without asking for more.”
           “But…we’re safe here, aren’t we?”
           “Yes, but it isn’t a good habit. One slip up out there and you…you end up staked. I don’t want that for you. I didn’t agree to teach you just so you could die later from sheer stupidity.”
    “Master Jyten. I won’t be stupid,” Morgan protested.
    Jyten nodded at the table. “I know. But I also know facts. Witches don’t live long. I never take apprentices, you know. You are my first in a long time. Because it’s hard to train someone for so long and know that as soon as they leave, it’s only a matter of time before they join their ancestors.”
    “It’s not fair,” Morgan said, face hard as stone. “We shouldn’t have to live like this. In hiding, in fear. We’re more powerful than they are! We always have been. Why should we have to die by the thousands? What have we ever done to them?”
“It’s not fair, but it’s how it is, Morgan. It’s how it’s always been.”
“Because we let them! We let them hunt us. We could stop them!”
“For how long?” Jyten demanded, turning back toward the young man. “Yes, we could, conceivably, stop them. But then what? How long before they find another way to overpower us? And what good would it even do us? We’d still have to run, we’d still have move on every few weeks if we’re clever, every few days if we’re not. Morgan. We can’t change everything. Not everything is transmmutable. Life in particular.”
Morgan sighed angrily and set the thin black book down on the counter. “We can change how they think of us,” he said at last.
Jyten looked toward his apprentice cautiously curious. “We’ve been trying for hundreds of years, Morgan. It’s not going happen.”
“Well, if we can’t make them think better of us we can certainly give them a reason to think the way they do.”
“What do you mean?”
“Show them why they should fear a witch.”
“Morgan, no. We have a duty--”
“What do they care for our duty? We help them and they only kill us!”
“Morgan, we’re above that! We’re above their actions.”
“Yes, we are! We’re far above them, and they should learn that!”
Jyten slammed his hand down onto the table. “And make life that much worse for the rest of our kind? Morgan, you have good intentions, but it would never work. Things can’t change. Not while witchcraft exists in the world.”
“So this is our fault? Because we have a gift they don’t?”
“No,” Jyten placated. “But it makes the balance of power uneven. And while it’s uneven, things are not going to change. I’m sorry, Morgan. Believe me, I wish things could. More than anything.”
Morgan nodded slowly, looking at the bookshelf. “I suppose you’re right.”
“It’s easier this way.”
“Of course, Master Jyten,” Morgan said with an understanding smile. He picked up the book. “I’ll just take this back now.”
“No, I’d...I’d like to look at it, if I may,” Jyten said.
Morgan paused, then dipped his head and placed it on the bookshelf. “If you like.” Then he turned and exited the hut.
            Jyten shook the ghost conversation from his head and quickly reshelved the little book. So much had gone wrong and he’d done so little to stop it. Maybe Morgan had been right all along. Jyten leaned heavily against the bookshelf and closed his eyes. It was too late now. Morgan had done what he’d said he’d do. And the world had changed, just like Jyten had said it wouldn’t. Not for the better though. Nothing was for the better now. And never would be again.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Art en Route


[Another mini play and one that I'm very on the fence about. It was supposed to be two people in an elevator and something happens. I tried to think of something interesting to happen. This occurred. I wrote a bad poem and I think we call that art. ha ha. -E. Farris]


(Lights up on a stern middle-aged woman entering an elevator at the same time as a punkish looking teenage boy. They both choose their floor and the elevator starts moving. The teenager suddenly drops his backpack on the floor, unzipping it and quickly pulling out a bag of chalk. Then he proceeds to very quickly draw on the wall of the elevator.)
WOMAN
Excuse me, but what do exactly do you think you’re doing?
THOMAS
Hold it a sec, I’ve gotta get this.
WOMAN
You can’t draw on the elevator walls! Stop that this instance! Vandal!
THOMAS
Hold on, hold on, or it’s gonna escape.
WOMAN
Escape? What exactly is escaping? We’re in an elevator! Now put that chalk away!
THOMAS
Wait…(Finishes and steps back, looking at his drawing as if only now finding out what he drew) I don’t know. What do you think?
WOMAN
I think you should erase it immediately before you reach your floor.
THOMAS
I can’t.
WOMAN
And why now?
THOMAS
Well, it’s my muse. And if I erase it before I figure out what it is, then I lose it forever.
WOMAN
What are you talking about? That is vandalism! Out and out vandalism! (Moves to erase it)
THOMAS
(Stopping her) Wait a minute! But what do you think it is? What does it look like to you?
WOMAN
Look like to me? It looks like graffiti is what it looks like!
THOMAS
I was thinking at first that it was a ribbon of life woven into a blanket of grief, but I’m not so sure now.
WOMAN
Ribbon of…(actually looks at the chalk scribbles) I don’t really see that.
THOMAS
Like I said, I’m not so sure now. It looks more like a storm of hatred breaking loose upon a single sprout of kindness.
WOMAN
Is this supposed to be abstract?
THOMAS
Well, not really. It’s really just sort of…badly drawn. See, my muse has the horrible habit of jumping me in the dark and I have to just get it out some way, ‘cause it all comes in emotions and almost-images and I can’t put words to it until I sort of draw it, but I’m not an artist. Not that kind. I’m a poet. But I have the hardest time with words. I’m more of a visual kind of guy.
WOMAN
I see…(The elevator stops and the doors open. Without looking, the woman reaches over and hits the door closed button) It’s full. (The doors close again) How can you be a poet if you don’t know words?
THOMAS
Well…I don’t know. It’s just what I do. I have a gift for it I guess. But I can’t think of it in words. I have to see in images. And then I can find the words.
WOMAN
So what would this be?
THOMAS
I’m not sure. Maybe something like…(steps closer to the drawing, tracing his fingers over parts of it as he speaks, slowly and distantly as if describing a half-remembered dream) ‘Breathing shadows in the night/Clawing, hissing, spitting, driving,/the hatred rising, culminating./Stretched like wings of Fallen angels,/ green-black clouds spread like blight./Clawing winds and hissing lightning,/spitting rain and driving thunder./Hatred comes, hatred burns./On a hill, alone, unsheltered,/reaching for the light,/A tiny sprig of love’s great kindness/Is dancing in the sun./The storm is racing, dragging, tasting,/Roaring as it comes./Enveloping, devouring,/Screaming furies, hundreds strong,/Obscenities in counter-point./The sprig is battered, the sprig is beaten,/Flattened down and cruelly shaken./The storm has won, the hate is strong./But it cannot beat the dawn./It passes on, dispersed by light and gradually,/The sprig grows.’ (He steps back, rubbing chalk on his pants self-consciously) Or something like that.
WOMAN
That was…
THOMAS
Yeah, I know. It needs a lot of work. (Starts rubbing his arm over the chalk drawing)
WOMAN
(Alarmed) What are you doing?
THOMAS
Well, it’s in my head now, so I don’t need this and, like you said, it’s really vandalism.
WOMAN
But the drawing, the poem!
THOMAS
I’ve got them now. In my head.
WOMAN
But…
THOMAS
(The elevator stops again and the door opens. Thomas picks up his bag and steps out, but pauses and holds out a piece of chalk to her.) Here. For when your muse hits you. Just don’t let it get away. Or you grow up.
(Then he turns and exits as the doors close on the woman, holding the piece of chalk, and staring at the elevator wall that had once held a masterpiece. Fade to Black.)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Front Lines--The Order--Installment 10












An explosion rocked the ruined foundation of the building. Once it might have been a house, or perhaps a shop. Now it was only crumbling stonework and charred beams, half the roof blasted away and most of the north wall as well. The floor was coated in chunks of rubble, tattered bodies, and the agonized dying. The undertaker in his skull mask moved from body to body, with a piece of charcoal, drawing one symbol or another on their foreheads. He was sweating heavily, his shirt stained with blood and soot, his lips moving furiously with frenzied rites.
Zofi moved on the opposite side of the building, her eyes lined in black kohl, the two sickles meaning Death’s Apprentice drawn on her cheeks, as she tended to the dying soldiers. Most of them were weeping and moaning to various degrees, and a few were screaming. Zofi knelt beside one of the screaming Restri fighters, wiping at his sweating forehead. His stomach had been ripped open by a di Lancran scythe and his death was coming far too slowly. Zofi tried not to look at his glistening entrails, focusing on the blood. She was used to blood. She wasn’t used to seeing someone’s insides. The man kept screaming.
“Masuta have mercy,” Zofi prayed. Though the Kind-God had been silent for centuries, in times like war, people still prayed, hoping wildly, that maybe Masuta hadn’t abandoned them all to the gods of Chaos. Zofi had never been a strong believer in the gods, but being at the heart of a war had a way of changing that. Particularly in a war where the Immortals had been unleashed.
The man who had been disemboweled suddenly stopped screaming and Zofi felt his pulse. He was dead. She quickly drew a piece of charcoal from her pocket and drew a vertical line on his forehead.
“Death, welcome this soul, this hew returned to your care” she muttered quickly, then drew a curve over the line. “Let him not wander.” A horizontal line under it all. “Let him not return.” A dot over the curve. “In blood, in form, in voice, farewell. In summer, spring, and fall, farewell. The door is closed, the way is shut, your life is done.” She dragged a squiggle through the symbol and leaned back on her heels, sagging exhaustedly.
It was a quick rite, hardly a proper one, and not a lasting one, but on a battlefield it was the most that could be done. At dawn, they would burn all the corpses together and her father would do a proper rite. Still, despite the shortness of her rite, Zofi was already drained. Undertaking was more than drawing symbols and speaking words. It was imposing enough force of will, force of life, to literally slam the Door in the hew's face, locking them in the afterlife where the dead belonged. It took effort and it drained an undertaker’s life, shortening it, sometimes by a decade, sometimes more, rarely less.
Zofi glanced at her father, working tirelessly to keep the dead down. A soldier stumbled into the ruined building dragging a large sling over one shoulder, two corpses inside. Without a word, the undertaker sprang forward and helped the fighter pull the bodies free of the sling, offering the soldier a drink of water while he briefly examined the cadavers, deciding what rite to use. Sometimes how a man died dictated how he was to be kept dead. The regular rites did not always do. By the time the soldier had finished his drinking, Zofi’s father had begun the rites on the first soldier.
Zofi couldn’t understand how he didn’t collapse. The sheer numbers of dead he had tended, and without rest…it would kill him if he was not given a break. But they couldn’t afford a rest. In war, the dead were dealt with first. It was too easy for a wight to rise up on a place like a battlefield, or worse, a wraith. The half-spirits saw all living as an enemy and could decimate an army in a single night. Normally at least, there would be other undertakers, particularly on the front lines, but Zofi’s father had been summoned precisely because there were no more. They had all been killed. Either by the enemy or from draining themselves, Zofi didn’t know, but she didn’t want her father to follow their example.
Another man near her died, and Zofi quickly turned and began the rites.
“Death, welcome this soul.” And Masuta have mercy. On us all.