Monday, July 21, 2014

Special--The Order--When the Eye Collapses



[In preparation for August, I present The Order: Special. It's an installment in between parts. So enjoy while waiting for the first Monday of August when The Order returns!]













Fingers wrapped around Mangler’s neck from behind and squeezed. He straightened a little, surprised, then relaxed.
“Hello, Morbid.”
He heard a warm chuckle as the practiced massage continued. “You’re awfully tense for a god,” she said lightly.
“We are not gods,” he replied sternly.
“Not this time. But maybe the next century we’ll do it again. It’ll be fun. We can trade names and swap the heads on the statues when the master’s not looking. Give Murderous a donkey’s head, oh but he’s already got one, doesn’t he.”
Mangler chuffed softly with mild amusement. “Tempting, but I’ll pass. What I do remember of godhood was nothing to be repeated.”
“You don’t remember that part?”
“It was a long time ago.”
“People don’t forget enjoyable experiences.”
“Gods do.”
Morbid laughed. “Now you’re a god again?”
Mangler scowled. “No. I just…it’s not important.”
He could feel the piece of the Crest in his pocket, one of the sharp corners digging at his thigh. Masuta had still not realized Mangler had lied. The Key was still not found. The war was still waging—worse than before—and it had been a month. Mangler didn’t know what he was waiting for, but something was ready to give way. He just didn’t know what.
Morbid tipped a bottle against his lips and Mangler flinched as the liquid hit him, then he parted his lips and let the wine slide down his throat.
“Wine’s a depressant, you know,” Morbid said, maneuvering to sit beside him, the wine bottle cupped in her hands while she studied the contents blandly.
She was undeniably a beautiful woman, though a sharp-edged one. Her eyes were slanted upwards and dark, her eyebrows thin as a knife point and just as sharply angled. She had skin like bloodstained earth, a description she was rather proud of, and jutting cheekbones. Her dark hair had been shaved off except for a narrow, flat-topped swath that ran from her hairline all the way to the nape of her neck where it turned into a long, fat braid that she often wore around her throat like a noose. These days she wore anything that bared her collarbones, usually decorated in small animal bones. The skulls were her favorite.
“So it is and I thank you,” Mangler said.
“You’re boring,” she said.
“I wasn’t a hundred years ago.”
Her eyes gleamed at that and all at once she straddled his lap and leaned in lips first. She diverted to his cheek at the last moment and laughed at his expression.
“Maybe next century we’ll do it again,” she teased. “Or when you get a new face. I think I’m tired of this one. It holds all the features of a brother and none of anyone more interesting.”
He pushed her off of him. “Whatever you like.”
“How bland,” she remarked. When he didn’t respond, she nudged him with her elbow. “You’re being droll again, Mangler. What could possibly be on your mind to make you so droll?”
“How did he manage it?”
“Murderous be so stupid? Masuta knows.”
“Deathly lose the Key.”
Morbid stiffened and reevaluated Mangler’s mood, then she shrugged. “The human was lucky. He did something…devious, no doubt.”
“Have you never wondered why the keeping of the Key was left to Deathly and not Masuta?”
Morbid’s eyebrows rose and she gave a small headshake, jerking her shoulders again. “I thought it was simply because Deathly never goes out.”
“I don’t know why it is,” Mangler said. “But with what I do know, it doesn’t make much sense. And even if it did, I find it hard to believe that a human could have stolen it from him. Deathly is…a formidable force. I would hard-pressed to take him down if it came to it.”
Morbid lounged against him, airily suggesting, “Perhaps she’s plotting against Masuta and she plans to kill us all.” For all they knew, Deathly didn’t have a gender; they all chose different pronouns for the Immortal and didn't blink at them. Then Morbid added in a deep, dramatic voice, “She plans to kill us all forever.”
Mangler couldn’t help but laugh at the idea of Death betraying Masuta. “Not likely.”
“You do remember laughing,” Morbid said. “I knew you couldn’t completely forget, you grim thing.”
Mangler’s expression soured. Morbid threw her head back and laughed.
“Keep that up and people will start thinking you hate living,” she told him.
“Maybe I do, but I’m cursed to continue living anyway.”
A new voice interjected. “Not for much longer.”
They turned to see Murderous leaning against the doorframe, spinning his gun on one finger. He smirked, glancing at Mangler, then tsked.
“What have you done now, Mangler, ole man? I’ve just been granted permission to kill you.”
Mangler stood in a rush. Masuta knew. He knew about the Crest. Murderous cocked the gun, but didn’t point it at Mangler.
“Shall we make it interesting?” the deranged youth asked.
Morbid laughed. “With you in the fight?”
Mangler though, was stern, his attention fixed on his opponent. “If you come after  me, I won’t hold back.”
“I’m counting on it,” Murderous replied, then pointed not his gun, but his finger gun at Mangler. “Bang.”
Mangler jerked out of the way and fled. The wall that had been just behind him was cracked and bleeding black blood. Murderous holstered his gun and took up the chase, cackling gleefully.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

an announcement

Guess what's returning! Oh yeah. The Order is back! Part Two begins with regular updates in August because I left my notes for it in the wrong state. Why August? Because The Order is episodic and seasonal, much like TV series, so August and not because I don't have my notes with me and don't want to ruin continuity...

Get excited.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Sleeping Man (exerpt)

[This one you might think you've seen before, but I assure you, not really. A two part excerpt of one of my short stories.] [Edit. It's just this. This is all you get.]

Phillipa rose up on her toes, trying to get a good look inside the crib. She was thwarted by her height and thus proceeded to try to climb the crib. This was impeded by the stiff, black dress her mother had insisted she wear; it entangled her feet every time she had a good foothold. She lost her grip and fell on her bum, hair finally outwitting its pins and flopping over her face. The nurse noticed and took pity.
“Do you want to see your new cousin?” the nurse asked, picking her up.
Phillipa brightened and waved at the pink baby, his head haloed in gold wisps and his unblinking eyes blue. “Hello, Rory!”
“Ror--Roriman. And you should really use his title, my lady,” the nurse said.
Phillipa looked up, puzzled. “Cousin?”
“No. The other one.”
“Oh,” Phillipa said with a pout. “Mother said I don’t need to use Auntie and Uncle’s titles, so I don’t think I need to use Cousin Rory’s. It’s too big for him anyway.” She wriggled then and dropped loose from the nurse’s hold to clamber into the crib.
“My lady!” the nurse protested.
“He has big ears,” Phillipa said, sitting down next to her cousin and very gently touching one of the ears in question. They were rather large, but maybe that was because they stuck out quite a bit. The baby started to cry and Phillipa laid down, lightly draping one arm over him. “It’s alright, Rory. I’ll watch out for you.”
A soft thump followed by a green light caught her attention and she sat up. The nurse was gone, but then moments later an unfamiliar face stepped into view. It was a man with onyx hair swept sharply back and a narrow face whose angular features looked more akin to a cliff face than a human one. His chin was adorned with a pointed, black beard and he wore a purple suit embossed with dragons. Phillipa stood up, moving between him and her cousin, though only curiosity staked her face. He smiled at her.
“Aren’t you a little old to be in there?” he asked.
“I’m watching over Rory.”
“Rory? Ah, the young Roriman.” The man studied the baby thoughtfully. “How like his mother.” His gaze shifted to Phillipa. “And you must be Phillipa.”
She sighed and crossed her arms. Adults always knew who she was and she never knew them. It was annoying. “Yes.”
“Shouldn’t you be at the funeral?”
    Phillipa shrugged. “It was boring. They sent me with Nurse.”
    “Do you not know the deceased?”
    “The what?”
    “The one who passed away.”
    “Oh. She’s my aunt. She left, I guess. But I think they’re lying because first they said she fell asleep and then they said she left but you can’t leave if you’re sleeping.”
“Do you miss her?”
    Phillipa shrugged. “I don’t know. My mother does. She cries a lot now.  Where is Nurse?”
    The man glanced at the floor. “Sleeping.”
    Phillipa leaned over the edge of the crib to see the woman was indeed sleeping on the floor. “She didn’t even yawn. Who are you?”
    “I’m called Mallin,” he said, reaching past Phillipa to pick up Rory.
    “Hey!”
    “It’s quite alright,” he assured her gently. “I’m fulfilling a promise I made, well, beginning to at any rate.”
    “How d’you mean?”
    The man adjusted his hold on the baby, freeing one hand. Green light blossomed from it. “I’m giving him a gift. For when he takes his father’s place. As promised.”
Unease climbed quietly down Phillipa’s spine as the man touched a glowing finger to Rory’s forehead. The light grew then abruptly zipped into her cousin.
“Give me back Rory,” she demanded suddenly. “I don’t like you.”
“Manners, Phillipa,” the man said absently. “It seems as if the Sidhe have been here. Your uncle may be pleased to know it, though unlikely. They even blessed dear little Roriman.”
“Blessed how?”
“Enough to cancel out his unlucky beginning.”
Phillipa eyed the man, trying to figure out how to get Rory from the man without hurting the baby. “What did you do? Did you bless him too?” she asked, hoping to distract him.
The man laughed. “Do you think me to be Sidhe?”
“No, you’re a he.”
He laughed again. “Oh, you are delightful.” He leaned close, cupping his free hand under her chin. “Now listen carefully, Phillipa. The Sidhe blessed Roriman. But your uncle has cursed him. Understand?”
“Yes,” she said, jerking back from him.
“Good girl,” he said, then handed the baby back to her. “Take good care of him.”
She held her cousin closely, jutting her chin out challengingly. The man smiled, then smoothed her shaggy bangs from her face.
“Why don’t you sleep a while?”
Phillipa shook her head, twin braids swishing through the air, then suddenly her eyes lolled back and she slumped down in the crib. The man watched her a moment, a faint smile on his thin lips. He made sure she was supporting the baby’s head, then disappeared.
    When their frantic parents found the children hours later, both were still asleep, Phillipa cradling her cousin securely. When Phillipa was questioned, she didn’t remember the man at all.
#
    Metal clattered together and slithered apart, breaking through the city murmur as the two young people sparred in the square, weaving in and out of cityfolk without missing a stride. The black-haired man backed his sparring partner toward the fountain with a vivid grin.
    “Come on, Phil! Put some effort into it,” he goaded.
    Phillipa leapt up onto the fountain edge and paused, one hand on her hip, regarding her opponent with an amused air. She tossed her head, flicking the shaggy arrow of hair from her face.
    “You’re just asking to be thrown in this fountain,” she said.
    The dark-haired man snorted. “Alright. Give it a go then, if you think you’re hard enough.”
    “Oh, Crispin. I hope you’re prepared for a swim.”
She sprang toward him, sword extended. Crispin jumped back, barely bringing his own weapon up in defense. She lunged and struck with focused speed, dancing over carts and benches all around the square, her sandy braid tracing her movements as Crispin struggled to keep up. But then her boot caught an uneven paving stone and stumbled. Crispin took the advantage, stabbing toward her. She sidestepped, swinging her weapon down to deflect. His skittered along her blade and tore open the side of her pants.
Phillipa gasped angrily, then pivoted on the ball of her foot and ran flat-out for the fountain. Crispin pursued. Reaching the edge, Phillipa stepped up onto the ledge, then jumped to the first tier of the fountain, climbing to the top. Crispin stopped at the edge, staring at her open-mouthed. She snapped a look over her shoulder at him and he quickly started back tracking when he saw the look in her eye.
That’s when she pounced. He spun and fled as she flipped in midair, landing in a roll and popping up immediately behind him. Then all it took was a grab of his wrist and she’d spun him around and sent him flying into the fountain.
He came up sputtering, shaking water from his hair. “You’re the devil.”
    Phillipa just laughed, sheathed her sword, and sat down on the fountain’s lip, pulling a tiny sewing pouch from her pocket and deftly threading the needle with undyed thread. Crispin flicked his wet hair back and blinked.
    “What are you doing?”
    “Mending,” she said, resting her calf on her knee and finding the rip. She paused briefly to flip her bangs out of her face, holding them back with a single pin procured from her vest pocket.
    He clambered out of the fountain, stripping off the extra layers to wring them dry. “But why?” Crispin asked. “That’s something girls do.”
    Phillipa glanced up, one thin eyebrow raised. “Crispin, my friend, I love you, but you’re stupid. I am a girl.”
    “I mean, you’re acting like one!”
    Phillipa stuck a hand on her hip. “So? Look, I like sewing because it’s relaxing. I like swordfighting because it’s exciting. I like horse racing because it’s challenging. And I like dancing because it’s fun and romantic. I don’t harp on you because you like to bake. In fact, that’s my favorite part about you. You make excellent cakes and I get to eat them all.”
    They both laughed and Phillipa turned back to her tear.
    “Doesn’t your family bug you about it? The swords and things, I mean. Rich folk tend to be snobby on the whole ‘what a lady should do’ business.”
    Phillipa shrugged. “They don’t mind much any more so long as I brush my hair for important events. In fact, I think they almost like it. They like to call me ‘well-rounded,’ which is more than can be said for my cousin.”
    “I rather pity your cousin.”
    “Oh? Why?”
    Crispin flashed his sword through the air. “From what you say, you’d take him out in a matter of seconds.”
    “With what?” she asked, tying off the thread.
    “Probably your mind.”
    Phillipa poked Crispin with the needle and he flinched, rubbing his arm indignantly. “He’s not that awful,” she said. “He’s just...uppity, you know? It’s not really his fault; my uncle instilled the idea in his head that he’s better than everyone. Has to be better. I mean, we used to get along just fine. He was more like a little brother than a cousin.”
“But then the infamous fight,” Crispin said, shucking water off his body.
She sighed. “Then the infamous fight.”
“Hey, he really is a gitt. I mean, from you say.”
“I said it and I meant it. He was a big, fat git and I’m not sorry we don’t talk anymore. If he wants to be friends again then he can stuff it and apologize. He started it in the first place, so he can fix it first.” She put the sewing kit away a little forcefully. “So then, unless you want your bum thrashed again, I should head home.”
    “I’d love to prove you wrong--”
Crispin was cut off by bells suddenly clamoring through the air. The young people froze as the city bells clanged rhythmlessly for a solid minute, before falling into silence. Both were pale. The bells never rang like that except to signal some disaster. The last time Phillipa had heard them had been when her aunt had died.
“He’s dying then,” Crispin murmured.
    Phillipa’s head snapped toward him. “Who is?”
    “The prince. Where have you been?”
    “Mostly in the woods dancing with strangers and avoiding my family. Hang on, prince? There was a coronation ceremony last week.”
    “It never happened. Day of, the prince got seriously sick and he’s been getting worse to the point where he won’t even wake up anymore from what I hear.” Crispin gestured toward the bells. “I guess he just took another bad turn.”
    Phillipa gaped, her mouth dry. “You’re joking.”
    “I wouldn’t joke about something like this.”
    She ran her hands through her hair, eyes fixed on the palace, then she jumped to her feet, bangs flopping in her face. “I’ve got to go.”
    “Don’t you want to find out what the bells meant?” Crispin asked.
    “I’ll catch up with you,” she promised.
    He watched her worriedly, then nodded and joined the growing crowd pushing toward the palace. Phillipa crossed her arms tightly, then turned away from the crowd. She had the same destination, but she knew a better way to get there.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ninth

When I rose from the dead I was in a pile of corpses. Friends, they had been, comrades, people with whom I rallied against a tyrant in righteous rebellion. But that was another life.

I had not yet decided what to do with this one. So many choices lay before me, but I resolved to choose wisely, to think it through carefully. It was, after all, my last. An old soul though I was, when this life ended, I would pass on like the ones that had previously occupied the bloated husks around me.

It was strange to have reached my final life. I had lived so long, through so many years, and yet I felt young. Of course that was just the new life talking. I was older than every building in this valley, than all the trees and fields. I was there when it had first become a sanctuary for fleeing refugees hundreds of years ago. I'd led them there. I had a soft spot for the valley. It was where I was born.

I left the bodies behind, not feeling vindicated enough to take up the cause my eighth life had followed. That path was well spent. In many regards, that life had failed. After all, the tyrant still raged and the valley suffered in blood. But that life had died for liberty, had died for my friends, had forged friendships stronger than any I'd ever had, and had for once, truly belonged to a purpose, to a people, and to a place. It was not a life wasted by any means.

Nor had my seventh life been wasted. That life had witnessed the century revolving, shedding its skin and becoming new. I had not taken part in that turning; I had been a spectator, but such a sight it was that watching was far better than participating. It was something that may never happen again, a once in a lifetime event, even for me. I watched glorious towers spiral straight to the heavens, crystal cities with silver bridges. That life saw wonders, true wonders. Rain flowing up. Waters that made you fly. Great creatures that seemed to be made of ribbon and soared on the wind with the ease of kites, but with nothing to tie them down. That life saw music create physical objects and words become the mover of science. That life saw nations powered by song and an unimaginable peace throughout the entire world last for decades. That life saw wonders.

And my sixth life lived them. I remember then, a different world, cruder, wilder, but still beautiful. People were still tentatively feeling along the edges of the world, waiting for it to collapse, but I was fearless. That life left no part of the world uncharted, untouched, undiscovered. I explored ruins and caverns and temples. I met people that had never been met. I spoke languages unspoken since the dawn of time. I savored antediluvian riddles and when they were solved, swallowed them. I carved books into glaciers. I revealed secrets to sand dunes and let them bury them again. I danced with the moonlight through the rainforests and when I left them, I wept until I became a new ocean. I chased the rains to their homeland and raced the rivers down the mountains. I learned the name of the wind and it learned mine. It was a life that lived.

It was only appropriate that it was so tempestuous when my fifth life was so calm. Exciting, yes, but altogether placid, sedentary. That life learned. Learned, yes, but that word is too flavorless to describe my life then. I devoured all the information I could find. I tasted sour, sweet, irate, bitter, stricken, even fearsome knowledge and none of it I turned away. Anything I could find, I ate. I tested my palate against what could be learned and expanded it. I studied in every university under every teacher in every subject. I delved up hidden scholarship and created new erudition. I feasted for an entire lifetime on all the knowledge this world had to offer and when it ended, I was satisfied, but I was not full.

My fourth life, well, was reckless, angry even. Now I can recognize it as grief. And so I raged. For a lifetime, I raged. I fought in any war I could find, even started some. I lived unafraid of dying for I had many more lives to live and felt that I could fill them all with my wrath. It was not a wrong life, but perhaps misled. I misled myself. It is why I studied so long, learned so much later, so that I would not mislead myself again. I did though, in between my bouts of bereavement and abhorrence, have a measure of goodness that, to me, makes the whole life worthy. I returned to my birthplace in that life. I saved the refugees of a war I created and gave them a home. A home I recently died for. It does not excuse my actions, but it perhaps offers some remuneration.

I did not have a third life. You cannot call it a life if all you did not live.

I think though that it is my second life I loved the best. In all my lives, I've never dared repeat it because I know it will never be the same. And I have waited six lifetimes to find that deep contentment again. She was a new soul, so innocent, but I was new too then. I don't know what she thought was so interesting about me. My first life had been nothing but wide-eyed wonder and a false sense of jadedness bought with "experience," and my second was already following its steps. But she liked to laugh and to smile and sing ditties. Even the most mundane thing could be brightened under her smile. She had eyes as soft as her soul. They were virescent, like summer leaves in the sun and they scintillated with galaxies when she was happy. She was often happy. She said it was because I made her happy. As if I could give her even a pinch of the happiness she gave me.

We had two children who were golden eyed and bright minded and beautiful as the first dawn of the earth. We adopted a third with violet eyes and gilded hair and a nature as kind as her mother's. I called them my little kittens and they laughed. We would all dance together, my golden kittens and I, my sun-flecked wife and I, all of us together as a family. Their favorite game was cat's cradle and I found it endlessly amusing that they loved it so. I never tired of mesmerizing them with the intricate weaving of the string through my fingers. And I never tired of hearing the stories they would concoct for me, no matter how wild and preposterous they became.

In the summer, we would all sprawl together in the shade or a bed and sleep the hot afternoons away. When our kittens grew restless with sleeping, my lovely would invent clever songs for them. Sometimes I would tell them to play pretend and see who could best pretend to be a cat. The littlest always won, but she would be sleeping too deep to know she had.

I loved my golden family. I loved them more than I have loved anything before or since. I loved everything about them. Even how they irked me. And when we lost our middle child to an accident, I did not regret this life. And when our kittens gave us grand-children and great-grandchildren, I did not regret this life. I did not regret it as my lovely forgot me in her old age. I did not regret it when she left me for the afterlife, not even remembering my name. I did not regret it as they all left me one after another as I went through life after life without them. I did not regret it. I do not regret it at all. I know where they are. I know where they are waiting for me when my lives have past. They have not forgotten me and I will hold my kittens again and I will dance with my lovely again and we will sprawl together in the shade and pass the lazy afternoons. I will not be so deeply alone again.

It seems to me that I have only one proper path to take with my final life. After all, everyone grows old, even my ancient soul. And it seems only right that I leave where I entered. But not until I've rested a little. This tyrant will not be so cruel once he has thought a little. And peace is not as delicate as people believe. It is time, I think, for a life lived for everyone else. I have reaped the world's pleasures; now I should return some pleasure to it. Like the old cat who sits on a wall in the sun, handing out purrs and rubs to any who need it.

Yes. That will be a good last life.

Friday, July 11, 2014

wink wink

Oh dear, it's been awhile since I've posted. Well there's a reason for that. Namely, I've been working on something I think you'll all be pleased to see returned. I won't say anything more now, but just keep an eye out.

More to come in the future!



Monday, July 7, 2014

Bother (scene 1)

[The first scene from my full-length play Bother.]



(A police interrogation room. MINA LUCARD sits at the table, her hands resting on top of it. LUCY sits across from her, trying to catch her eye, but MINA won't let her.)

LUCY
Mina. Tell them what happened. Please. Promise me you will.

(MINA looks at her for a moment, but does not speak. The door to the interrogation room opens and DETECTIVE JON HARK, a city detective, enters, extremely uncomfortable and with an over-professionalism that comes in bursts. He does not notice LUCY or pay any attention to her in the slightest. It is as if she is not there.)

JON
Mrs. Lucard.

MINA
Ms.

JON
Sorry?

MINA
Ms.

JON
Mina—

MINA
Ms.

JON
Okay. Ms. Lucard. You understand why you're here?

MINA
I don't want to waste your time, Jon.

JON
Good. Thank you. Then let's—

MINA
I am not going to talk about Benny.

JON
That's the opposite of not wasting my time.

LUCY
No! Mina, don't do that!

MINA
You should probably go work on whatever your case is.

JON
This is my case!

MINA
What happened to the suicide-homicide? Actually close it? Or just give up on it?

JON
This is my case now, Mina. And I am interrogating a—

MINA
Friend. No, I guess you aren't though. We're acquaintances you and I. I thought that civil servants weren't supposed to work on cases they had personal stakes in.

JON
I don't think that you had anything to do with it.

MINA
That's not the same thing.

JON
I'm trying to help you, Mina.

MINA
You don't need to. I don't need help anymore. It's over.

JON
Look, I understand this must be hard for you. It's hard for me too. I mean, just last night we were playing cards and now...I just want to know what happened to him.

MINA
I have nothing to say about Benny.

LUCY
Oh yes, you do. Don't you dare do this.

JON
This is serious, Mina!

MINA
Anything that happened between myself and Benny is our business and none of yours.

JON
Do you not understand why you’re here?

MINA
I do.

JON
We think—The evidence, Mina, is overwhelmingly against you. Now I know you. I know you would never hurt anyone, especially not Benny. You have to talk to me because I can't prove what I know. Without your help.

MINA
I will not talk about Benny.

JON
I can’t tell if you’re stubborn or stupid.

MINA
If you ask me about Benny, you're going to get answers you won't like. So don't ask.

JON
It is my duty to find out what happened, so that a killer won't walk free.

MINA
(Scathing) And you have such a talent for that.

JON
That was once.

MINA
Thank you. I’m glad to know I was special.

JON
Please let me help you.

MINA
I have the right to remain silent.

JON
Yes. You do. But listen to me Mina.

LUCY
She won't even listen to me.

MINA
(Quietly, to LUCY) Stop it.

LUCY
I need you to do this.

MINA
Stop.

JON
I know this is hard for you.

MINA
Not so hard.

JON
At least tell us about what happened the last time you saw him.

MINA
Detective Hark, I have nothing to say in regards to Benny Lucard. Should that change, you'll be the first to know.

JON
Do you want to go to prison?

MINA
I don't care, Jon. (Laughs) I just don't care now. I don't have to anymore.

(LUCY is gone. Lights.)