Tuesday, August 26, 2014

do I stand corrected? A review of that book. You know the one.

I meant to write this a few weeks ago when I finished the book, but I've been busy. I promised that I would reserve judgement on The Map of Time until completion. It is now completed so I feel free to judge.

I do not stand corrected.

This is a great book. Or at least if you read it as if it's a Victorian novel with a propensity for backstory and long inner monologues, which, it turns out, is how it's supposed to be read, a little note from the narrator/author that was injected into the last chapter and would have been exceedingly more useful at the beginning. As it was, of the nearly 600 page novel, I found only the last 200 pages necessary. Don't get me wrong, the other four hundred were part of setting up the good 200, but I could have trimmed those down to 25 pages each  and still gotten everything necessary across. But, again, the book, though modern, is not written as contemporary fiction. It's written as if it is in fact Victorian. I won't talk about the vastly unsatisfying ending that literally undid the most exciting part of the novel. Nor will I go into the awkward sex letter. (Don't ask.) I will say that it had interesting views of time travel that were all new and different. I have not heard of time travel considered in the way Felix Palma did. (He's the author). And H.G. Wells is, despite telling us to the contrary, the main character. No really, he is. He is not a Nick from Great Gatsby. He's the protagonist trying to be a side character.

One part of the book that I got a kick from was H.G. Wells giving a very harsh and unflattering review of a manuscript to another character, a description that, through a cruel twist of irony, perfectly described the book I was reading and that the characters inhabited. Like, to a T.

Overall, it's a decent book if you like that sort of thing (by that sort of thing, I mean more backstory then present action. Seriously. I did not need to know H.G.'s mother tried to make him a draper. Or the three chapter long backstory that ended up being a fake backstory. Like dude. Why?) But I think that the book is, yes, haha, in the wrong time. I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it as a general rule, but only a 10 hour car ride with nothing else to do and my own stubbornness enlisted me to finish it. Was the end worth the beginning and middle? For the most part, yes. Was the opening chapter brilliant? Yes. Was the narrator entertaining because he kept interjecting in his own book? Yes. Was the narrator awkwardly hovering outside the door of a sex scene hilarious? Yes. Would I re-read it? No. But I will keep it. And in many, many years, I'll read the sequel.

So there lays my judgement.

Now, feed the blog fish! Name the blog fish! Those two little guys still need names! I can't call it Mr. Tangerine and the Blue One forever, you know.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Chaotic One--The Order--Part 2 Installment 4

[Betcha thought I'd forgotten. ;) No such luck. Here's your soundtrack, if desired. Otherwise, read on!
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The woods lightened as Zofi and Alfons travelled, the trees along the road thinning out, but not disappearing completely. They’d tracked off the road once or twice in the past few days, but never caught sight of their watcher. Perhaps they’d lost the tracker, or he’d never been there at all. Alfons was glad to be back on the road and gladder that the trees were breaking up. He’d missed the sunshine under the heavy foliage, and the paranoia of being watched had been tiring. As they rounded a curve, he saw the shrine, still a ways ahead. Alfons shuddered as he pointed it out. Zofi glanced at him, an eyebrow raised.
“You don’t like shrines?”
“They creep me out. I don’t like the statues. I don’t like the eyes.”
“You didn’t mind the one in Nocri.”
Alfons paused. She shouldn’t have known he’d seen the one in Nocri. She didn’t remember going into Nocri.
“Well, it was the Kind-God for one, and for two, there wasn’t much left of it when we got there.”
“The Kind-God was a farce. It was Dea—” Zofi stopped herself, then slowly shook her head. For a moment Alfons thought she was aware of her discrepancies, but then she spoke, and it was if it had never happened. “I want to stop at this one.”
“Why?”
“To pay my respects to Death. I am an undertaker and we are in a war, after all. It’s polite and it’s generally a good idea.”
“It might be a solo shrine that isn’t Death.”
She shrugged. “Then we’ll move on.”
“Don’t care much for the other gods?” Alfons asked.
Zofi dragged her auburn hair from her face. “I’d say you didn’t either.” She fixed a sharp eye on him. “Do you?”
Alfons cleared his throat uncomfortably and walked faster.
As they neared the shrine, they realized quickly that something was very wrong with it. Like most roadside shrines, it was small, a stone table with a foot-high statue, a basin, and a sharp, raised edge. This one was more derelict than most, the stone cracking, weeds high around its base.
Most shrines were for the pantheon of gods and thus included all their statues, the Kind-God’s stark white in the middle of the black. Some were solo shrines, paying homage to only the Kind-God or Death. The other gods of chaos never had single dedication shrines. It was considered a bad idea. The only reason Death might have a shrine only dedicated to him was because he was in many respects a god of order more than of chaos. Death was a natural state, as much as the life that the Kind-God gave. The two maintained balance between them. The others bounced on that balance with every intention to tip it.
This was a shrine with only one dedication, but it was not meant for the Kind-God or Death. The black statue standing behind the basin grinned broadly, arms raised above its head as if to call down fire and lightning.
“Who would ever want to make a shrine to the Murderous One?” Alfons whispered with obvious horror. “That’s…that’s insane! No one in their right mind would singly worship the Chaotic One. He, he kills cities on a whim, annihilates entire family lines because one member annoyed him, or even pleased him. All he wants is carnage and blood. He is the most chaotic of them all.”
“Careful, Al,” Zofi said.
He blanched and quickly licked two fingers and touched them to the feet of the statue in a gesture of kowtow meant to ward off the wrath of the gods. Zofi hesitated, then did the same. Her fingers left the shrine slower than Alfons’, her attention diverted by the basin.
“Al.”
“What’s wrong?”
“There’s blood in the bowl, but…the edge is clean.”
Blood was how one gained a god’s attention. A little at a consecrated place was respect. Most travelers who passed a shrine would leave a drop or two, asking for blessing, or sometimes to be left alone. The well-cared for shrines would keep the sharp edge of the shrine clean between visits. It wasn’t unusual to see blood in a basin, even at the most desolate and forgotten of shrines. What was strange was to see a clearly abandoned shrine with a bloodied bowl and a clean edge.
            When Alfons didn’t respond, Zofi looked up. He smiled grimly at her, his skin pale and sweating, a person in a red hood pricking his throat with a knife. The red hood wasn’t alone. Dozens of similarly dressed people were stepping from the trees, surrounding the shrine. Zofi braced herself for a fight she’d probably fail, given that her expertise lay with dead people.
            “Who are all of you?” she demanded, hoping to bluster herself and Alfons out of this.
            One of the hoods stepped forward, a woman. She touched her lips to her fingers and then smiled, pushing the hood back.
            “Welcome, worthy sacrifices. We are the priests of the Murderous One.”
            Zofi chuckled weakly, and then a pair of hoods grabbed her from behind. So much for bluster.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Death's Left Hand--The Order--Part 2 Installment 3

[This installment's soundtrack:



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Morbid grimaced from the shadows as the half-wrapped corpse was laid before the obsolete priests of the mostly ignored temple. Not because it was a corpse, or because the corpse was Murderous, but because the corpse was Murderous and had been returned to the temple. She’d hoped Mangler would kill him, as he evidently had, but she’d hoped it would be in some desolate area so Murderous’ body would never be found. And if Mangler was the renegade he apparently was, the master could hardly complain he’d lost an asset. The priest performed a few rites, not unlike undertaking rituals, and then, as their tradition, left the unidentified body at the feet of Death for three days. It was a symbolic gesture that only applied to the unidentified and had been subtly instilled in the temple priests across the continent centuries ago so that bodies of lost Immortals could be recovered quicker. If “Death” hadn’t claimed the body in three days, then the priests dealt with it one way or another.
Morbid, didn’t wait that long.
Once the temple was empty, she sashayed toward the body, flung it easily over her shoulder and dropped it out back in the she had a cart waiting. Undertakers, she knew, had secret little loopholes that could enable them to shorten distances. An illegal practice among undertakers, technically, but one she’d learned was commonly used. Unfortunately, as powerful as Morbid was, as powerful as she had always been, she still had to travel the long slow way like everyone else. It was demeaning. Particularly given that most of the Immortals had some trick they kept to themselves that let them move about at least marginally faster than humanity.
So it was, slow and steady and irritated, that Morbid returned to the temple the gods still inhabited, albeit incognito. Unconcerned about stairs or tight corners, Morbid dragged Murderous’ body through the columned halls up to Deathly’s observatory-lab. Morbid wrenched the cadaver onto Deathly’s table and flung aside the loose wrapping around the body.
“Brought you a rat to dissect,” she announced.
Deathly eyed Murderous and heaved a raspy sigh. “Looks like this one was dissected already,” he said, prodding at the wrenched open ribs, curled outward, the flesh blasted away from the force of the protrusion. “Where are the lungs?”
Morbid shrugged a sleek shoulder.
“Heart?”
Another shrug.
“Most of the innards?”
“I guess Mangler blasted them out with the ribs,” Morbid finally suggested.
Deathly shook his beaked head. “I suppose I am not surprised. Mangler always held back. Now he has no need to. The carnage is expected to be particularly…”
“Gruesome?” Morbid suggested with a blithe smile.
“I was going to say morbid.”
Morbid’s smile grew, then curled in disgust, looking back at the body. “I don’t suppose we can just…keep this thing dead?”
“Masuta would not be pleased.”
“Just say it’s impossible,” Morbid joked.
“No such thing for me.”
Morbid laughed, a soft, beautiful sound at odds with her sharp beautiful body, a laugh like a spring rainfall. Deathly raised his head as if surprised to hear it. Morbid saw the movement and raised a sharp eyebrow.
“You have very expressive head tilts, Deathly, but seven hundred years and I still don’t read lens glint. You’ll have to elaborate.”
“It is nothing,” Deathly rasped. “A mere observation. You have not laughed in nearly a century. Only sardonic snorts. I have always found your laugh delightful.”
Morbid’s eyes gleamed and she leaned across the corpse. “Deathly,” she said in an entranced whisper. “Are you flirting with me? I’ll have you know I consider you a female, but don’t let that stop you.”
“Amusing,” Deathly said with a particular head tilt that generally expressed a dry smile. Though for all they knew, perhaps that head tilt was meant to signify a flat face. Deathly’s mask was never helpful. “I trust it is then merely a coincidence that the laughter returned after you rekindled lesser hate with Mangler?”
Morbid could only laugh again. Then Deathly’s attention dipped back to the cadaver, his head listing back and forth in contemplation.
“The body was alone?”
“Yes.”
Deathly absently touched the darkened glass lenses set into his mask. “I wonder then if Mangler did not only kill the idiot, but also survived.”
“What other outcome is there? That they killed each other?”
“It is possible. Recently, Mangler has been…adrift. His bodily chemicals have been askew. I could not speculate why.”
“Probably has something to do with why the master suddenly turned on his own right hand,” Morbid said and the both fell quiet. After a moment, Morbid asked, “Why did the master turn on him?”
“Did he? Or did Mangler turn on Masuta?”
“Mangler doesn’t know what betrayal is, let alone how to commit it.”
Deathly bobbed his head to the right. “You would be surprised.”
“Or maybe it’s all a show for the rest of us. You don’t send Murderous to kill the right hand of the Kind-God. It’s laughable to even consider Mangler dying from that.”
“Laughable, indeed,” Deathly said, but his voice was grave. Or maybe it was just the mechanicalization making it sound so. “Either way, this one here is dead.” He plucked a rib from the cage and the corpse’s chest collapsed. “There is nothing to revive. Fetch a new receptacle for him. Extra points for being ugly and a bonus the closer to middle-aged.”
Morbid grinned and even Deathly let out a mechanical laugh. “I’ll find something suitable for the master’s new right hand,” Morbid promised and then practically floated from the room, leaving an air of bliss.
Deathly matched the aura until Morbid was gone and then his body shifted, seriousness roiling through every limb, perceivable even through the shapeless black coat. He leaned over the body, the mask’s beak millimeters from the face reflecting in the black glass lenses. Deathly touched his fingers to the Murderous’ temples, murmuring under his breath, and for a moment a ghostly face rose screaming from the corpse’s head. Deathly broke contact, the apparition shrinking back into the ruined body, having confirmed that the hew was still intact. But he did not lean away from the cadaver.
“If you are to be Masuta’s new right hand, then it is time for you to become my left one.”


[P.S. The blog fish are still unnamed.]

Monday, August 11, 2014

Things Assumed--Installment 2 Part 2--The Order





  [If you'd like a soundtrack...

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“Perhaps we should return to the front,” Alfons suggested. “We’ve just been wandering in circles for weeks. I don’t think we’re going to find who destroyed Nocri.”
“I’m not looking for the arsonist,” Zofi replied, stopping her circling of the clearing to reexamine it.
Alfons frowned. “When did we stop that?”
“Two weeks ago.”
“Mm-hmm. And what have we been looking for in the meantime then?”
“Undertakers, of course. I have to be Initiated if I’m going to be any use at all.”
            Alfons eyed the thick foliage surrounding them. As far as he knew, they were in the middle of nowhere. Even the road had disappeared days ago. He was useless at tracking, despite the brief army training, so had assumed Zofi knew what she was doing. She’d certainly acted like it. Though a heads’ up that their objective had changed would have been nice.
            “Undertakers…in the middle of nowhere?” he asked.
            Zofi knelt by some bent twigs. “Nowhere is an abstract idea. We are technically somewhere. We are always somewhere. And sometimes even Some Where.”
            Alfons didn’t even blink at the comment now. She’d been making odder ones ever since Nocri. “Undertakers don’t live in seclusion. They live around people.”
            “No, no, necromancers live around the dead,” Zofi said.
            “Wait, what?” This was new.
            Zofi looked up, blowing her red hair from her face. “I said undertakers live around the dead.”
Alfons thought back to Nocri, to Zofi screaming at Death in front of the shrine to the Kind-God. “Why is that?” he asked. “Living around the dead. Is it because…Death is a thief?”
Zofi laughed. “It’s because sometimes the dead forget to die. Death is a thief? Where’d you get that idea?”
Alfons just shrugged, giving up for the day. Whatever had happened to her in Nocri, however it had happened, she didn’t know about it. Sometimes she didn’t even seem to be aware of the strange things she said.
“All life belongs to Death,” she continued, sitting cross-legged. Alfons sat across from her. “We just borrow it for a while. Life and death aren’t separate entities, or opposites. That’s a misconception. Dying isn’t the antithesis of life, it’s just a transference of…form. Alive means limits. It’s keeping the hew contained in one shape, one place. Undertaker scholars—”
“The undertakers have scholars?” Alfons interrupted.
            She raised an eyebrow. “Yes. How do you think Death’s Apprentices are Initiated?”
            “I thought it was more a cult thing and less of a test.”
            Zofi smiled. “It’s actually a little of both.”
            “Really?”
            “I have no idea. You don’t find out until you’re Initiated.”
            “Oh. That’s annoying. Sorry. Undertaker scholars.”
            She nodded. “Right. They believe that living people are infant hews. The universe has just pulled it from the stars and given it to the gods to breathe into a human. And we live first to nurture our hew, let it grow, protect it, and how you live your life determines the condition of your hew when it moves on. For example, killing another human irreparably rips your hew so less of it makes it onward.”
            “Oh,” Alfons said, looking down.
            Zofi suddenly remembered he was a soldier. He had most certainly killed someone. “But that’s just a theory! It’s a little difficult to prove considering the hew is invisible and no one can die and come back to life.”
            “Is that how wights happen? Someone’s hew tries to come back?”
            The wraith came to Zofi’s mind in numbing clarity and she had to force herself to think around the horrendous image. “Not their hew, no. That’s why wights and wraiths aren’t any part of the human they came from, because the hew isn’t there. It’s more…the excess spirit, like a residue the hew leaves behind. It doesn’t know it’s dead, so undertakers have to shove it into death after the hew and lock the door.”
            “Then…what’s with the Immortals?” Alfons asked. “They don’t die. I mean, they should, but they don’t.”
            Zofi shook her head. “It’s not undertaking power if that’s what you’re asking. Or if it is, I don’t know anything about it.”
            “Will you when you’re Initiated?”
            “If there’s something to know about it, yeah. I’ll learn all the dirty secrets. But I have to find an undertaker first.”
“Yeah, I don’t think the middle of the woods is going to help with that,” Alfons said, standing. “We need to get back to the road.”
“I know,” she said, also standing. “I thought I saw someone following us on the road. Well, a white flash of something that I thought was a person. That’s why I slipped off, to lose them.”
“I never saw anyone.”
“I’m not so sure I did either, but better to be careful, right? There’s a war on, after all, and di Lancra are everywhere.”
“Also Immortals.”
“Right. How could I forget that happy tidbit?”
They matched gazes and laughed. The brief humor died. There was a war on, a war they were losing. Neither of them said it, but both couldn’t help but wonder if maybe it had already been lost. Without an undertaker, the frontlines could have been overcome. Or maybe the Immortals had just swept the Restri forces away.
Zofi looked back at Alfons. “Can I see it?”
“What?”
“The Key. Can I see what my grandfather…died for?”
Alfons wanted to refuse, but how could he argue with that logic? Reluctantly, he obliged, pulling a pouch from inside his shirt and then dumping the Key into his hand. It was an odd name for the thing he gave her as it bore no resemblance to any key either of them had seen. It was comprised of three flat, coin-sized circles connected by two short rods. The bronze disks were then etched in red symbols.
“My grandfather could be dead because of this?” Zofi exclaimed in disgust.
“Don’t be deceived by appearances?” Alfons offered.
She glared at him, then studied the Key more closely. All at once, she inhaled.
“What is it?” he asked.
“These are…these are undertaking symbols.”
“What?”
She turned the Key toward him. “See? This is the Sign of Lesser Hate, and the Widowed Mother. Well…almost. They’re very similar though.”
“What does that mean then? Being on the Key?”
Zofi handed the Key back to him, her jaw thrust out. “That undertakers have a lot to answer for.”

Sunday, August 10, 2014

blog fish update...uh, and other thoughts.

I know I just said there were four fish, but I really wanted to have a Toothless, so I added one. Then I wanted a blue fish, so now we have six: Sauron, Noir, Dandelion, Toothless, the blue fish and the tangerine fish. Hint, hint: the blue fish needs a name, too.

(Also, I looked it up and it turns out the tangerine fish is orange and Sauron is supposed to be red. Go figure.)

(Another fun fact is that I've always wanted to get a long-haired orange cat and name him Sauron. Bonus points if he's a sweetie. Not sure what it means that I'm choosing to name a blog fish Sauron instead...I'm impatient, perhaps?)

(Further fun fact is that apparently the first Iron Man movie didn't have a script so much as an outline and the movie was primarily improv'd.)

(Perhaps you've not had this problem, but I find it difficult to write about improv. Technically speaking, it is improvisation, but who wants to spit that monstrosity out on a regular basis? Now improv has become in spoken speech and theatre jargon an occasional verb, much like Google. unfortunately, it makes it difficult to write improv in the past tense because then it turns into improved, which is not exactly the word I'm looking for. Hence the apostrophe. Because just putting improvd looks...well, weird. I suppose there's a reason some things just stay verbal.)

(That's all the fun facts I have for you today. Actually, that's a lie. Well, not a lie actually because those are all the fun facts I have for you today. I have many more fun facts doing laundry in my brain, but they aren't for you today. Maybe tomorrow. Except tomorrow's Order day. Perhaps Tuesday. Not Wednesday because that's been cancelled due to scheduling errors. Well, we'll see. About fun facts, not Wednesday. That is definitely cancelled.)

Good luck naming the fish!

blog fish

I was looking at my fish on the side of my blog, you know, the ones in improbable colors that you can click and feed, and I noticed there are less of them. I can't remember if I did that or if my virtual blog fish died. Can you kill a virtual blog fish? Sorry virtual blog fish! I didn't mean to!

Maybe we should name the blog fish. We've got four, an orange one, yellow one, white one, and a tangerine one that isn't as orange as the orange one, which is actually sort of red, but not enough to be red.

What about Sauron for the red-orange-scarlet fish, Noir for the white one (obviously), Dandelion perhaps for the yellow one, and then what to name Mr. Tangerine? I leave that you folks. You are a silent bunch of readers, but as I know some of you personally, I know you're out there. Name the blog fish!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

musings on books

So I changed writing locales, which is to say, I moved from the couch to the sitting room to my sister's old room which is basically the library. And I get to stare at all these stacks and rows of books. Now, it's not like a huge library. It's literally one shelving unit and a bedside cabinet thing, and it's not an inclusive library as about half of its contents are piled by my bed, but boy do we cram a lot of books in those small spaces. Harry Potter and All Seven Years of Adventurous Magical Schooling that was Far More Fun Than My High School Years. The Inheritance Trilogy That Unexpectedly Became a Saga. The Happy Hollisters...All of Them. The Inkheart Trilogy of Tears. (What do you mean you aren't familiar with quite these titles?) Odd Shel Silverstein tomes. A Jules Verne collection. The Count of Monte Cristo. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. And then all the odd balls that aren't complete collections, but proudly pretend to go together. (Spoiler alert: they don't.) Dresden Files, alpha and ex-omega (thank heavens for more Dresden!), the disappointingly dull Map of Time...and its sequel...The fat books: The Sight, The Wise Man's Fear, Name of the Wind, Through the Darkness. The quirky (and best thing ever!) Graveyard Book. The latter half of Percy Jackson and the Olympians of which I'm missing the first three despite owning two of those. (Where did you go?) And others.

Now, besides giving you all a glimpse into my To Read list and my Re-Read list, I do have a point to this book listing. One, read them all. Yes, you. You reading this. Read them. I suggest all of them. (Except The Map of Time. It's tedious, but as I've not yet finished it I suppose I'll reserve judgement. But it held such promise! And then backstory, backstory, b a c k s t o r y.) Two, I like books. Silly statement, I know, coming from a writer, but there's something really comforting and exciting about looking through the contents of one's bookshelves. It's like sitting in a room of people you know and don't yet know, but know you'll want to know because they know the people you do know. You know?

But in all seriousness, I just like the way books sit on shelves, sometimes too squished to move, sometimes lilting to one side, or stacked horizontally. I like the promises of books. I have been disappointed by books, certainly (cough cough, The Map of Time, cough cough), but I've also been delighted by ones I didn't expect to be. And seeing books that you love surround books you've not experienced is like a book review by the books themselves. I know, they can't choose their neighbors. Some poor souls have to sit next to Twilight and I'll try not to judge those ones too harshly for it, but looking at my brand new second-hand books I can't help but feel that my excitement for the as to yet unexplored books is heightened by the ghosts of prior excitement felt toward the old friends when I first spied them on the shelf, unread but twitching to share its adventure. The old books shepherd in the new, acquainting them with their new home, their new reader, how they'll fit right in even though they're non-fiction surrounded by fantasy because all books are welcome. (Except you, math textbook. Get the heck out of my house. There is no place in this world for you. [this world being mine because obviously math is sort of detrimental to a lot of things, but I digress])

Maybe I'm the only one who, when going to a bookstore for a new book, smiles and brushes a finger along the spines of books I've loved well. I can't resist a quiet frolic through the old favorites, past Howl's Moving Castle, and Game of Thrones, and the Lord of the Rings in a single volume(!), and Jane Eyre, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde especially, and childhood friends like Warriors, and The Black Stallion, and Swiss Family Robinson, and Little Women. I whisper to the classics and surreptitiously peruse the hype and carry around the dozens I desire, but know I must put back, all but one, of course (sometimes two).

I love when I meet a book I love out and about, particularly in the hands of a stranger who's been captivated by it as much as I had once been. It's like the book is recommending a friend. And sometimes I even let the old pagemaster garner an introduction and I venture a comment. Sometimes I just smile and regard the stranger warmly, mentally setting them in a category with puppies and dandelion seeds. Maybe you shouldn't judge a person by his/her book, but I think books are great judges of character. They catch the well-lit souls and contain them in a glass jar, holding them in place so that other well-lit souls, drawn like moths to the light, can venture and tap the glass. Then like fireflies set loose, the book can shoo its reader out into the world to mingle, to learn, to emulate, to fly through the night and leave a string of sparks to kindle the first light in a soul and make it well-lit too.

Or maybe they're just books. No matter what, I love how they sit on my shelf. Even better is how they sit in my hands and spin magic in front of my eyes.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

All Things Fade--Installment 1 Part 2--The Order



[Cue fanfare and some fancy logo. Now cue dark, intense music. I suggest....


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Leaving a string of unfortunate bodies in his wake, Mangler fled through the battlefield, sensing more than hearing the deaths that blossomed before his pursuer. An abrupt silence fell between the cacophony of war and he heard a distinct, “Bang!” Mangler broke away from the battle; it wasn’t buying him any time at all.
He dashed into the ravaged city, surging through the parts engaged in warfare to the more abandoned streets. Murderous was not far behind him. He could hear him skipping through the carnage, singing.
“Mangler’s gonna die! Mangler’s gonna die! And I’m gonna kill him!”
Murderous’ laugh chased Mangler far faster than Murderous himself did. A bullet slammed through Mangler’s shoulder and he staggered into a wall, hastily smearing his blood on it in a quick, simple symbol. A whispered word later, and the wall imploded, carving a twisted, blackened hole in the stones. Mangler slipped through and then sprinted faster, ignoring his shoulder wound.
Until the second bullet connected with his leg. Mangler went down. He rolled over as Murderous pranced into view, grinning.
“I’m disappointed,” Murderous said. “I really am. I thought that you of all people would be a delightful challenge to kill. All that delicious gore back there to try and slow me? Just yummy. But not really…enough. I shot you twice. And here you are, not even trying to run. Or kill me. Mangler. Are you trying?”
Mangler just scooted back against the closest wall, feeling his blood rocketing through his veins, finding the holes and then diverting out them. It was hot. But his skin was cold.
“What do you know?” he asked.
“Not a thing!” Murderous said brightly. “Just that the master wants you dead, so dead I’m going to make you. It’ll be fun.” His face fell. “It’s supposed to be fun. You, though, are not making it fun. It’s like killing a human. Boooring.”
“Sorry to disappoint.”
“No, you’re not. You’re doing it on purpose!” Murderous fired his revolver thrice, every shot finding its mark: the kneecap, the neck, the lower arm. None of the shots were particularly fatal, yet, but both men knew that even from Murderous’ hand, they should have missed. “Stop it!”
“What a child,” Mangler remarked, holding the hole through the side of his neck. “Upset because his new toy isn’t as fun as he thought it would be.”
Murderous seethed, throwing down his gun in a tantrum and stalking over to Mangler. He seized him by the shirt, hauling him eye level. “I always knew you weren’t as grand as Masuta cracked you up to be. You’re a scam.”
“And you’re a petulant toddler with no understanding of anything outside his own wants,” Mangler said, blood dripping past his lips. “How Masuta stands your incompetence I’ll never know. I suppose even gods need slaves.”
The younger one snarled, his teeth bared. “I am a god.”
“You’re a pawn. So was I.”
“You are dead,” Murderous said, pointing his finger at Mangler and forming it into the shape of a gun. “Forever this time.”
“You really are an idiot.”
Murderous paused. “What?”
“No observational skills at all. No sense of your surroundings. Of the slight pressure that has been on your chest for the past forty seconds.”
Murderous’ eyes widened even before he looked down and saw Mangler’s finger resting lightly on his chest, a bloody symbol there. Murderous flinched, dropping Mangler and running as fast as he could. He reached over his shoulder as he fled, pointing his finger-gun.
Mangler whispered at the same time Murderous shouted, “Bang!”
The imaginary bullet cut through Mangler’s heart, black blood oozing out of the very real hole, as Murderous’ ribcage burst through his skin, the bones curling back on themselves and his lungs flopping against the bottom of the bone basket like fresh caught fish while black blood dripped down the ivory cage.
Death for both was nearly instantaneous. Mangler couldn’t help but think it all a horrendous waste of time.