Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Everything

to clear roads and starry skies, 
dry pavement and steady climbs, 
smooth curves and the feeling of flight, 
the whisper of rubber on stone and lime; 

to forests and plains, valleys and hills, 
long trips and short stuttered stills, 
the vanishing point passed way on back 
and nothing but dust left in our tracks; 

to nowhere but forwards, 
to nowhen but now, 
to nobody but us, 
to nothing but... 

two wheels and a chain, 
and a well-balanced frame, 
a rider, a bike, and a claim. 

Untitled

the world always ends on a note 
how high, how wide, they'll gloat; 
it'll be painful, and maybe you'll cry, 
and you won't get to say goodbye.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Untitled

in for a penny and out for a pound,
found at the unready, gritty and ground,
mind unsteady but feet standing sound;

she avoids my lyrics for what she finds,
cold, dark imagery and tightly closed blinds,
written or not by intentional minds.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Things I Didn't Do, page 1

I felt cold.

--

I remember the boys folding out the dark-brick dollhouse and playing their war games. I tried to sit down with them, join in with their fun, but always got crowded out, pushed away, deserted. I shortly gave up and sat with the girls, making drawings or paintings or cut-outs.

That is my first memory. I was four.

--

Skip forward a few years, and it's the going-away party in second grade. I was transferring to a private school at year's end, and leaving everyone I knew. Whether they celebrated the time we'd had or the time without me that they would have, I'll never know.

Jake was there, and though I didn't know Melanie yet, she couldn't have been too far off. Neither of them were in as bad of a place as I found them in when I came back, but that won't happen for another seven years.

I remember going to bed that night, and when I woke up, the world felt like a dream. I spent the next five years wondering when I was going to wake up, and be back with my old friends in my old school.

That is my second memory. I was seven.

--

Once I shifted into private school, the memories lie thicker, pictures and places and short interactions with all the people that I would see every year until they graduated or transferred out. One class per grade, and for me, it was the beginning of hell on earth.

Into third and fourth grade I was regularly bullied and ostracized. Nobody would sit with me at lunch, nobody would play with me at recess, and they would only partner with me in class under duress. Who brings a book to recess?

I did, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I stopped worrying about what I was being left out of and instead dove through worlds that not only wanted me, but needed me. I found joy in reading, joy in the worlds between the words, and there I lost myself.

The excessive reading didn't buy me any favors with my classmates, who had catastrophically lower reading speeds and comprehension rates than I did; or with the teachers, who insisted I explain the worlds and disavow the magic within them for life lessons. All I ever wanted was to dive into the pages and never come up for air.

--

In fifth grade, I started practising martial arts, and it helped me to find some inner strength. Not much, but some. Still, even on the mats, there were cliques and dramas that unfolded that I would never be a part of, children who had started years ahead of I and had an innate gift for physical and rote memory. Even while I felt my school life was all a dream, I felt my time on the mats was a mistake and any progress was a false promotion; I saw no ability within myself even as I rose through the ranks.

In eighth grade, I finally managed to confront my tormentors, and then they merely blamed it on one student who had long since transferred out, but by then it was too late; I was lost.

--

More Things I Didn't Do

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Weeping Glen

"Do you have any pictures of it?"

"Nope, no pictures."

"Photographs, drawings?"

"Sorry sir."

"Sculpture?"

"Good god man! No! Look, you seem new around these parts, so let me make this clear: we don't have any visual representantions of anything. You gotta listen to my words, son, and make your own pictures in your head. Pictures outside your head are strictly banned."

"Banned?"

"Not just banned, forbidden."

"But why?"

"Have you ever seen books burn?"

"Once, long ago."

"And how did it make you feel?"

"Like my soul was on that pyre."

"We're kindred souls then. There was a time when we had all those things, but they bred corruption and monstrous things. To get rid of then, every symbol had to go. We thrive on words here. One hundred percent literacy rate: that's practically unheard of in a well-developed place like this." A single tear fell from his eye and streaked down his face. "Every book with pictures went to feed the fires that burned every painting and melt every metal symbol. We ground our statues into gravel and dust. It was our penance, but it was worth every bit of laughter and happiness you see around me. I couldn't bear to have my children go through all of that again. We learned our lesson, you should do well to learn the same."

"What sort of monstrous things?"

The burly man shuddered. "Best not to think on it, son. Even the thought of the things that came, even the image in your minds eye... Look, just go back about ten miles and go straight where you took that left. That'll get you back to the world you're used to, and don't dwell on us again.

From the Internal Narrative of Callidus Igni

"What's your name?"

"Callidus Igni."

"No, I need your real name, not your character name."

"Callidus Igni."

"Can I see some ID?"

I reached into one of the numerous inner pockets of my cloak, and pulled out my wallet. This guy must be new, but there was no point in stating the obvious.

"Oh, I guess it is. Sorry about that. You get all kinds at these things. Do you have a... oh, there it is." He tapped my laminated pass with his fingertip  "Laminated, nice. Some of the ones I see, you don't even want to ask what some of those stains could be. You'll need to keep that visible whenever you're on the campgrounds. Do you have a striped hankerchief?"

I shook my head.

"You'll need to tie one to you're-- well, wear one whenever you're out of character."

I snatched my identification from his fingertips and waved it in front of his face before sliding it back into my wallet and the pocket.

"Oh, you're one of those dedicated folks then, never dropping character? I never could get my head around that whole lifestyle. Can you imagine living like this? Well, I guess you can. This is my copy," he said, tapping my character sheet, "So I hope you have spares. We'll use this to make sure you're loyal to the storyline and give you opportunity to pick up appropriate experience for your actions. And, of course, to make sure you don't try to do anything you don't have the skills for." He grinned up at me.

I frowned and crossed my arms.

"Well, it looks like you're all set. Have a good game, Callidus."

--

I walked away from the registration table much the same as I had when I approached: bored. It was an annoying formality, one that went smoother when I was handled by a staff member wh'd met me before. I didn't need a copy of my sheet for myself, though I had duplicate copies available, including a quick-reference one clipped to pass; it wasn't for me, but for challengers on the field.

As I headed toward my tent, I passed a few familiar faces, and we exchanged nods as I walked by. The sun was sinking into the horizon, and I had a little time to finish getting prepared. I had a pick preference for my party and referee, and had a few resumes to pick scan through before I had to finalize my decisions.

--
Index

Friday, December 12, 2014

Ceteroquin: Inventory

Quies closed early on Fridays so he could check his inventory and catch up on mailing orders. He flipped the We're Open! sign back, pulled the hanging bell out of the way, and stepped out into the late afternoon long enough to pull the heavy steel grate closed over his storefront. It was still too early, but he looked westward down the street and watched for a few long moments at where the sun would be dipping below the horizon. With a half-hearted sigh, he stepped back inside.

The front window had a shelf that help some not-so-rare, nice-looking flowers. He picked up the clipboard he'd lain down a few minutes ago and pulled a pencil from behind his ear.

"Two bushes of black roses, check. One each of Roooy... Gee... Bivv..." he counted out slowly, checking as he eyeballed each and examined for signs of wilting. And white. One white." He held on of the newest opened buds tenderly, stroking the petals, efore letting it go and moving on.

Next after the window displays were his aggressive plants. "South American carnivorous snapdragon, check. Irish hungry grass, check. Black mercy secure," he rustled the enclosure, 'in it's Emrys-Faraday cage, check. Two bloodflowers," he leaned close to the glass, and saw and smelt the impact of fresh spit, "Vemon still potent, check. And one Krynoid, check."

Following those sat his resource-plants, those whose seeds, roots, buds, and leaves could be harvested without affecting the plant's livelihood or continues growth. "One Salvia, check. One mutated aum plant, check. One each of batthorn and wolfsbane, check. One happy plant, check. One nest of katterpods, check. One genically engineered kyrt vine, check. One miniature paopu tree, check. One young peya bush, check. One bushel of sser berries, check. One miniature herbah tree with delighted silkworms, check."

Lastly, one his sales floor, but for the racks of dried stock that lined the wall and hung from the rafters, were his preserved plants, and these, rather than sitting below sun lamps and skylights, were entombed in darkglass coffins that let in just enough light to see them by and let out just enough cold to know that the cryonics were still running. "One miniature Bob with annoyed young Harold, check. One adolescent cactacae, check. Two baby elowans, one male and one female, check. One integral tree sapling, check. On pair of mangaboos, check. One full-bloom night-blooming mock orchid, check."

Quies paused, smiling at the memory of hunting this one down in his younger days. It took several years to find, several weeks to build a deep-freeze enclosure around it, several days of trigger-happy sleeplessness, and a percarious airlift out of that horrible place. Only after it was secure did he even think about going back for his equipment, and some of it was misteriously damaged when he retured. Still, it was well worth the effort for this beauty.

He glanced back down at his list, and continued.

"One full-bloom re-annual plant, check. One sapling sapient pearwood, check. One tirils, with intact case, check. One full-bloom vul nut vine, check."

Quies stepped behind his counter, filed away to inventory list, and picked up his competed bok of books. He staggered slightly under the weight as he carried it into the back room and sorted it into the packed bookshelves.

Feeling heavy yawns coming on, Quies double-checked his quadruple-locked doors, picked up mail that had fallen through is rear mail-slot during the day, and climbed the narrow staircase to his small apartment above the store. He set the mail on his bedside table, undressed, and climbed into bed.

--
Universe: Ceteroquin
Character: Quies

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ceteroquin: Prescriptions

The bell rang, and Quies looked up from his book. A girl wearing a bicycle helmet on her head and a crow on her shoulder walked in.

"Whoa, what is this place?"

"Welcome to the Elllong Yardlong, miss. How can I help you and your corvine friend?"

"Corvine?"

"Cat: feline. Dog: canine. Crow: corvine."

"I never knew. Thanks. I, umm..." Daya flushed, nervous and embarrassed.

It's alright, I got it. He launched from her shoulder to the counter to the waiting tray of white sand, plucking a scrap of paper from her fingers along the way..

"Thanks, Umayyad."

"Umayyad," Quies asked suspiciously.

The bird gave him a long stare, countering Quies's inquisitive one. Can you fill a prescription and bill it to Mr Curo?

"Sure. Is that the scrip?"

The crow nodded.

"It will take a few minutes, but I'll get right to work. Keep your friend out of trouble."

Daya had been reaching out to touch a flower, but now she snatched her hand back. Umayyad rejoined her.

"What is it?" she whispered.

Carnivorous snapdragon, from South America, I believe. They have very sharp teeth; you could lose a finger.

Daya took a step back suddenly enough to crash into the racks behind her, but they're fortunately heavy and secure enough to not even wobble. She glanced sharply at its contents, before turning fully and peering closer.

"This one isn't going to hurt me, is it?"

Not as agressively as the snapdragon, but if that's what I think it is, I don't recommend touching it.

"What is it?" The milky white flower stretched upward eagerly, absorbing all the sunlight it could.

A moly blossom from Greece. Somewhat rare, unless you know where to look. either Quies is very well-traveled, or trades with someone who is.

"What about this?" Daya took a step to the side, peering at the next planter which looked particularly innocuous.

Irish hungry grass. Nasty stuff.

"Okaay," she drew out. "Moving on." She pointed to another curious display

A miniature coco de mere, which should be impossible.

"Why's that?"

It's a palm tree for one. The tree itself isn't anything special besides being a little endangered, but the nuts are supposed to perform some pretty heavy magic. At that size, however... who knows.

"Ah, you found it," Quies interposed.

"Found what?"

He walked down the next aisle and peered at his customers through the branches. "My baby coco. Cost me a fortune, but since you only need one..." He inspected the tree closely and plucked a tiny nut from the boughs and popped it in his mouth. "An expensive trick, to be sure, and the effects of it are short-lasting, but it can work wonders for a flexible businessman like myself."

"What do you mean?"

What he means is that one of the side effects of eating a nut from the coco de mere is the ability to understand bird-speech.

"Precisely, Umayyad. This particular geneticly engineered tree produces nuts that are highly concentrated, so they work almost as well at the full size ones. Neither of which works as well as the Slavic fern flower perseved in glass behind the counter, but don't get me started on what it took to get one of those." He passed over a plain white paper bag. "There should be everything you need in there, and I've thrown in some correct preparation pamphlets as well as a small box of paper tea bags."

"Thank you."

"Be careful with some of that stuff, and dry why you don't use right away. The leaves will lose some of their efficacy dried, but they'll keep for longer. If you have any questions, I also dropped in one of my business cards, so you have my business hours and phone. And you're very welcome."

Daya picked up the bag and glanced inside long enough to sort out the contents, each plant further bagged separately, and the extras down at the bottom. She looked at Umayyad. "Shall we?"

We shall. Good day, Quies.

"Beautiful skies to you, Umayyad."

--
Universe: Ceteroquin
Characters: Daya Kerrin | Quies | Umayyad Corvus

Monday, December 8, 2014

Some Turn To Dust or To Gold

ends are heavy and starts are light,
weight is burdening and I'm not right,
the road's crumbling and turning to dust...
the answer is: I wasn't enough.

time is borrowed or banked or lent,
but mine is wasted on too much rent;
life is a gift squandered away...
the answer is: I can't stay.

spend all our lives to pay for living,
when death is free, open and giving;
the high road's got too high a toll...
the answer is: I won't be gold.

Ceteroquin: Companion

"If you're really just in my head, you can't not hear me, right? Or are you ignoring me? A hallucination that's ignoring me? I know I'm crazy but that's just... crazy." Daya laughed aloud, and caught the eyes or people staring at her. She scowled at them until they looked away. It was a struggle not to be so scary that she frightened herself.

She unlocked her bicycle, wrapped the chain around her waist, and clipped her keys back onto her belt. Her helmet was already snapped to her head; there was no reason to take it off between drops. Daya entered the address of her next delivery into the smartphone mounted on her handlebars and mounted up as it calculated a route. A soon as it settled, she started pedaling.

A dark shadow flew over her and landed on the messenger bag strapped to her back.

"Welcome back, Umayyad. Where have you been?"

I found a chemist and a specialist. Some people you should see.

"For a hallucination, you really do get out. Are these places really real?"


They are. Real places and real people.

"If everything about you is so real, why can't other people see you?"


The ungifted can only see me when I want them to, and the gifted don't find anything strange about a corvae hanging out with a sapien.

"What does that make me? One of these gifted?"

Yes, and also my friend.

"Friend, shmend. So this person you want me to see can cure me of you?"


Two people. One chemist and one specialist, And I am not a symptom to be cured away.

"If you say so. One drop after this, and then I'll let you take me there. Fine?"

Thank you. I do care about you, even when you don't believe in me.

"You're too kind," Daya scoffed sarcastically, and returned her attention to traffic.

--

"Look, I really don't have the money or insurance to cover an additional treatment course." Daya sat on a loveseat of plush purple poplin, if her host's word was to be taken.

Johan waved his hand lightly. "Don't worry about that. Here, take a sip."

She took the china cup. "What is it?"

"An herbal tincture of my own devising, It won't do you any harm, I promise."

It's okay, Daya.

She gave Umayyad a sharp glance, then looked back at the strange man giving them a curious stare. "Can you see Umayyad?"

He extended a finger, and the crow hopped onto it, nestling it's head into Johan's other hand. "I can."

"Then he's not... Unless you're..."

"Unless I'm a hallucination too? Drink your tea and find out."

Daya took a tiny sip, barely ingesting any at all, but inhaled a fair portion of the vapour rising from it. "That smells very good. Just like... What did you do?" She dropped the cup, and it fell into Johan's ready hand, sloshing but not spilling. He put it on the side table beside his own chair.

"Just relax." He offered Umayyad back to her, and she felt the comforting weight of him as her eyes drooped closed.

Johan stood and pulled a tray borrowed from his kitchen laid with dark sand out from under his chair and left it in the middle of the floor between himself and Daya. "Sorry, Umayyad, but I don't have the high-quality stuff you found at Q's place, nor anything like your friend's gifts."

This will do.

"Good. Daya is not actually asleep, but in a light hypnotic state. From there, we can lower her deeper, or raise her out of it. The tincture didn't do this itself, just merely weakened her defenses enough for her own exhaustion to bring her down. Before I continue, I need you to tell me some things that she cannot."

Understood.

"How long have you been affiliated with Daya?"

Since before her conscious memory starts.

"And you care for her well-being?"

I do.

"What mental issues does she present?"

Hallucinations, periods of excessive mania and debilitating depression, difficulty falling and staying asleep, and occasional night-terrors. She is also mildly autistic.

Johan whistled deeply. "How do you think discovering her developing magical talents will affect her mental state?"

I suspect the polarity of her emotional states will be unchanged, but she will likely partially blame her state upon the magic. I suspect the autism will aid her in honing her gift.

He nodded. "That sounds more than reasonable. Do you still want me to help?"

I do.

"Do you know what I ask in payment?"

I will pay, whatever it is.

"Only she can pay."

No. I accept full responsibility.

"You don't even know what I'm asking for."

Then explain yourself, and quickly.

"Only tutelage."

Umayyad puffed his feathers in surprise. You want to tutor her?

Johan smiled. "I've always wanted a student."

The crow paced around the edge of the pan several times before responding. If she cooperates, I will be with her to oversee.

"I would have it no other way." He knelt in front of Daya and gently placed his fingers around the crown of her head. "Daya Kerrin, Dark Crow, come back to us."

"How do you know that name," she whispered. "Only my grandmother calls me that."

--
Universe: Ceteroquin
Character: Daya Kerrin | Johan Curo | Umayyad Corvus

Friday, December 5, 2014

Ceteroquin: Customers

Quies was paging through a new-old dreaming guide when there was a knocking at the door. He closed the book on his thumb and looked down the length of his story curiously. It continued, now sounding more like tapping than knocking. Piqued, he bookmarked the page with a receipt stub and crossed the floor, pulling the door open.

A large black crow was perched on the door handle, and it eyed him studiously until the doorway was wide enough, before fluttering in. The crow landed on his counter-top and peered at the book. Quies closed the door and returned to the back of the store.

"How can I help you?"

The crow cawed and ruffled its feathers, clawing gently at his wood counter.

"Sorry. Hold on just a moment." Quies stepping into the back room and picked up an empty tray, threw a few handfuls of white sand on it, and carried it back onto the sales floor. "Will this do? I have ink, if you'd prefer, but..."

The crow interrupted his by climbing delicately onto the edge of the tray and starting to write. Quies stopped his tongue and waited patiently.

No, thank you. Ink can be so hard on my claws.

"I understand fully, and you're quite welcome. How can I help you?"

The crow brushed the message clear and started clean.I have an owner in need of a chemist.

"That isn't quite my speciality, but I'll help how I can. What seems to be the matter?"

She is convinced I am a hallucination.

"Huh." Quies blinked his eyes thoughtfully. "Is she gifted?"

To a small degree. But she also suffers from a mental disorder.

"Which one?"

Bipolar.

"Alright. I should have a book in the back. A few minutes please."

The crow nodded. I will wait, and leapt from the counter, fluttering to his selection and perusing the planters.

Quies returned to his storage room, this time to his bookshelves. Though they were meticulously organized, they were cramped and overflowing, and it took him some time to find what he was looking for: a heavy tome with dark lettering wedged sideways atop his mentalism shelf. When he came out once more, there was a message waiting for him in the sand, though the crow was still among the merchandise.

There is a dying, mildly-diseased snail in your farm. I will dispose of it with your permission. The rest of your stock is healthy, and prompt disposal will keep it that way.

Quies quirked a smile, and set the book down, the mild thump bring the crow's attention but not the crow itself. "I would be most grateful. Go ahead."


A quick snap of its neck and the deed was done, and the crow joined Quies at the counter, paging through the book.

"It's a copy of the MDSM-XLVII1," he explained, thinking and muttering aloud through the pages and passages. "Ah, here it is." He scanned quickly through the article, dragging his fore-finger down through the entry. "Well, I'm afraid I don't have the knowledge to treat this; I market supplements more toward creating illusions and hallucinations than dispelling them. However, I can provide you with the business information of a customer of mine, and he may be better educated to help."

Yes please.

"Do you have the means to carry a message or..."

I am photogenic.

"Ah, wonderful." Quies drew out his address book and wrote Mr Curo's information in the sand.

The crow was polite and did not try to peer into the pages. When the information was memorized, the crow brushed it clear and wrote, Thank you. I will seek Mr Curo. If you should be so kind to help me again with the door, I will be on my way.

"You are most welcome. Have a good day."

After the crow had departed, Quies briefly checked on his snails, put the book, the sand and the tray back where they came from, and settled back on his stool, picking up the dreaming guide once more.

--
Universe: Ceteroquin
Character: Quies | Umayyad Corvus

--
1. MDSM 47th edition, the magical community edition of the DSM.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ceteroquin: Open For Business

Quies turned over the plastic sign on his front door, the overly cheerful We're Open! showing through the middle row of the three-by-three glass panes of the old wooden door. He was proud of that door. He stepped outside of it long enough to lift the heavy chain gate that protected his storefront during off-hours, shielding his eyes from the bright morning sun. Before retreating back into the humid depths of his shop, he rehung the solid bronze bell that alerted him to customers.

The shop was dim in comparison to the outside world, though he had cases that held plants that desperately needed the sun; these were fed by skylights and mirrors hung in precise patterns above the drop-ceiling and controlled by a carefully balanced pulley system that he rewound every evening after closing.

Quies had all manner of customers, and as such, grew all manner of plants. He even held a closely monitored permit for a fair number of controlled substances, and though some of them could be used recreationally, he didn't advertise this fact. His stock was not intended for such use by amateurs.

His tottering and reverie were interrupted by the bell, and he checked his pocket watch, before turning to smile at one of his regulars. Seven after seven, right on schedule.

"Good morning, Mr Curo."

"And to you, Q. How's my artemisia1 doing this week?"

"Thriving, as ever. Come for your weekly clipping?"

"You know I have. Any new books catch your eye since the last time?"

Quies gestured to a box of books sitting behind the counter. "I'm still going through the latest batch, but I'll certainly set some aside for you if any catch my eye. Do you have any scraps of knowledge for me?"

"I have a new tincture that's doing well in my studies, but long term and side effects are still mostly undocumented."

"Shame."

"Indeed. What do I owe you?"

Quies weighed the clippings on the scale beside his register and peered into the book he kept tucked into his apron. "Two pounds ten."

Mr Curo fished a handful of coins from his trouser pocket and plucked three choice coins from the assortment. "Have a good day, Q."

The register dinged and popped out the drawer, into which Quies sorted the coins. "And you, Mr Curo. See you next week." His customer tipped his hat to him and strode out, his bag disappearing into an inner pocket.

Quies settled back on his stool, and resumed sorting through the box from where he left off the evening before.

--

In his study, Johan Curo kept an altar to Somnus2 and his sons, chief among them Morpheus3, Phobetor3, and Phantasos4. He offered them a short prayer and the collected leaves of past tinctures before settling into his meditation chair. The fresh cuttings from today's trip to The Elllong Yardlong were pulled from his coat pocket and sorted; small leaves went into his pestle, larger leavers went to his small, chair-side drying rack, while the rest went into a small clay pot to be added to the offerings.

After adding additional selections from his stock of vials to the pestle, he ground the ingredients together by hand before sifting them into a tea bag and stewing up a fresh batch. It was a calming and cleansing ritual for him, and his mind slowly cleared of distractions. When he was ready, he sipped at the tea, and with each swallow sunk deeper into a trance.

"Somnus guide me. Morpheus lead me. Phobetor shield me. Phantasos regard me. Somnus guide me..." he mumbled, the mantra opening him to the subconscious wilderness. When he opened his eyes, his study was gone and it was replaced with his dream home.

And so he got to work.

--

Aedan pulled off his goggles. His eyes took several minutes to readjust to the dim room from the glare of the VR headset, and they ached from staring into the screen for long hours. He sat up, pulling his chair back into its upright postiton and rubbed his neck.

Still tensing up. I really need to work on that.

He woke up the computer monitor on the desk in front of him, and details of his just-completed flight showed on the screen, including a cost calculator.

Good, I'm still under my estimate.

It was a bit of professional pride: ninety percent of his jobs stayed under budget, which was largely unheard of in his business.

It helps having my own VR rig. Nobody else has one of these yet.

Aedan bounced the tweaked Oculus6 in his palm. It still had a few bugs to be worked out. 

--
Universe: Ceteroquin
Character: Johan Curo | Quies

--
1. Artemisia vulgaris, common name: mugwort
2. Somnus, Greek god of sleep>
3. Morpheus, Greek god of dreams
4. Phobetor, Greek god of nightmares
5. Phantasos. Greek god of surreal dreams
6. Oculus, a high-tech virtual-reality headset