Sunday, August 24, 2014

Grey Days: Dread - Ch. 3 (the plot coagulates)

Swift turned away from the window, his face carved from stone for all that I could read him. Hack swung around to look at me and sagged. His mouth quivered and an eye twitched, and then he was coughing in wet, heaving racks that bent him double. I rushed over to him and he batted me away, sidling himself around to collapse into his recliner.

I stood back and waited until the fit subsided and Hack lay there for a while sucking in gulps of air with a hand clutching at his chest. That kind of thing had been happening more and more often.
Hack wheezed and his eyes flickered from me to Swift. He was gulping in air, and I could see wet, red flecks in his beard around his mouth. He looked at me and frowned before turning back to Swift. “You tell him,” he said. “You tell him or I swear I’ll ruin you.”

I blinked.

“Swift,” I said and looked at him, “what is he going on about?”

Swift had, at some point, changed his clothes. He kept a few spare sets here for occasions where it was necessary, such as these, and he’d composed himself and even found a new pair of sunglasses to replace the ones that had been destroyed. In all it meant he’d become, yet again, unreadable. A blank stone wall for all the good it was. I could only tell he was looking at me because the force of his gaze was a palpable thing, and he was fairly cloaked in an aura of undulating power like I’d rarely felt off him.

He was exerting a prodigious amount of energy, and control, and I had to slide my vision across the Other Side to see that Swift had projected his will out to envelope the entire house in a swirling nimbus of white light. I could see patterns, countless fractals, moving through the energy and reinforcing it, the working itself a fractal layered countless times over itself.

Swift had created, near as I could tell, an impenetrable shield around my entire home.

“We will be safe in here,” he said, “for a time.”

“Get talking,” Hack rumbled from his chair.

“Quiet,” I snapped without turning away from Swift.

Swift waited a moment. The house was dead quiet. “The creature you saw is named Bloch,” he spoke in his usual measured tone, as if commenting on the weather, “and he is my brother.”

I wasn’t even sure how to comprehend that.

“A malakhim, I mean, messenger?” I asked, brow crunching together, brain whirling. “Like you?”

“Not like me.” Swift’s mouth twitched down a fraction. “Not anymore. Once, though, he did serve a higher order as a herald of endings, a harbinger of Creation’s finality.”

Hack made a sound somewhere between a wet cough and a laugh. “God’s murderer.”
Swift continued before I could say anything. “The end comes to all things, as it must. And for eons Bloch served faithfully, until he didn’t. He became fascinated with endings, and then obsessed. The malakhim have few laws, but what few we have are adamantine, to so much as question them is to raise the wrath of all the hosts and invite annihilation - no malakhim may murder a human.”

“So what happened?”

“Something noticed the change in Bloch, and it made him an offer: serve it, and he would be given the power to defy the laws of the malakhim. How could he refuse?”

“What could possibly give something the power to resist the entire celestial host?” I gaped. My stomach had twisted into knots and there was a throbbing behind my eyes. I didn’t actually want to know the answer.

“The Sleeper.”

It was one of those rare moments in life that felt like it should have been accompanied by a dramatic musical score, drums and strings or something.

“No,” I said.

Swift cocked his head at me.

“No,” I said again, “that’s ridiculous.”

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Grey Days: Intermezzo (memorium)

I never asked my parents for anything for Christmas. Not once. I mean, they got me stuff, the tree was usually piled high every year with gifts wrapped in exotic, shimmering paper from wild, foreign lands. One year I got a Vision Stone from Mu that let me actually see my dreams right in front of me, played out in a surreal, holographic projection. I still have the thing, somewhere.

But I never made a list, and I never asked them for anything.

How could I when the next time they went out the door could be the last time I ever saw them? Seeing them come back home was worth more than every Christmas morning. Grandpa would always tell me not to worry, that they would come back, that they always came back, that when the two of them were together there was nothing that could stop them. 

And looking at them together, my mom and my dad, I believed it. The fierce, raw power that flowed between them, born of their love, could defy Oblivion - and had, on more than one occasion.

But then they would go, and the fear would creep in. Grandpa would take me fishing, or we would go up north to watch the stone-people work the underground gardens. He would show me ancient, secret magics that had been passed down to him by his father, that he passed on to my father and would someday be handed down to me. But always there was the fear.

Weeks would go by, and sometimes months, but Grandpa was always right. Mom and dad always came back and there would be hugs and presents and stories, and for a little while the house was bright and warm and full of life. 

Until something happened and they had to go away again.

Unti something happened and they didn't come back.

Grandpa woke me up in the middle of the night and promised me everything would be fine, that he was going to bring my parents back home.

And two days later Hack showed up at the door, the sapphire light in his eyes dim.

"I'm sorry, boy," he said. 

Christmas was taken off the calendar after that.

Grey Days: Dread - Chapter Three (home again home again)

Casting a gnarly eye at my desk, and the Libro Nihil where it lay upon the scarred old edifice, I began to wonder. When my psychotic great-grandfather returned, bent on global destruction, he had been brought back via the power of the Sleeper, a cosmic personification of entropy gone mad. It had wanted the Libro Nihil, for what I would rather not think about, but instead I had turned the power of the book on it. The book devoured Henry Grey and the power of the Sleeper that had been invested in him. Sometimes I would hold the book and concentrate, and every once in a while I would swear I could hear the voice of my great-grandfather whispering to me from beyond a vast gulf.

Which made me wonder what happened to the power of the Sleeper its own self.

Was it still in the book?

Could I use the book to access it, and amplify it, and turn it on my enemies like I’d done with the book itself on Swift’s doppelganger, the rogue malakhim? Thinking about it all was making my head swim. I staggered over to my desk and snatched up the book, stuffing it in my pocket and ignoring the pleasant warmness of it against my leg. I pulled my phone out of my bag, and a black permanent marker, and shoved them in my other pocket. Donning my coat and stuffing my feet into my boots I left the room and headed back downstairs.

I’d barely made it half way down when I could hear Hack screaming a near-incoherent barrage of expletives and curses at Swift. I must have missed something really good. Following the noise I ended up standing in the archway of the Der Haus’s museum wing, or what Rosa and the others tended to refer to as the living room.

It was a great big open space and every wall was lined with colossal, hand-carved wooden shelves and cabinets that stretched from floor to ceiling, the wood stained a warm, dark brown that sucked up the light and turned back a diffused glow, making everything look soft. The shelves were loaded down with books of every kind, from moldering grimoires to modern technical manuals, pulp paperbacks and everything in-between. The cabinets, their doors fronted by panes of glass so one could look in, were filled to brim with a curious collection of knick-knacks and artifacts, items collected mostly by my globe-hopping father in his reckless archeologist years - or so my mother used to tell me.

I’d added to the collection myself over the years, though my relics were quite a bit less esoteric than dear old dad’s. An obsidian ritual knife from the subterranean kingdom beneath Antarctica sat next to a scratched, plastic toy sheriff’s badge I’d kept after banishing a kinderfresser a couple towns over.

There was a battered sofa covered in blankets and throw pillows, and a handful of recliners scattered around at strange angles from each other. Light came from an incongruous chandelier that hung from the ceiling by a black, cold iron chain, its stems curling black metal ending in someone’s nightmare of a Tiffany lamp, the stained glass all done in hellish yellows and oranges that gave the room a curious tone. There was an ancient television set, the kind with a wire coat-hanger serving as an antennae, it sat on a milk crate in front of one of the recliners playing an old black and white horror movie with the sound off.

I frowned and swung my gaze over to where Swift stood, by one of the two windows in the room, a tall and narrow affair squeezed between all the shelving with its curtain pulled back. Swift was looking out onto the front yard, out towards the road, and for all intents and purposes looked utterly oblivious to Hack’s tirade.

The old man was standing by his recliner, the one with the TV, jabbing a finger as he barked. “I told you this was going to come back to bite you and now look at what’s happened.” Spittle rained in explosive bursts and Hack even managed to stomp his foot on the hardwood floor a couple times for emphasis.

“Told him what?” I asked, stepping into the room.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Wordforge 8-8-14 (free write)

Out in the country on the side of the road and at the edge of a dirt field sits a tired, faded little cross. Someone put it in the ground in remembrance of a life cut short. It's a cheap affair, sticks painted white and tied with red cloth, a pile of dried flowers at its base, and a dark smear across it that might once have been a name but that the world and time had wiped away.

Who put it there doesn't matter, and who put it was put in the ground for is long gone, and though it is a small and unremarkable thing it catches the eye of everyone who passes by. Some of them don't think much of it, a curious distraction and then they're gone, but some see and they carry it with them. The little cross plants itself within a mind and for however long it's there one can't help but think of those they've lost, the ones they miss, a dozen stories flit by in stuttering black and white made livid and bright by bursts of color - the thousand sunset shades of love and hate and joy and more. 

It doesn't matter who put the cross in the ground, or why. What matters is why a person would carry it with them when they pass by.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Grey Days: Dread - Chapter Three (suicidal optimist)

I drifted down from space when I got to my room, and went about showering after depositing my bag and the Libro Nihil at my desk. It stung where the water hit scrapes and cuts from flying debris and I hung my head, pressing it against the tile to let the water pummel my back as I watched the water swirl blood red and mud brown down the drain. I got out and dried off and pretended I didn’t see the faint, hand-shaped bruise that was forming on my neck as stopped in front of the mirror. Handsome I never was, and handsome I would never be. You don’t get pretty getting kicked in the teeth by life every other Tuesday and twice on Sundays. Not like it mattered, but I still looked like a malnourished, shaved rat wither feverish grey eyes, and the snarled thing I called a beard didn’t help anything.

“Oh stop it,” I said to my reflection and flipped it off. It reciprocated. It was a thing we did.
I shuffled out and went to the nearest pile of what looked like clean laundry and dressed myself. I didn’t notice until I’d already gotten it over my head that the shirt I was wearing had a puppy on it with too-large eyes and muddy paws, with the words “Dig It” in fat balloon letters under it.

Which is what happens when you agree to let someone who hates you pick up some clothes for you at the thrift store since all your clothes keep getting destroyed because you keep getting ambushed by bogey men and inanimate objects with malicious intent.

I would have to find some vicious and very passive aggressive way to pay Rosa back. From a safe distance. Until then I had things to do, which didn’t include barring my door and throwing up all wards, hiding from the rest of the world until it all went away. But that right there was the problem, if I didn’t do something - especially when I could - then the world really may all go away. There were things, terrible things that existed in Creation and wanted nothing more than to annihilate everything, subjugate all free will, and make reality a nightmare of such abhorrent and alien proportions that it sent fractures through the mind thinking about it. And I’d had the pleasure of witnessing some of the worst the world had to offer first hand. Some of the best of the worst that the universe had to offer had tried to send me packing to oblivion, but I was still here.

Because I did something about it.

Because despite all my stupid hang ups and the fact that at the end of the day I was not a very good person, I was one of the few - the happy few, right? - who had been chosen by Creation to be able to do something about it, and that wasn’t the kind of gift you let to go waste. My entire life I’d been raised by wizards and magicians, I’d half a dozen examples in my own home throughout my life of what a real practitioner could do - and I squandered my talents most the time on purely selfish means.

But if you come in my backyard, mess with my town and its people? I couldn’t abide that. I told myself it was because if I didn’t it would just make life harder for me, and that I was only fighting back to by myself my much loved solitude, but it was because I held to a near hopeless ideal that power and responsibility went hand-in-hand together.

And it was going to get me killed someday, of that much I was certain.

Wordforge 8-2-14 (Behemoth/Glad of War)

Wordforge 8-2-14

SONG: "The Behemoth" by The Acacia Strain

THEME: Glad of War

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wordforge 7-30-14 (Pennyroyal/Discovery)

I'll get the spiel out of the way so we can get down to the business of words.

Every morning I propose a writing sprint, a ten-minute burst of furious, flying by the seat of your pants wordsmithing. Why? For starters I assume you're here in the first place because you've some propensity for writing, regardless of your experience, so you shouldn't really need an excuse why, anyways. But because I love you, I'll feed you, baby bird. To create a sense of community between writers and other creative types, because I want this to be something that many people can share between each other and see first-hand the scope of inspiration and storytelling there is out in the world. That's why. And maybe by doing this we'll learn from each other and grow and forge ourselves into something better than we were before. Maybe it sounds lofty, but I think it could happen.

There's a catch, though. You knew that, right? You totally saw that coming?

Little prompts will accompany each sprint, two things to be precise: a song, and a theme, to be interpreted however you choose and used as inspiration. And please, by all means, write whatever it is comes to mind whether it's poetry or prose or a dissertation, a memory, whatever. The only real hard and fast rule is that you write and throw it down in the comments so we can all read it.

So, I'm going to shut up and press play, and start writing. The clock is ticking.

See you on the other side.

Wordforge 7-30-14

SONG: "Pennyroyal" by MF Doom

THEME: Discovery

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

10 Minute Writing Burst: 7/29/2014 (5:45-5:55am)

I'll never forget the day the world ended, not for the end of the world itself but for the countless little endings that lead up to it.

When the sky split open and screamed pain and bled stars I was already dead, on the inside despite my body's argument to the contrary. I wandered, a numb witness to the spectacle of oblivion's arrival. What did it matter? Could nothing be destroyed? And wasn't that all that was left, nothing? 

Marlene and the boys, the home, everything we built and fought for. All of it gone and it didn't matter how, not when there was a life-shaped hole had been carved out of my heart. So many others gone as well, consumed in the rage and terror that proceeded the end, there was hardly anything left by the time the universe showed its true, mad face.

So I wandered a wasteland, a mockery, my feet crunching over debris. When a sliver of broken glass slid into my heel in a cold rush I wondered not at the pain but when it was I lost my shoes and continued forward, each step becoming a bloody throb that traveled from my foot to my head but I couldn't stop.