Empty House

what make we

what mar we

in the formless air of the

nothing square?

shuttered, dustless

and sere

like a  hobbled

moonbeam or broken

cog.

i speak

i don’t but I speak

and light dribbles down my cheeks

and is lost in the cracks around my navel.

hard to remember

wax breaking, channel and signet gone

the ink

is poison.

Dust eats me

and I am alone.

I Have Only Read 1.5 Terry Pratchett Books.

The Color of Magic and Good Omens.

That’s it. That’s all I needed to know. That I would live my life writing in his shadow. That I would have to wait until I was not writing fantasy for a while before I could read more, because I would copy. Copy copy copy. Some without realizing, some with avarice and the bandit’s dagger bit between my teeth.

Artist -  Molly Crabapple

Artist – Molly Crabapple

I’m sure you’re surprised. The closest comparison people have had for my stuff is ‘Are you trying and failing to do some sort of weak-sauce Pratchett thing?’. And the answer is yes. Of course it’s yes. Even without reading more, he’s everywhere – his essays, his presence, the quiet vibration in the air when I write. I’m not the first explorer, far from. He marked these paths for me, he’s already traveled further than I ever will. He already said the things, he already made that joke, he already saw, he already wrote it better than I ever could. I’m a candle and he is a bonfire.

It made me jealous, it made me depressed, it made me feel safe. I struggled to articulate the core concept of my fiction for months, he laid it out in 1000 words thirty years ago. I seethe on the border of the city he built, a useless rebel. I stare at his mountain of work with pickle-green envy.

And now he is gone. He left as he wished, in the manner he chose.

And now the road is less. The way is less. The worlds beyond are darker, and the paths out of ours harder to find. His light remains but it is distant, like the time-phase of starlight. And I feel alone. I have his whole canon to enjoy one day and that is a blessing, but out here in the woods between the wind is colder and I am bereft of the traveler who I envied and barely knew. He left his light in a tower of words, but his campfire out here in the dark has gone out and all I can smell is smoke.

With temerity and gall I claim kinship, with grief I join my voice to all that mourn.

Diagnostic

B_WtFziVEAEpEnGLet’s see what still works.

do re me fa so very far I fall when the wind stops blowing

held aloft like tinsel, like tin planes made of memory and bone. ten planes or eleven or six or seven while all bad dogs are barking at heaven

Run through the manger howl and stammer

break up the night but don’t mind the grammar

I tap the strings and shake off the moss

i hold nothing but the Songs of the Lost

the wires are heating and the sheep are bleating and light bends the heart into lines and vibration

change the station

The peak of the mountain was oddly shaped, like a malformed muffin discarded by an unknown baker.

Her smile was daggers and her dagger was laughter.

The steel circle meant nothing to her, not yet.

He picked up the faded staw hat as if it were made of cold rain.

The dog was made of glass. It had no heart but Purpose, no mind but Will. And it could hear it’s master’s call.

“Is everything okay?”

“Getting better, I’m just a tad sensitive about how my mind works. I’ve taken some blows up there, medical and otherwise – and the medication I’m on adds to that feeling of being…disconnected.”

“From the Force?” Obi-Wan, who is also Neal, probed carefully.

“Yeah.” I sighed, rubbing my eyes with the heels of both hands. “Things come out of nowhere, I’m always swiveling my head. I’m always on tip-toe.”

Always the dawn finds us scraping our heels on the edge of the fire, singing our skin as the dark retreats, as if we can burn the memory of shadow-lessons into the mute pages of form.

Radd Plateglass stood on the edge of the Red Tower and tuned his violin. The place he stood was not really called the Red Tower, but as a Name it was certainly evocative enough. The host of bright death that gathered in the streets below had destroyed many Names this night, this lyric of nights, and he was too exhausted to decipher the rubble and smoke to truly know where he stood. Except he knew where he stood, in the ruin of Gate City, the cracked bell of the world that would peal no more. A thousand-thousand strains of melody and light and song and memory had been born and treasure-troved in these streets, hidden and en-wombed by the endless night that covered all like a protective mother-spirit. Blood dripped onto the violin from his forlorn eye, the quiet dark circle of empty ravage the green skeleton had gifted him before tossing him aside. In days gone he would wipe the filth from  his instrument, but it was no matter. It had gone beyond the chance of repair. If only it would play true, that would be more than enough.

All Bards of Gate City had but one goal if they were worth their staves. That their death-song be true. Grand, yes. Better than all others, of course. The summation of a life of skill, beyond question. But true. Above all true. No lies in the soul of music, not from a true Bard of Gate City. And even if there would soon be no more Gate City, Radd’s song would be true true true.

The bard raised his bow and swirled the black smoke around as if to gather his audience and began to play.

Play the lines, play the lines

Play the times again Lucas.

the Machine is waiting

but light is fading

and sleep is gathering around like a constant vassal with poison in his teapot

i had it for a moment there

which is all i’ve ever been able to claim

so good enough

it will have to do

i have an oak tree root in my heart

and it groans in the wind

Story on Demand – Dinosaur Music Lesson

Harvey-Stein-2

“Most people entertain a pleasant superstition that Robert Johnson went down to the crossroads and sold his soul to the devil in return for unparalleled skill with the guitar,” the professor wiped a daub of chalk of his wrist, then turned his sharp eyes back to his Montana-like classroom, his words echoed with plenty of empty chair-space to reverberate.

The black student continued to thumb away at his phone, barely hidden under his desk. The two girl students managed vague eye movements of interest. The fat kid on the side tapped his pencil and seemed to be quietly humming to himself.

The professor continued, “But what would you say if I told you that the true explanation if far more strange and alarming?”

Black:thumb. Girls: eyes. Fat: tap.

“What if I told you that instead of any mythic manifestation of Evil, Robert Johnson was met by a SPECTRAL PTERODACTYL?!?” he bellowed.

The pencil, eyes, and phone all hit the floor.

“Like…a dinosaur?” one girl asked slowly.

“Exactly,” the professor crossed his arms with satisfaction.

“Uh…” the fat one vocalized in an acceptable D flat.

“Sir.” the black student raised his hand, the professor nodded. “I know that maybe we haven’t been paying as close of attention as you’d like in your class–”

“I’m not yanking your chain,” the professor interrupted. “I am telling you something important and true. Robert Johnson was taught to play the blues, better than perhaps any other human before or since, by a ghostly flying reptile.”

“But that’s crazy, sir. I don’t know why you’d say—”

“Let me ask you a question. How did he get the skill then? If NOT from a Pterodactyl?”

The second girl chimed in.” Natural talent.”

“Practice.”

“Good marketing.” the first girl supplied.

“No no, what we know about the situation is very clear. Before that night he was an okay player, after that night was a god. This fact is not in dispute. Hundreds of reliable, ear-witness accounts – even the recordings that survive. A clear-cut piece of musical history. Something happened that night, some event, something extraordinary. None of the things you’ve suggested could have caused such rapid improvement.”

“But the devil explanation is just as plausible as the…”the fat student winced. “…dinosaur explanation. What makes you so sure that it’s the correct one and not the other?”

The professor sighed with weariness. “Because the Devil is a hadrosaur and only plays country.”

Resurrected my long dormant feature ‘Story on Demand’ to help get my writing dynamos spinning again. Someone suggests an idea and I write some flash fiction about it. Today’s ‘winner’ is Brent Thomas – who is also a writer with a new book BOUT TO BE OUT.

storyondemand

The Bellinora

She leaned on the Sword, breath ragged.

The place where she was rang hollow and empty, alone. An alone-place. It

by Rahmatozz

by Rahmatozz

would serve.

The Sword hummed and shook, but her grip was sure. Even in exhaustion, even at the edge of night, she would never let it go.

She fell on a stack of tiles, the ceramic crumpled underneath the weight. She folded her body around the Sword, rags falling over her thin form and ash-covered face. Sleep came just as her heart still beat – slowly, painfully, without the promise of rest. It was a thing that happened, easier and easier to ignore.

The Bellinora slept. But the Sword did not.


A group of children passed an empty house, it had been abandoned for several years. They had taken to throwing rocks at it in idle moments, but today the house seemed different. Peter lobbed a pebble absently while Dala and Wrench were clambering over the broken fence. His pebble shattered a snaggle-tooth window, as his bullets had a dozen times before – but something seemed different. A thrill went through his stomach, and Peter felt afraid. As if some great beast had made the abandoned house its lair.

Peter grabbed his friends and dragged them protesting away from the house. His mother had taught him well. ‘Humans can take no chances, Peter’ she had said. ‘Every hand is turned against us. You feel funny or worried, even if you can’t see the reason. You get as far away from it as possible.’

The three human children trotted away from the house, further into their neighborhood, the claptrap shanties and hovels that their race was bound to.

Peter did not mention the house or the feeling of fear. But he did not forget.

[Just a little bit I wrote for my Pathfinder campaign today. I liked it and I haven’t updated blog in a bit so HERE YOU GO.]

World Map Unlocked!

Or found rather! On my hard-drive. This is a few years old at this point, leftover from my Lodestar campaign. Some of the names have changed in Spell/Sword, and the locations shifted slightly [mainly because a lot of them are from other stories and intellectual properties. Some from homage, some just because I was lazy.]– but for those of you wondering what else is out there in Aufero, here’s a reasonably accurate peek.

Artist - W. Steven Carroll

Artist – W. Steven Carroll

Click to see real honkin’ big version.