Antietam

The old man sat polishing his armor with a faded white cloth. It was evening, late summer – the wind idled through the flaps of the tent but he gave it little notice. The cicadas were loud, but he gave them less. All of his attention went into the final corner of his breastplate, even though the dull iron would benefit little. All except a sliver of mind for the wheezing youth who lay dying in the cot near the entrance.

His armor was old, the stink of sweat and linseed oil inescapable. The leather scar-tissue that bound it all together had been replaced dozens of times, was due to be refit again. The old man made a note to seek the proper skill at the next city of note. The boy on the cot gave a snore that was half-choke and half-gasp. The old man kept polishing without hurry.

The hand holding the cloth constricted of it’s own accord and the cloth slipped free. The old man sighed. He was growing used to his hands and knees and even eyes and mind turning traitor. He leaned forward to snag the cloth from the floor and the wind idled through the tent flaps again, with more force this time as if it had remembered what it had forgotten there. It brought with it the smell of the fire from outside, the chicken and barley in the stew his men tended, and undeniable and soft at the end: the smell of pine and cold, the smell of home. He forgot the cloth but still felt the breastplate’s weight on his knees and breathed in deep.

“This is what no one will tell you, young man.”  His words were careful, pitched where only the wind and boy in the cot could hear. “You are alone. You can fill your life with noise and faith and toil and love and drink and battle, but it always goes quiet. It’s never real. Not even your memory is lantern enough. Stumbling in the wind and dark…”

The boy gave a noise that could have been a sob or just another wheeze. The old man shook his head and stretched his aching arm to pick up the cloth he had dropped. The cloth was faded white, but it was daubed pink and brown and darker crimson. At least the armor was clean.

The old man stood up with a spider’s care. He put each part of his armor in its proper place on the stand, then moved to the dying youth’s side. The old man gave his full attention at last and laid a firm hand aside the boy’s bloody face.

“At least you may rest now. You kept faith-or didn’t know the tale I needed. And still you keep breathing though you are empty and broken and choking on your own end. What honor there is in that, I give it to you gladly. Travel on, Child of the South.”

It was the work of a few moments to join his two old hands on the boy’s throat and close them tight. They did this job well, they did not betray. And then there was only the old man and his clean armor. And the idle wind bearing the memory of cold.

Asteroid Made of No Dragon Award

 

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Did I win the Dragon Award for Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)?

No.

Did I want it?

Yes.

Did I expect to win it?

No.

Do I hate the person that won it?

No.

Do I have larger thoughts about the state of the genre, the context of this award with other awards, and awards in general?

Yes.

Are any of them important?

Uh..no?

Is this format becoming needlessly hostile?

A little…yes.

 

Why haven’t I written anything in a while?

Hey! What?!

Do I only write weird rap lyrics now?

Um.

Am I ever going to put Spell/Sword and The Riddle Box on iBooks like that nice man on Twitter keeps asking?

Shit.

Where are the audiobooks for The Riddle Box and AMOD?

Uh, see–it’s–

Why have I stopped using my FitBit?

Look, now you’re just —

No one likes you anymore.

Hey, that’s not even a question. And you – I? – changed pronouns.

Bold-face you is ashamed of regular-face you.

Well, I suppose there’s plenty of reasons to feel a little —

No one finds you funny.

Okay, that’s just a lie. I am hilarious AND a delight.

You’ve been drinking too much.

I – that – could be argued.

Where is this going?

I – don’t know?

Rap battle?

Okay, rap battle.

. . . .

Swing around the street lights

Remember why you stay up nights

howl down the wind and be sure

your ribs are zipped up tight

Calling down the hallway

Surely must be a better way

to hide in the hollow of too many years

black earth, red blood, and those things you say

scamming programming and spamming the blueshell tears

hound of the west comes to die in the south

words are the only thing you have left in your mouth

words are air and time is dust

End is the lover you can always trust

to forget and forgive and bury you clean

silk coffin so tight you can’t even dream

sing in your bones, stand in the fire

plateglass warrior lives to die at the spire.

 

Sing what you wish, this kid has moves

inevitable correctable which my clockwork symphonic proves

hoarding up my void points and waiting for turns

when the black trumpet is quiet and the midnight burns.

Hum down the wire and come meet me in the spire

I’ll help you remember which of us first confounded Fire.

Astounding, unlikely but already true

it’s only meter that matters when blank notes unspool.

uncork the bottle of already gone

lets see what’s left to cobble up this song

i serve at the mercy of the undying Gray

which means i’ll keep spitting until that witch has had her say

untouchable for now, my broken-heart vow

is the lyre the liar or did I forget a final bow?

burn up the curtain and break down the arch

no lovers can linger when Open and Shut is on the march.

. . . .

That was a pretty good rap battle.

I agree.

Who won?

I did.

Clever. I see what you did there.

I’m glad someone does. Let it never be said I won’t follow my muse to the bitter end.

But then there’s this weird part at the end that trails off. How do you land this?

Only one way:

horsedragon

Nice.

 

 

 

DragonCon Schedule (How to Find Me)

First, you must do this.

You must stand in the spire as the sun reaches its zenith. As the light falls on your eyes, close them tight.

A youth, dressed as a vaguely homoerotic Smash Brothers fighter will appear. You are not to speak to him, only nod in appreciation. He may nod back. He may not. That is not part of this. Or is it.

Second, you must do this.

On Friday, in the Hyatt Lobby, three women will appear. They are not cosplaying. They are actual elves. Do not speak to them, only nod in respect. They are wearing headphones. When they depart, turn quickly to your right. The first Deadpool you see is named Craig. That is not part of this, but a neat trick nonetheless.

Third, you must do this.

Climb the stairs to the hidden Con Suite. Eat and drink whatever is offered with effusive thanks. Walk to the westernmost corner that overlooks the lobby. Someone of no important gender will appear – as gender is performative anyway – and speak to you of echolocation. You are close on my trail. Go to bed immediately, you will need your strength.

Fourth, you must do this.

Find the Catan board with the triangular notch in one side. Steal the Thief piece, he knows one of my secrets. Interrogate him carefully in a manner of your own devising. He will not speak. Chaos does not break.

Fifth, you must do this.

Forget your name. Forget the weight that hangs on your heart. Run down the endless halls and sing the songs that you like best. Gaze with disbelief on the vague errata of a life you have left behind you and scoff at those who claim you must return.

Last, you must do this.

Remember that we are the Empty, but we shine all the brighter for the light we can carry in the vast hole some call Heart.

OR

You know, hit me up on Twitter – @gderekadams – or comment here. I’d love to meet up with anyone! And I’ll probably make time to go to The Dragon Award ceremony, Sunday – 2:30.

 

Until Sundown

When Geranium was younger she wore her hair long. A careful waterfall of black that never, ever hid her face. She wove guitar string through it, silver and sure- encircled her brow like the ring of a tree marking time. She did not know yet that she would be a Bard of Gate City, though she had an inkling. She had not yet bent knee in service of the guitar, Lady Moon-Death. She had not even yet found her cobalt coat, the one that all the posters and action figures showed in later days. She was not yet the one that other bards would curse and envy as the Eruption.

But she was already Geranium. Already knew the Five Unlikely Songs, already could play the guitar like rain in the summer and sing like moonlight in the spring. Already could look in a young man’s eye, hum three notes and evaporate his rib cage. Already had been thrown from the rolls of the best conservatory, a third-rate orchestra, and a passable jazz trio. She was wandering and entirely too talented and entirely incomplete and just beginning to gnaw on the bones of useless defeat when she met the Lute.

He was sitting in the Razor Square in Gorah. He was old, at least to her eyes. Years later Geranium thought he might’ve only been in his late fifties, but to her fifteen he might as well have been crypt ash. He wore only a brown blanket, carefully wrapped and seemed only to own the clay bowl he sat behind in the square and the dusty brown lute that he played. Crowds walked by and he played. Never sang only played. A few coins fell and he played. Played until sundown.

Geranium only saw him by chance. Only listened for a heartbeat too long, then stared at his hands move on the strings and could not look away. She watched all day. And the next. Then on the third she sat down at his side.

“Will you teach me?” She pressed her long fingers hard onto the emerald green guitar case she carried.

The Lute continued to play.

Geranium opened her mouth to speak again. Then stopped. The two sat alone, the crowd was only shadows. She stared at his hands again and felt overpowered by two rare and unfamiliar emotions. Envy. Need. She realized that her face was inches from his strings and her hands were twitching, as if she could pluck his skill from the air.

I want what this old beggar has. She smiled after a time. The only thing that I’ve ever wanted.

She snapped open the silver clasps and pulled free her own darkwood guitar. The Lute smiled at last, the barest tug at his lips.

Geranium played. The Lute played. They played like lamps in autumn. They played like winter’s heart. The crowd passed and coins fell from time to time.

Geranium played. And the Lute played. For three years. Her hair grew ever longer and it often fell forward into her face. Guitar wire and lute string and the stone square and coins in the bowl. Three years playing until sundown. Three years until at last she did pluck his skill from the air.

Geranium laughed bright and free and kissed the Lute hard on his dusty mouth. He offered only an amused grunt then went back to playing. She stood and walked from the square without looking back.

The Lute played and Geranium walked on towards the legend she had promised herself.

Verbena

thinking about time

and spooling up rhymes

and singing out my check account

and rustling through the vines

of ivy and cracked leather

that burn through the weather

and pull me like a sycophant

down to where the bone-clock chimes

yeah, Mitchell Dave i’m touchstoning your story

every  spy glass gets a peek when I come home in glory

i can feel the air, i can feel the weight

the door is closing early, then, Now and Late

but for now I breathe, the stone yet to fall

what can I dream when the End is written tall?

only dance in the moment, unraveling the quotient

carving a mask that i’ll burn with the crow’s consent

can’t change the stone, can’t unmake the tone

the rhythms run riot and rivets down in the bone

Fire finds me but leaves no clue

wandering up gravestones and laughing at my secret blue

hollow and hallowed I lay by the bier

without even gray memory to lead me clear

i don’t want to escape, my grave is carefully laid

just unrolling time until the last gambit’s played

come sing with me and tell me what i knew

remember the tender defender of things untrue

thinking about time and cobbling up rhymes

uncertain who is speaking on the lonesome vines

lay your hand on the blade and remember the knave

heart-blood still pumping, am I just camping on the Save?

unleashed on the airwaves, spreading like a virus

songs of the Lost keep playing, I’m hoping you try this

you’ll never be rid of the copper crown king

burn out the shelves and I’ll be smiling clean

can’t escape what’s already falling

unspool the stammer, just another way of stalling

shots of verbena and draughts of gunsmoke

thinking about rime and last time the cipher spoke.

 

 

 

 

brown leaves

uncork the prophet
and come running for payback
still gunning down interlopers
cotton thieves outta stayback
wiggle my toes and rummage around for flows
hoping i’m still beating when my heart already knows
song of the vandal, coming back to ramble
leaving my gleaming all screaming on the bramble
home of the brave and cost of the knave
and singing down august and hoping the joker’s played
i hope you have time and I hope I find mine
and I hope the clock’s still running when Frog’s down in the mines
luck in the scandal, trust in the vandal
legends are burned like any other candle
stars fall and i’m still dreaming
hand across my face and the gear-work still scheming
hand on the blade and fog in the glade
and this is the only meter that matters when the psalm is played
hum it with me and remember me best
when the sun is down and autumn is creeping into my chest.

[Originally posted over on verses.site – a new social media thing for poetry, I guess?]

The Dragon Award

 

award

Blink.

Blink.

award2

 

This video, in its ENTIRETY, is how I feel. I’m on an award list next to N.K. Jemisin  and Jim Butcherrrrrrrr.

You did this. All of you that took the time to answer my plea and nominate me – and I cannot thank you enough. It makes me feel fantastic. This is great for exposure for AMOD and I was already going to be at DragonCon – so now MY SWAGGER WILL UNHOOK PLANETS IN THEIR VERY ORBITS. It is your fault that I will act like an even bigger asshole at the con! Feel the surge of pride!

Now – if you haven’t already registered to vote –  you should!

http://application.dragoncon.org/dc_fan_awards_signup.php

You should vote for me – and my Sword & Laser/Inkshares shelf-brethren: The Life Engineered by J.F. Dubeau and An Unnattractive Vampire by Jim McDoniel.

BUT

LET’S BE CALM AND RATIONAL FOR JUST A SECOND.

Take another look at the bracket I’m in. Here’s who I’m up against.

  • the writing Guest of Honor of DragonCon / perennial NYT  bestselling author
  • A book that has already won both the Nebula AND the Hugo (guys. it is sO goood)
  • Darth Vader of the Sad Puppies (who I’m sure is Googling my book as we speak. I’m sure he will be displeased, my book features ladies who both speak AND have opinions.)
  • Some other guys who seem very nice!

SO. What does my book have going for it? Well – you guys AND:

IT’S THE ONLY BOOK WITH ‘DRAGON’ IN THE TITLE.

charlottemascot

 

SO LET’s DO IT!

Okay – okay. Honestly, I’ve already won. This is all I ever wanted out of The Dragon Award – to get nominated, get a little more attention on the book, etc. Thanks again to everyone who nominated me. You made this happen. (I always say that like an accusation…) I get to pretend to be a big shot for a little bit longer – the awards actually get announced AT the con, which adds the perfect amount of sizzle to the weekend.  It’s fun to be at the big table for a hot second – even though I’m still wearing my bib. So vote! Vote for MEEEE. But with the knowledge that I already feel awesome and I’m going to have a blast with this entire situation all the way through someone else winning the Dragon Award that should have been miiiineeeeeee.

[UPDATE 8/15: My publisher has made the ebook of Asteroid Made of Dragons only .99 until DragonCon! So if you’re thinking about voting – or just want to grab the DRM-free ebook in every version for mega cheap – NOW IS YOUR TIME

You can also get my co-nominated Sword & Laser brethren for the same low cost! That’s three full novels for less than the cost of your average chicken biscuit.

The Life Engineered – by J.F. Dubeau

An Unattractive Vampire – by Jim McDoniel

We’re definitely the small fry on this ballot – but we’d love your consideration and perhaps your undying fealty?]

With heart-eyes emoji for you all –

Dragon-Nominated Author [hey this is a thing now!]

G. Derek Adams

 

Attack – Magic – Item <

I don’t know if there’s a term for this, but it’s a sensation I’ve been keying on a lot lately, so I’ll try and describe it. It’s something that happens in JRPG’s – generally when you’re younger, playing for the first time – before you’ve mastered the mechanics, or have played enough of them to really GET the need for grinding or system mastery. You just get pulled forward by the story, by the colors, by the sense of momentum – until you find a point in the game, generally a boss battle – where you hit that first difficulty spike.

final-fantasy-VI-screenshot-1I’m thinking turn-based Final Fantasy style games here – so you know the sort of boss I’m talking about. Stratospheric HP. They attack three or four times as much as you can. They have special attacks that target the entire party and reduce your health by 60-70%. They cast DOOM too early in the game – long before you can easily heal that status. They take out Sabin in the first turn, then Terra – and you get trapped in the Phoenix Down Loop of trying to bring your characters back to life, but then the boss goes again and knocks them right back out. You finally wear the boss down to half and IT HEALS ITSELF.

Turn based games are all about developing patterns. Little algorithms. Little pathways of strategy and victory that carry you to the next turn of the page, the next point on the horizon, the next treasure chest gleaming in the dark. This boss battle EATS your algorithm, shatters your pattern. The plans you’ve laid, the habits you’ve developed – nothing works anymore. You’ve got to scramble, improvise, and —

Now, here’s the part I’m trying to describe.

All of your old patterns don’t work anymore. Most of your party is dead – the gambler, the rune knight, the ninja. You just have one random character left and they have no healing abilities – so you start digging around in your Item screen.

In games like this – you pick up all sorts of things. Potions, tonics, elixirs, shiny rocks, trinkets. And in these moments, you desperately start digging through your bag – hoping there’s something in there you’ve forgotten, some random bottle gathering dust that can save the day – or at the very least get you back on your feet to keep fighting. It’s a feeling ctbattle3of desperation. Your best characters – the best pieces of you- are toast and all you’ve got left is that final slot trying to play it cool while they are elbow deep in the item sack. Magus is casting Ice 2 every turn with grim patience and watching you falter.

And sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes you find an Elixir  you forgot about. Or an X-Potion. But most of the time you’re just throwing whatever you have – Phoenix Downs and Tonics, the better characters breathe and then die again under the boss’ onslaught. Maybe you can hold out, but every time you reach into the bag you know there’s less and less to pull from – less and less of a chance of the perfect solution.

Then there comes the moment. The moment when you know.

You know you can’t win. You know that there’s only so many Hi-Potions left, only so many turns before you fall. The logical choice would be to quit. Reload from the last save and try again. But for some reason, I don’t. I keep throwing whatever is left in my bag – turnips, sacks of candy, broken nails, status effect causing items that never ever land on a boss. I think it feels like if I can buy more time, more moves, more turns – that the boss will falter. A new strategy could reveal itself, a chink in the armor of the world. I’m locked into a Hi-Potion Standoff – all I can do every turn is choke another one down. Heal up just enough to survive the next attack, then crack open another. Until they are gone.

Life is not Final Fantasy VI. It’s both way more complicated – and seriously moogle deprived. But I wanted to describe that feeling – that weird hopeful desperation. No moves left but this, hoping for a forgotten chance somewhere deep down in the bag. And the determination to make the boss earn it.

 

AMOD Deleted Scenes

I know! Weird that I’m not posting my odd rap lyrics, I’m actually posting something tangentially related to one of my books.  During the editing process of Asteroid Made of Dragons there were tons of refinements and changes made – but only two actual scenes that were cut. My editor wisely advised me that they slowed down the pace and distracted from the main narrative.

“But they’re META!” I whined.

Well, I think we all know how that conversation went. But! I thought it might be fun to pull those cut scenes up off the floor and let you take a gander. No real spoilers for the plot of AMOD, as these scenes feature the players from the framing sequence.

Enjoy!


Cut from Intermission One

Vincent let his wooden sword fall back on his shoulder and the matching shield decorated with tin dangle from his long fingers. The tall actor cocked his head to one side for a moment, and then turned to Sand.

“I’m sorry to interrupt our rehearsal,” he said with tenterhook grace. “But I’m afraid I’m a bit confused.”

Toby, wearing ram’s horns on his brow and a tattered red cloak around his shoulders dropped the fierce stance he held and squatted down on his heels. He crossed his arms and nodded in agreement.

“Yes?” the bald leading player replied, his eyes down in his copy of the script.

“Well, it’s just that — so far there have been plenty of scenes of the Paladin chasing the Demon, or the Demon fleeing the Paladin, and now we’re at the end of the Act and the two are having their first real fight,” the tall man’s tone was careful.

Sand pawed back through the first pages of the folio, then nodded, his attention still elsewhere. “Yes, that’s right.”

“So, what I was wondering is…what does the Sage have to do with it?”

“What?” Sand looked up at last, eyes focusing on his players.

“Well, we have our scenes and you have yours – but the characters never seem to meet. And nothing that happens in your scenes seem to have anything to do with ours?” Vincent looked to Toby for affirmation, the horned blonde man grunted in agreement. “I mean, what is the Sage even doing? I mean, they’re nice scenes, lots of speeches for you

Toby snickered, quite demonically.

“…but what does the Great Evil the Sage uncovers have to do with the Hero?” Vincent held his wooden sword out, the gilt-paint was chipped. “What is this ‘Dark’ that you keep mentioning?”

“A natural question, it is sure.” Sand stood up and clapped his hands together. “But let us keep reading, all will become clear ere the curtain falls, I promise you. Now, onto the next scene. This is a scene for our Demon – he has found his way to the edge of the garden where the Sacred Fountain is hidden. All he must do is find his way within. Soon he is surprised by the Paladin once more, hot on his heels.”
The slight rise in the older actor’s voice left little doubt about his interest in entertaining further criticism of the text. Toby and Victor looked at each other, then shrugged. The tall actor left the playing space, finding a shady spot near the wagon. Toby straightened his horns and cape and flipped through the folio until he found the correct place to begin.


Cut from Intermission Two

“Abscond!” Sand howled the Sage’s lines with eerie vigor, his hands wracked with quivering torment. “You foul Paladin and fouler Demon! I speak the truth and you toss it behind you like offal on the midden heap. If you heed not my warning, then flee. Flee through the verdant bows of the glade and the forgetful arms of Night and disappear to the far Edges of the City.”

“I hear your warning and I heed it,” Vincent held his Hero’s Sword high, “But I follow a greater charge. This Demon must die, by my hand or none. This is my battlefield, my war with the Shadow. You speak of a greater Darkness, one that no single mind can comprehend, no single heart can bear. I can bear this, I can fight this foul Creature before me. This is where I will stand, sword at the ready.”

Toby nodded, then reached under his demon’s horns to scratch an itch.

Sand looked at the handsome player. Toby looked back. Vincent waggled his eyebrows with portent at his lover. Toby arched his eyebrows back. Sand dropped the perfect Agony Tree Pose he had held throughout the scene and pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed.

“It’s your line, Toby,” the bald man tapped his own copy of the script.

“Yeah, I know,” Toby put his horns back on and smoothed his golden hair back into place.

“You’re not even looking at the script,” Sand crossed his arms.

The blonde Demon shrugged and flipped through the folio with desultory interest. Vincent lowered his sword and leaned on it, long face concerned. “Is something wrong Toby?”

“I don’t want to play the Demon,” the blonde man said, staring pointedly at a square of blank ground slightly to the left of Sand’s feet.

“Why not?” Sand replied, keeping his tone level and soothing.

“It’s no fun. I’m always lurking or crying about something or killing things in fits of passion. Even that one scene where the maid tries to give me the bread I just spent most of the time yelling at her.” Toby sulked.

“Is it…” the leading player made a diplomatic hand gesture, fitting for a queen’s herald. “…is it that you think the audience won’t like you?”

“That must be tough,” Vincent murmured, but Sand shot him a quick glance to silence the tall man.

Toby shrugged and stared at the floor.

“You haven’t read ahead in the script, have you?”

“What?” Toby met the troupe leader’s eyes.

“The last act? You haven’t read it yet, have you?” Sand tapped his copy of the folio again.

“No – why? Do I do something cool?” the patchwork Demon began to flip through the pages with renewed interest.

Sand folded the play between his hands and spoke with professorial elan. “The spine of this script is the hound of Sin. The Paladin’s murder of his mentor in Act One – Scene Two, the Demon’s reckless slaughter at Marwell Abbey, the Sage’s return of that library scroll a full two months past the appointed due date — all transgressions that haunt the characters throughout the events of the play. The things we do to forget, the lies we tell ourselves to mask the truth, we scrub and scrub at the stone but the chisel-marks we can not erase.”

Vincent nodded with understanding, but Toby only shrugged again. “So?”

Sand lowered the jaws of his trap gracefully. “And in all the plays, all the lives we’ve lived in the Twilight Kingdom, how has any character ever washed clean their slate?”

Toby stared down at the script as if struck by lightning. “Shit and beetle-balls, we’re all going to die aren’t we?”

Sand returned to his anguished pose and nodded to the Demon to take his cue. Actors cannot resist a proper death, no more than cats can pass milk or hedgehogs leave a cinnamon bun.

I know! So META. Painful to cut.

Supplies

unlikely and tritely
and measures of soup
who knows the ketchup man
when he’s covered in goop?

stop in the rain and pound in the sun
my heart is a rolodex and the time never runs
frank like my idol, can’t scratch the vinyl
keep chattering and nattering i say when the mix is final

worlds like birds that flap and then are silent
i hunger for the wonder but feel only the violent
blood that spills and pumps through my caustic veins
brown earth choking and the black water all that explains
my inability or responsibility to mutter more matter then one or zero
flashing on my screen, hoping that this syllabic construct’s the hero
i duck and dive and stay alive
slurp down the sugar and wander through the bee jive
is it me or my environment
that remembers where the echoes went?
did i make this place or did I make this face
or do i face this place so i can contemplate disgrace?

same rhyme same story
don’t care, cut me Hal’s piece of glory
sinner covetous, young man grown older thus
howl at the moons and remember the brittle trust
i once had for the turn of the page
the child’s love for the step on the stage
the horizon never dies and Vash never lies
but i’m left in ash running short on supplies
burn out the heart but leave me the rest
nothing in here but rubble that’s double blessed
hold and hold and hold and hold
name of the game and the player’s old
but still i remember a long way from december
the sun is hot and can lead to distemper
i chase down the beat and dream through the heat
singsong radiation keeps me humming in the street

i’m coming home
always back to where you start
unlock the clock
and tell this shaman where to park
brown and gray a song of the elder days
turn up the radio and hope that tune still plays
singing in the dark pines
hoping that I have the time
press me in brick and I’ll paint you in steel
quiet is kept when the Future’s Past is real