Sunday, January 21, 2018

Jay of a kind

As a rule, trying to kill a magician before six in the morning is unwise. Not that it is ever wise, but trying to attack a magician BC –before-coffee – means we tend to act without thinking. The would-be killer is curled up in the doorway sobbing as my shadow untangles from his own. The hotel room door is a complete loss and I can hear Charlie shouting at someone in her room. Nothing from Jay’s room, even though the door has been broken open.

I step over the man with the machine gun and cheap suit, glancing about the hotel room. The killer who had intended to shoot Jay comes out of the bathroom, levelling a machine gun at my chest.

I hold his gaze with my own. Any competent magician learns to hide what they are, but also when to let it be visible. The gun hits the ground, his face as pale as the countertop.

“.. stupid,” Charlie is snarling from her room. “Do you even grasp what Jay would do if you shot me?”

I leave her to keep lecturing the would-be killer, gesture to the island and walk toward it. The man follows me. Big, poorly made suit, hat, gun.

“I am the wandering magician, and it’s been years since anyone actually tried to kill me with a gun. Which doesn’t mean your friend didn’t run into my wards, and your other friend met the god inside Charlie. And Charlie. I think it might be for the best if you explain why you are here.”

The man gulps loudly. He’s dangerous, but only in crude ways, and has some idea of what I could do to him.

“Jay. The boy with you. He was in a poker game last night. He cheated; boss wanted a lesson sent to cheaters.”

I snort. “Jay does many things, but he definitely wouldn’t cheat at cards. Cheating isn’t jaysome, after all.”

“It was a poker game. He used Pokemon cards.”

“And won, of course.” I shake my head. “Jay is eleven: if someone let him into the poker game, that’s not my fault. He won because it wouldn’t even occur to him that he wouldn’t win.” I reach through the bindings I have with Jay, a question getting a happy answer. “He also gave the money out to a dozen homeless people he ran into. Because Jay.”

“We were told to teach him a lesson.”

“You can start by calling a company about the doors and helping fix them. Fixing mistakes is an important lesson for Jay to learn. You made a mistake. You own it. You fix it.”

“But –.” The man stops dead as Jay appears in the middle of the room with a tray from Starbucks. “I got coffee for you and Charlie, Honcho, and – do I need to get more coffees?! Because I can!” The pride behind the smile causes the man to somehow turn even paler than when we’d held gazes.

“We – uh – we came to the wrong house for a party, so we’re fixing some doors. Coffee would be nice?” he says.

“Okay!” Jay vanishes again.

The hired killer Charlie lectured bolts out of her room into the bathroom, throwing up violently as Charlie comes out and goes to her coffee.

“I explained what Jay would do if I got shot. In detail. Idiots,” she says.

“They won’t stay that way. Jay is bringing them coffee,” I say as I undo the wards on the one in my bedroom. He wisely elects to stay in the room for now. “We’ll take Jay out for breakfast and give them time to fix the hotel room and explain things to their boss.”

The pale man nods frantically, saying nothing.

“What happened?” Charlie asks, resigned.

“Jay. Poker game. Pokemon cards.”

“Oh, good. It took hours to fix the time he played Go Fish and War with a tarot deck.” Charlie shudders a little at the memory as I get my own coffee.

Jay returns with coffees for all three hired guns, each one just the way they like it.

They, wisely, say nothing at all as we head out to breakfast with Jay. Which will also be an adventure.

Friday, January 19, 2018

After The Job Interview

The woman who walks into the office has eyes like drowned stones glittering with fire. I make a sound and the fire flicks out.

“I – I am sorry? If you came here for help? We are closed? We are closed. Everyone has gone home.”

“I know. Jay told us he was going to apply for a job. And he really doesn’t understand what a collections agency does.”

“He thought we collected debts. And freed people from them.” I whimper.

I had thought his smile was everything.

Then I got to witness his disappointment.

He said our job wasn’t – he said it wasn’t jaysome.

I don’t realize I said the last words aloud. I don’t even realize I am crying until she lets go of me.

“I am sorry. Jay is –.” she pauses. “Jay. He is like a force of nature that never knows it is one.”

“Everyone quit. En masse I stayed because the manager has to. Because someone has to explain this to – to head office.” My voice cracks.

“Ah. Tell them it was an Act of Jay. Someone will know what it means.”

“An act of – that was a god?”

Her smile is a strangeness. “Nothing so small at that, I’m afraid. Even gods can’t be kind like Jay can.”

“You know him. How – how do you survive him?”

She blinks. “Pardon me?”

“He – that smile. That joy. The –.” words fail me.

“Jay would be very disappointed to know he hurt us. Or anyone at all, unless he really means it. If he meant harm to you, you would know that since this business wouldn’t be here anymore. You can leave. And should: a new job will show up for you, because Jay.” And she turns, heading to the door.

“Wait. Where are you going?”

“To make sure Jay doesn’t do this to every debt collection office.”

And she says that as casually as she said the boy could destroy the business.

“I don’t understand.”

“I’d be worried if you did. Consider it the most dangerous job interview you’ll ever conduct and be content with that.”

The woman closes the door behind her. I get my coat and head to the door. The phone rings. I imagine it is head office. I stare at it. At all the empty desks. I walk outside. It takes everything I have not to run, but I walk and leave a life behind.

And hope, desperately, that I never meet Jay again and once more see sadness in his eyes at how I make a living in this world that contains so much less jaysome than he believes it does.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Of Sirens and Shadows

I hit pavement and roll. Somehow it isn’t hard. Derrick is clutching at the air where the steering wheel was, making confused noises. As a rule, police cars don’t generally vanish from existence. From the alleyway that contained something made of smoke and foul dreams a boy cones walking out.

Whatever had been in it had hurt like a toothache behind the eyes. It wasn’t there. Just this boy with a most serious look on a face that didn’t seem suited for it.

“I’m sorry about your car, but I promised Honcho there wouldn’t be any sirens tonight and you were about to do an oops and turn some on,” he says, as though that makes all the sense in the world.

“Can we have it back?” My voice is calm. I can’t shake the feeling that being anything other than calm would be a very bad idea.

“Umm!” The boy scratches his head. “I was kinda busy getting rid of the monster jaysomely and! I think I lost it?” He snaps his fingers.

Derrick lets out a shriek and curls into a ball.

“Is he okay?!” the boy asks anxiously.

“Ah. Yes. He’s –.”

“I bet he’s all adventured out! But but but I was going to say that I can get you another car!” He grins. The grin is impossible. Even Derrick stops sobbing and it isn’t even directed at him.

“Like the one we had?” I ask slowly.

The boy pouts. “I could but one that transforms would be more jaysome you know?”

“Our boss would prefer an ordinary one.”

“Okay!”

I have never heard a more enthusiastic okay in my life. One moment he speaks, the next a police car is on the road beside me.

“This one will have a siren tomorrow and – oh! Got to go: I don’t want I miss another adventure!”

The boy vanishes with a wave. I open the police car. It smells brand new even if it isn’t from our department. Or world. The radio works and I tell dispatch that no one is to use sirens tonight. My boss comes on, demanding reasons.

The word jaysome shuts him up. I’m ordered in for debriefing and told to call in a ‘code jay’ to the hospital about Derrick. An ambulance shows up for him before I’m halfway down the street.


I think I’m the only one at the station who is surprised when the police car vanishes after I lock it.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

BatJay Binds Again

I leap down from the rooftop, all shadow and no silence. The bones of the muggers break like rotten wood under the impact of mere fingers. I know seven ways to kill them without trying to, nine to make it an accident.

Begging sounds emit: I laugh at them as they did their own victims. One has a gun. I flex my cape like a blade. Two fingers are terminated. Their victim stands frozen against the wall. Afraid of them.

Afraid of me.

Good.

“Run,” I snap. The word a bullet. My disgust a blow.

The victim run-bolt-stumbles. Weak. But fear can lead to strength if one learns that fear is a luxury they cannot afford. The muggers have both fainted. No joy there then.

I break their legs, because reminders are important.

Movement. I spin. A magician is standing behind me. He does not look like a magician, which is one of his strengths I think. There is nothing of a mugger or victim in his eyes.

“BatJay.”

Indulged myself. Careless. I move. Nothing happens. The world about us too solid. His will has imposed itself. No way around it. Only through.

I fire my grappling gun at his face, arm twitches. I miss, leap. I could break his neck before he could work a single act of magic, but some ward hurls me backwards onto the alleyway floor. I taste blood in the back of my mouth. Hurt. I was hurt. I thrust out a hand. Half a block away, windows shatter at the force of the blow.

The magician hasn’t moved.

“You are strong, but not near as tough.” I go to move, but his gaze is unbreakable. “Why do you exist?” he snarls, and the power under the words drives me to my knees.

His magic is a bludgeon on the air, and I let out a scream of shock as his will tears into mine. He rips memories out of me with a savage cruelty that flares and dies so fast only the aches inside me are proof it happened.

I manage to stand. My breath is wounded pants.

“I cannot unmake you,” the magician says, and the power remains though his voice is softer. “I am sorry, but it would be... noticed, and not understood. Even you do not know the moment that made you. And I cannot do a binding you would not break in time.” He is tired, and I think scared, but not of anything like me.

“I am darkness. I am the night,” I snarl.

“No, you are not.” He holds out a hand.

I move. I can’t break away from him, but even so. I move, and my strength shatters the ground under him. It does not break; he does not fall into the sewers underneath us.

“You cannot hurt me,” the magician says. “Because Jay never would.”

And there is a truth in his eyes. I make a sound. Like the victim almost. I emit. I don’t want to. I don’t mean to.

There is a hardness to him that nothing can break.

His hand closes. Fists. Opens.

The world tears itself apart. The universe does, behind me. There is nothing solid Outside. But hungers. Shapes. Movements. Things older and more dangerous than even BatJay.

“I banish you,” the magician says, and he is not strong enough to look. I fight it, but his is the will and magic both.

There are things Outside. Waiting. Not for me. I am a small fragment of something else. A shard of loss innocence. I know what I am, in that moment. I scream my name, expecting the rest of me to hear to know to come

but the magician stops it and

i am

i have no way back

i fight

i cannot win

Outside is the asylum

there are too many enemies

i fight. batjay will not lose.

will not

will not!


not


...

NO

...

no



...
...



no  

Monday, January 08, 2018

The BatJay Returns

BatJay’s Journal. Date Uncertain, 2018(?)

Bigfoot carcasss in the alley this evening, claw scars on burst stomach. The night is afraid of me. I made faces at the abyss. The streets are extended alleyways and the alleys are full of labyrinths trying to drain tears and when the drains finally scab over, all the loss will melt away. The accumulated bindings of all their needs and desires will foam up about their shadows and all the sacred and the scared will look up up and shout “Save us!”...

...and I'll look down, and whisper “jaysome.”

They have no choice, all of them. To fall in the shadow of BatJay is is to become jaysome. Decent adventures, for a day’s journey. Too many are afraid of that. Instead they run to the abyss with open arms as though I will not be waiting at the end. Don’t tell me they don’t know that.

Now the whole works totters on broken bindings, staring into the emptiness at the end of all things with their jibbbers and their jabbers and all of the sudden.... everyone has too much to say.

The world become a cacophony of shredded voices. Everyone is screaming for salvation, no one willing to see the face of their saviour.


BatJay’s Journal. Later.

Was busy all day. I have eaten too many sugar mice. Someone complained about the smell. I am certain they cheat their nose with every meal. Soon it will be dark. The sky is the colour of burnt yolks. Beneath me, this empty city, it screams like an abandonment. No one listens, too busy to fill it. Bindings scattered like broken glass.

On Friday night, a comedian died in New York. Not many sasquatch comediennes. Body left shaved for the police. Someone knows why. Down there. Up here too, but I have to not know. Follow the bindings. Search for clues. Clues are the last call before the curtain goes down.

I leap down, scattering shadows, grappling rope tugged from the moon. Mistake. Can’t afford those. The gloaming reeks of bad choices and lost answers. I believe that calls for exercise.

The bar is quiet with the hush of lies. Bouncer moves in front of me. Says I can’t be here. Utters threats. Can’t have that. Break bindings. Pinky finger. Index finger. Appendix finger. Not a finger. Still breaks. Screams. I ask questions.

Someone asks if I knew the bigfoot. Asks if I have a friend. Fear-laugh. A twitch inside. Door. Something trying to get out. Of me. Find a sugar container. Sugar daddy. Makes no sense. Probably the screams.

They stop.

No one has answers. There are sirens. Distant. They never have answers. Leave. Nobody knew anything. Slightly off-jaysome. City is dying of silence. I whisper songs to it, start the rats into a chorus. The rats always remember the city when the humans forget. See it as a thing. Good at that. Best I can do. No. Never not jaysome. Never no adventures. Never a surrender.

Turn some people into cockroaches. Give them a break from being them. Kindness. Busy now. Have business with another class of person.

Can’t talk to the dead. Ghoul will have to do.

News on the web, like a spider. Saying BatJay is dead. Wondering where I am. When I am where I’ve always been. Find a drink, wash the taste of sugar mice from mouth. Inhale the darkness.


BatJay’s Journal. Later. Different evening. Time gone soft.
I am the darkness.

I wear the night.

I am BatJay.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

The Other Half

“Hi!”

I am juggling unbinding six supernovas, waiting for planets to evacuate and stopping a hingari fleet from exiting hyperspace when the voice speaks behind me with relentless optimism.

“I am rather busy right now. If you’re here to kill me, kindly go away.”

“Oh! That is a lot of bindings, but you can do this!” And I watch as five planets rip free from stars and move to surround a different star. I turn, and stare. Jay grins back at me. Me. At eleven. Of course it would be.

“You shoved six civilizations into the same solar system. That can’t end well,” I say as calmly as I can.

“Even if they are jaysome?” he demands. “I know, I could –!”

“You have done enough.” He stops at my tone. Pouts.

“You sound just like –.” And he stops, scowls up at me. “You have a really funny look on my face you know!”

“I imagine I do. There are things you are not permitted to do in the future. Or say.”

“Oh.” He barely tries, and the other stars shrink back to normal because no one wants to disappoint someone who thinks they are jaysome. The five worlds appear where they used to be, and the consequences of causally blinking and moving worlds out of existence don’t happen.

I can do things now I never could at eleven, but his innocence is an armour that is breathtaking in its scope. “Why are you here?” I ask finally.

“Because I need a BatJay for adventures but I think you’ll say no to that so – I know! Did you know that some people have a better half, which means jaysome could too!”

“I am you, so I do know –.” I Pause. Stare at him. “You wish to get married?”

“I think that’s the kind of binding feverfewm meant cuz of signatures and everything!” He grins. I try and make sure he doesn’t realize how deeply that grin hurts.

“Jay. I am you. At fourteen. And you want to marry me?”

“Well, it means more jaysome and I’m way too shouty at twelve and twitchy at thirteen but you’re all kinds of like me cuz of bindings! And that means you can be my better half!”

I don’t move. Myself, at eleven, thinks I am suited to be the other half of jaysome. I do bindings on myself, find refuge in stillness. “Jay.” My voice is distant, even to my ears.

“Did I do an oops?”

“You could say that.” I don’t break. I owe it to myself to not break. His concern is as jaysome as the rest of him. “It would be complicated, and too dangerous since we are at different times of our existence. If we marry, the time between could be damaged.”

“But I think I’m not jaysome some of those times?” he asks slowly.

“You are still Jay. And cannot lose that.”

“Oh. So I need to marry – I know!”

He vanishes back through time.

I am very old, and there are many things I choose not to remember. But this time I reach back for the moments after this, and for a moment I laugh softly and shake my head.

And then get back to fixing what I had done, and trying to make sure Jay didn’t break anything by accident. Again.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Breaking Jaysome

1.

Sometimes is impossible to tell where truth ends and mythology begins. I am only certain of my uncertainties these days, but it began with a simple assignment. I wasn’t any kind of bounty hunter, but I did work in collections and everything was – worrisome. No one knew how long the company would keep existing. No one knew much about anything. The Sable Empire collapsing was a blip that spread far, the loss of the hyperlane system they’d made destroying intergalactic trade within moments. So I wasn’t about to say no to anything.

I was given a name, and told to find them and bring them to Earth – the first one – for a trial. I’d like to think that I knew it was a trap, but I was desperate for the work and desperation makes one nothing if not desperate. That was the start of it. I was given a budget, and weapons. The verkonis blade – worried me, since they are illegal across ever star system. But I had said yes to the assignment, and was not brave enough to say no.

Every story becomes something else in the telling. Every time I have to remind myself of what I did not know. I was told to find Jayseltosche, and nothing else. Most of the major Intelligences operated on a pangalatic level, the destruction of the hyperspace lanes crippling them as well. It was one reason I did not learn much about the target, only that I would know his age, and that he looked the way humans hadn’t looked for centuries.

I had resources, weapons, and strangely no time restriction though I took that to be more taking into account the difficulties in travel more than anything else. I was not given my own craft – nothing so grand – but booked passage on various transport vessels, space stations and colonies. The company goes under many names, so I used whatever one fit the area I was in, asked questions, continued my search. Most of the answers I discovered were worrying, even initially. Many could not believe I was looking for Jay. Some feared me for attempting the search.

I came to define Jay as a kind of terrified wonder, for that encapsulated most descriptions of him. But it did not deter me. One galaxy became two, and finally three before I began to hone in on my quarry. I learned he was sixteen and there was a small, quiet religion of jayists. I am not certain if any approached me. I learned of wars he had ended, and some claimed he had broken the Sable Emperor himself. It was hard not to believe that: many stories said he didn’t have limits and they often agreed on too many things.

The Kabados was an old pleasure vessel turned into a mining operation in the Gasthar Cluster. It was nowhere special and mostly had some small fame in that it hadn’t fallen apart centuries ago. That drew me to it in the end, and I was the only person to disembark at the station.

“Otha.” The head of security security was waiting when I exited the transit freighter.

There were stories about me, too, if I am being honest. One cannot search for so long without becoming part of the sought. The Rathkuin had given me thier blessing two hundred years into my journey. I escaped the fall of Hisseth. I had taken apart in the Tikiro wars, mostly by accident instead of design.

“I am he. You know what I seek.”

The other nodded and simply stepped aside. Which was a small relief: I am dangerous, but I have no desire to have to be dangerous and the machine-man watches me silently as I moved through the Kabados. There are many mining companies and businesses here. The company has representatives, though no one try to contact me. I asked questions, and the lack of answers is answer enough as I searched each floor.

I finally find him on the fourth level, eating at a small canteen. Humanoid, male, and sixteen. He didn’t look impressive. If anything, he seemed far less dangerous than I, but four hundred years of seeking had taught me some aspects of caution. “You are Jay.”

The automatic canteen scuttles away as he stood. Shorter than I and unafraid, head cocked slightly to one side. “That is my name. It isn’t that uncommon.”

“You are sixteen. And Jayseltosche.”

He blinked. Once. “You seem very certain of yourself.”

“I am Otha; I have been seeking you on behalf of the Hildago Company for over four hundred years.”

“Ah. I used to be easier to find.” He shrugged lightly. “I am trying to be – less of a fact, as much as I can. I am pleased to know that I have done better than I knew in this.” He smiled. The smile was wry and gentle, kind in a way that somehow hurts. He is kindness, and not simply because he could afford to be.

“I was sent here.” I got that out steadily.

“Few are. At least not to Kabados. May I ask why you are here?”

“There is a trial and you are needed for it on Earth. The first one, in the Sol system.”

“I am sorry for the time you have wasted then,” he said.

“Pardon?”

“I will not return to that world. You have spent a long time coming here, and I regret that it was for nothing.”

“I cannot return without you.”

“And I will not go.” He smiled, thin and sad, and turned away.

“I am under orders.”

“I do not care.”

“Orders are bindings, and after this one I would be nothing if I broke them. No matter how foolish I was to accept them, they are part of me.”

He slowed, but did not stop.

“I can take you back. I have a verkonis blade.”

Jay stopped at that. “My back is to you; you could use it.”

“I was fool enough to accept this assignment. I am not fool enough to wound you.”

That won a soft, surprised laugh. He turned back, stared up at me. “I like you. But there are things I cannot do, not for likes or even love.”

“You are needed! They have turned the world into a safari park. They have remade continents, the moon, the star –.”

“And this trial is part of that?”

“No. It’s a ruse. I’ve been searching for you long enough to have worked that out. The company is worried about what is being done to that world, a worry that goes beyond profit margins and investments. I do not not know why, Jay. I only know that they invested centuries and a lot of resources into my finding you. And I doubt I am the only one who was sent.”

“You were not.” Nothing more.

“Please. Whatever is going on, whatever is happening. The Company is terrified. And they weren’t terrified even when the hyperlanes fell. Earth is – there is something in it. Something not to be used. And this safari is a cover for trying to use it. I’ve worked that out.”

“And yet you still came. And thought I would come.”

“I don’t know why you won’t.” I had the verkonis blade. I had enough nanotechnology in me to destroy the entire Kabados station. “I can’t force you to come. I can’t bribe you, I can’t – I can only follow you. Until you change your mind.”

“I will not.” His voice was soft, implacable.

“But if they use the energy they find there? The power they are seeking?”

“They cannot.”

“And you are certain of this?” It was dangerous, this, but I had no other weapon except hope.

“I am.”

And everything I had was nothing next to the certainty in Jay’s voice.

“They say you broke the Sable Emperor. Destroyed the hyperspace lanes.” Rumours, nothing more, but I had been certain of less during my seeking of him. Jay did not move. Stared at me in a waiting silence. “It has destroyed the entire intergalactic economy.”

“I am aware of this.”

“I imagine the alternative was worse?”

“It was.” He did not move. He could move between moments. Be across the galaxy in a heartbeat. He did not move. There was no expression to his face at all.

“And if you do nothing about Earth? If you let the safari – if you let the people behind them do whatever they want to that world, what happens?”

“Otha.” Nothing more, but there is a note of warning in that.

I pressed on. If I stopped, I would never have this courage again. “They know there is power there. And they are desperate enough to seek it because the destruction of the hyperlane system has forced them down that path. If not them, someone else will manage this. I cannot stop them. The Company cannot stop them. You can.”

“No.” And he was gone, vanishing between moments to another part of the universe. Not Earth. I was certain of that much, and as certain that I would never find him again.

I reported in. I do it every so often, they don’t forget to send payments to me.

And I am ordered to Earth. To find out what I can.

Again, I am told nothing more. But this time I worry it is because even the Company does not know what is being attempted on that world. Or what might be found if those behind the safari dig deep enough into the world.

I am given the name of those behind the safari.


I will not survive this.


I do not refuse the orders.



2.

The chief danger of a famous place is not the danger of it, but the degree in which it can only disappoint you. Earth is old, mostly a curiosity to humanity now after centuries spent away. It is barely part of its own galactic Hub, a place even history has all but considered unimportant to the present. That the company known only as Tril would turn the world into a safari seemed odd but the universe is full of odd things. Our company was hired to underwrite, and at some point someone in Hildago began to wonder what Tril was a front for.

And so I was sent to find Jay, who is not human at all but spent time on earth long ago. I was given weapons and lies to aid a quest of centuries, but I used neither. He refused to come. So I journey alone to earth, moving from space yacht to space yacht. The collapse of the hyperlane system and the Sable Emperor has broken intergalactic travel for a time, but eventually trade will recover. And people always need insurance, so Hildago will remain.

It does mean that Tril has seed a marked decrease in tourists in the last few years and they were barely turning anything like a profit earlier. But that was never their motive.

I have a verkonis blade in my possession, a weapon illegal on any hyperspace flight, capable of cutting through dimensions as easily as matter. I have technology in my body that has kept me alive and safe for centuries. None of that means anything. The Tril are not some human group. They were never human ago.

My name is Otha, and I am human and I will die soon. Because Tril are seeking ancient energies buried deep in earth. Energies that have allowed the world to exist this long, have kept the solar system in a queer stasis. The Tril are hingari, and with such weapons – I do not know what will happen. All I know is the hingari are shape-changers and skin-shifters, and there was a war against them centuries ago. There are worlds and star systems that have never recovered from it.

How do you defeat an enemy who can look like anyone? You kill everyone. Worlds burned, star systems became clouds of debris and over four galaxies were decimated in the war. What the hingari wanted, I do not know. All I know is that they lose, and fled, and hid. And now are seeking weapons.

‘Investigate this, Otha’, I am told. My first order since I sought Jay and he refused to return to Earth. I do not know what my employers expected: Jayseltosche has power we cannot touch, and all I could do was ask.

This is all I think of, in variant strains of worry, before I reach the Sol system. Earth is a safari world, tourist class. I land without fuss, finding myself in a small spaceport. There are humans here, of course. For the work, and nostalgia, and history. But also the hingari, and I have no idea how to tell which is which. I am to meet a representative from Hildago, but I have landed two continents away from them. I cannot trust what they are.

I do not know why Hildago told me hingari were here at all.

I ignored guides and other offers, procured a small hovercar and drove out into the vast Serengeti fields of the northern half of the world. Both northern continents are grasslands and hills, the southern ones deserts, swamps, mountains. It takes little time to discover the world wasn’t like this at all while humanity was here, but the Tril company wished to capture ‘something mythic’. Nothing more. I suspected that was Jay, if anything, but words were hardly proof.

I let two days pass. Ate Food. Charged the car – I was told it is something quaint, to remind us of the past – and drove down old roads and through countries and continents forgotten to history. I found myself wondering at how little I knew about the past of this world. How little Tril had to offer, or the Hubs had as data this far from civilization. The hingari might have taken over the world of our birth like a parasite, but a proper one: one not discovered by the host at all.

And we had allowed this to happen. It had been over two hundred hears before anyone at Hildago had looked into Tril in depth. I had no idea when my employers had learned Tril was hingari. I suspected they did not care. Insurance is famous for that, as a rule. But even so, I drove. Along roads, past others. Finally coming to a place not on the casual maps, where I got out.

I spent centuries hunting down Jay, and I learned many tricks and techniques in that time. I begin to scan the area around me, slowly broadening it out to compass the entire world. Searching for anything anomalous, trusting my instincts as much as the technology within.

It occurred almost too late to me that there were places that were nothing save birthing pools for monsters.

I spun at movement behind me, froze. Jay smiled. He looked the same: sixteen, pale, his smile not an impossible wonder. Perhaps because of this world, and his desire to not be here.

I spoke his name, moved toward him. Recalled, too late, that I didn’t know he was sixteen the way I should have. I activated my personal protections, but the hingari moved even faster than I could think. I felt things break deep inside me, an inhuman weight pressing down. Tendrils dug into the earth and my poor flesh.

“You,” the hingari hissed, breath reeking of desperation and anger. “Why are you here?”

‘To find you,’ I almost say, but my employers knew the hingari were here.

I have lived longer than many, and I have seen many things others have not. “I was sent here to die,” I say finally, getting the words out against the pain pressing into my flesh.

“Ah. That I can help with,” and the hingari laughed a shrill, alien sound that wasn’t part of the natural order of created things.

The thought was absurd. But it would not leave me.

Even if it was my last.


3.

Otha is a sad name. My parents told me that once, when I complained about some ill which had befallen me. I had been named after some infamous colonist, though they never told me the details: only that fact as though it were an explanation. It explained nothing then, but perhaps it meant more a sad death. Dying on a world I’ve never been to before, for reasons I will never know.

I am, in small ways, dangerous. That was nothing next to the hingari shifting form and features above me, weight pressing down into my body. I can feel bones breaking faster than my body can repair itself. My personal protective systems sputtered to life but the hingari were a byword for death and despair for centuries for good reasons. Life never flashes before your eyes in moments like this: I have worked in insurance long enough to learn that. Important moments do.

I was almost waiting for one when the hingari moves from me. Lifted, flung through the air. Another hingari? I pulled myself to my feet. Everything hurt, even the parts of me I’d been told would never hurt again. Spending four centuries looking for Jayseltosche had meant making myself able to survive many things. Some – even I – might have argued I was not human any longer. But returning to the homeworld I only vaguely knew of had stirred a kind of longing in me regadless, or at least I imagined it had.

The longing was long with every other thought when I realized Jay was standing behind me. The hingari was in the air, spasming through a million forms and shapes in an effort to avoid whatever hold Jay had on it. I met Jay only the once, when he refused to return to earth. He was still sixteen, but there was no gentle sadness to him. Just something old and implacable wearing human skin.

“I made a choice once to never come back to Earth.” Jay did not move, but the hingari writhed and screamed with a dozen voices from at least twenty mouths. “I have no desire to be here again, but you pretended to be me. There are less than a hundred hingari in the universe now: you should be working on growing, not – whatever this is.”

The Hingari shifted into one humanoid form, a mouth of sharp teeth and burning eyes focused downward. “Some things are more important than survival. We do not expect you to understand.”

The hingari hit the ground. Jay strolled over, almost casual, except his expression was too distant and empty. There was a thin smile on his face I didn’t want to see remain. “You have some small idea of what I am, Ydurthkjul of the hingari. Do not pretend it is more than that. Explain your actions here,” and the last words were not raised, but the force of them drove me back to my knees when they were not directed at me at all.

The hingari made low, whining noises for a few moments that almost engendered pity in me.

“You do not want me to ask again,” Jay said calmly.
“You can hurt me. But we are larger,” the hingari hissed, voice a broken chorus. “We have –.”

“Of course you set a trap.” Jay did not sound worried. He did not sound not-worried. Merely resigned. “But you set a trap for Jayseltosche, and not for Jay.”

“There is a difference?” The hingari asked.

“All the difference that ever was.” And Jay did not move but something left him. Or returned. I did not know what it was, only that he seemed younger for a moment. Only they he stepped away from the hingari and let out a soft noise.

“No! That was our power! We had claimed –.”

Jay turned his head slowly, and the hingari fell silent at the look in his eyes. I had never seen such a stare before, and I hold no desire to ever see it again. “Power? You thought this was power? I am almost tempted to see what would happen... but no. I have not had the luxury of adventures involving oopses or accidents in longer than you could understand.

“A very long time ago, I gave a friend a gift. Because I was eleven I gave her a piece of jaysome. A slice of the innocent wonder that I was placed inside her. And it remained here, you understand, long after I left. There are things that cannot…” His voice caught. He looked so human for a moment that it scared me more than anything else. “There are things one cannot reclaim once they are lost. Memories one dares not touch again.”

I did not move. The hingari was frozen. I am not certain I could have moved had I wished to. This had moved far beyond wanting.

Jay laughed. It was somehow free and sad both. “I meet myself in the past sometimes. But even so, you understand, I forget. Until now. Jaysome,” he added, a word and exhalation of breath at once. And then: “I won’t meet me from the past again, I think. The wound to me would be too great.”

“I don’t understand.” Because I didn’t. Because it was too big.

And Jay smiled.

The pain was gone. I was wounded still. But they was no pain. I had nothing in me to describe the smile with. I burst into tears that had nothing of pain within them.

I could not sense the hingari after. I believe it ran away, or was allowed to escape.

“This world has too many memories for me to stay here even now, Otha,” Jay said slowly. “I could take you elsewhere if that is your wish?”

I shook my head. I would be content here, for a time. I didn’t speak aloud. I wasn’t ready for speech yet.

Jay nodded and waved. The gesture had no threat behind it. Something caught in my throat, despite the fact that nothing could have. I have very good systems that keep my body working. Yet even so.

“You are seventeen.”

“I am.” Jay’s voice was a gentleness no one deserved to hear.

I could find no other words. He vanished then, between moments. And I was left along on Earth. I walked slowly. In no direction, without any aim for the first time in centuries. I felt my sorrow leave me; I am not certain yet what has replaced it.

There are journeys one should never make. And perhaps, just perhaps, they are the most important ones of all.






Monday, January 01, 2018

2017 output ...

14.5K just in facebook status updates/oddities this year.
29.5K  in 663 poems (minus a lot of silly ones done for Jay's blog)
3K in smaller stream of consciousness bits
9 Short stories and 1 novella totalling ~25K in words.
103,482 for 2 novel drafts in nanowrimo
33K for the small stories for Jay's blog (Well over 120 entries)
And 89 short stories for the magician series. Which is a lot less than some years since it's basically just one story every 4 days. But Jay's blog has some long entries as stories too.
(... and over 2K extraneous posts on his blog. Because jaysome.)

Facebook Status Updates - Nov-Dec 2017

Nov 2017

From this morning's output:
I love you too.” I pause. “Like a sibling.”

Writing fun of the morning:
With the canopy of trees dissipating, the shape of the flying creature becomes visible again. At least thirty feet, long and serpentine without any sign of wings. A sound fills the air, and I imagine it is mourning and fury both but in the moment it somehow sounds more like a tugboat being molested.

You know things are going oddly when 16K into the story you realize you needed to rename the main character for plot reasons ... shall see what today brings.

from WIP:
Those who abuse others with their power always seek more power. Fear does not allow you to do otherwise.”

You – all of us – could just be distractions to confuse others. If we’re more than that, it’s good, but perhaps we don’t need to be. You don’t get to be as old as Minou is by needing to rely on others, so we’re here but perhaps not needed?”
That might be true for you,” I snap, “But *I* am the POV character of this story, which means I am the main character and clearly important.”
And what have you done that’s important so far?” Druup demands.
I added words. I must have done that. I – must have more purpose than that, surely?”
No one responds. I have at least 20,000 words to prove them wrong.

I never walked away. I was only ever brave enough to run, and coward enough no never look back and not once listen to those who screamed my name.

From WIP:
Everyone is working, on their way to work or thinking about work. I don’t even have to try to use my magic to feel that. This is a court of the fae, and it feels like I walked into bad Dickens fanfic that was pro-industrialist. I shiver a little, not meaning to.

From WIP:
It is something I often think about. How much weaker I would be if I could do more than I can. It is a difficult concept to explain.”

Start of second nano:
It was a dark and stormy morning, the kind that the government had mandated for the last two weeks. Thunder rumbled through a sky without rain, lightning arcing in random bursts that almost hid the vast shapes far above, almost was enough to make you believe a war wasn’t being fought overhead for the sake of the world.

From WIP:
My sister looks up at me for a long moment, then sighs. “That’s the problem with this family. We’re all too damned good at acting. I can play the martyr as easily as you can, but no one has to”
And she leaves my room before I can think of a reply.

Writing a sci-fi novel off the seat of your pants is ... an exercise. In insanity, but definitely an exercise.

From writing from late last night:
Aswag. I haven’t had a headache since the night the car fell off of the tram.”
I already told you, cars don’t fall off the tram system,” he screams.
I jerk back into the pillows behind me.
Shut up, Jeff. Shut up and don’t talk. You haven’t had a headache since that day because people whose head explode tend not to have headaches ever again.”

Per some thoughts last night: Star Trek TV series seem reluctant to forge into the future OF that franchise (Post Next Gen, DS9 etc.), which on the face of it is very odd since all that's left is bad retcons and a more limited time/space to work in. But one problem is that the ship designs etc. reflect a far more 20th than 21st century idea of how a starship would work.
Which is why I propose the following: given their mandate is just to explore, and the existence of holodecks, bars and the like on the craft, the Federation ships used for their various exploratory missions are really repurposed pleasure yachts.

From tonight's output:
I stand, walking out of the ship’s rec room and leaving the others to talk. A silence follows me that words begin to fill as I round the corner toward my room. You can’t talk about a dead person when they’re in the same room as you. Not when they can talk back.

From WIP:
There are many kinds of cowardice, but I could not afford to be the kind that hides from the truth. No matter what it would cost me in the end. No matter that I knew the cost going in. I’d like to think that made me brave, but desperation wears many faces.

From last night's odd output:
"To die so that your enemy may someday know defeat is a poor victory but there was at least some glimmer of glory in dying as bravely as they could against impossible odds. There are defeats that can be as glorious as victories.”

From WIP:
You are holding an energy rifle with enough firepower – according to the guides – to reduce a forest to atoms in a single shot,” Tanya says dryly. “What, precisely, do you plan to shoot with that?”
Hah! You’ve never seen a rhinobear, have you? Fast as a tram car and tougher than the hulls of some space craft. I’d be lucky to kill one with a single shot, girl. This is Lethsea. There is game to hunt here that you can’t find anywhere else. Not on Earth, not on any other colony. Dogs. Cats. Cows. Chicken. Pigs. Oh, they have some cats and dogs on Earth and Mars still but they are rare and tame, not the feral beasts our ancestors hunted.”

Energy flares out in a million shades of red, writhing tendrils of energy twisting into space from where the red shiplet crashed into the El vessel. Each looks like a baker tearing wounds into the darkness between the stars.
... typo from autocorrect on a phone or! adventures of a celestial pastry chef: you decide!

From WIP (characters acting out a scene from a play I might have to eventually write out...):
You are my compass. Every compass I know is false that points north, but my heart is a compass that points only to you!”

From WIP:
My father smiles, and the smile is closer to my mother’s than I’ve ever seen from him before. “We’re actors, Captain Bluth. We can decide what story you are in, and how that story is told. Stand your people down, cease trying to break into an alien craft that is liable to get annoyed soon and we can discuss this. There are solutions that can benefit everyone, if we take the time to truly talk. Please. Pretend there is more to war than making civilization a poorer thing.”

From WIP:
I try to hate Merideth over the next seven hours, but hate is too hard to hold onto. It’s not strong, not compared to the deaths of everyone aboard the Delegation Five. Briin’s death is strong, in its own strange way that’s mostly sadness over a father I knew never. Merideth is right: we don’t have time to mourn, not properly. I wonder if there is ever a proper time for mourning, or if we all just carry our ghosts with us until we drop them without knowing.

From WIP:
It’s hard. Sometimes you’re so used to being hurt that you refuse to admit you’re healing.”

But the problem with stories is that we make them real. We turn them into books. We bring stories to life in order to reason with them. That is what gods are, at the core of it: a bargain. With death, the universe, with ideas and concepts. Once something can be reasoned with, everything changes. We bargain with miracles and magic, to gods and death and entropy and even the ending of all things.”

The clouds stopped pretending to be rain clouds, but almost no one noticed.

I said I was too scared to be with you; now I understand that it was bravery all along.

I thought I had words but all I had was language.

We erased the past as though it would lead to a future free of chains.

You wanted to be discovered too much to be a secret. Not even from yourself.


Dec 2017

The tragedy pretended to be a comedy.
And fooled no one.

I said I was too scared to be with you; now I understand that it was bravery all along.

You wake up one morning wearing the wig of the president of the united states. And it whispers things to you. Secret things. Terrible things you were never meant to know...

You said forgiveness wasn’t a drug.
And yet. And yet.
Just so.

“Better? Heh. You aren’t interested in making things better. You’re just interested in being right.”

You pretended that smiles could never be wounds.

It was sometimes hard to remember that this, too, was not a gift at all.

“But what if I am not the villain? What, then, are you?”

Once upon a time, there was a changeling child who tried to take over the kingdom in the sure and certain knowledge that no one knew what a DNA test was.
The cold iron test proved effective in the end.

“Books? Books are no longer my sanctuary from the world: you are.”
“That’s too much. For me, for us: I can’t bear that weight.”
“Please. I burned my library card because of you like it was the library of Alex -.”
And that was when I knew it had to end. Because I could never be everything that novels were to him. No matter how hard we might try to make it so.

*

“Hi.”
“Hi.”
“You ran away.”
“I did. Sometimes it’s the only way we can survive.”
“The funny thing about it is that some run away. Some run to. But we’re all running. I think some days the only time we get smart is when we stop.”
“How did you get to be so wise?”
“I got myself a library card. Read all those books you used to. Other ones too. It doesn’t have to be like that, not again.”
“What do you mean?”
“We could get Blockbuster cards.”
“… Blockbuster went out of business a while ago.”
“I’ve been busy reading.”
“Netflix. We’ll get Netflix.”

I think my life might be going fine if I’m ever charged with being an accessory to happiness.

I erased every song off my playlists that reminded me of you.
It is almost soothing to be free of music again.

Typo of the day:
Power crawls about him like a cloak and moose both.

“You told me to have a lovely day last week. I did not. That was a geas, a promise and it failed. And that is why you have to die.”
“I’m a barista. It’s my job to say that!”

“I know I can’t destroy you.” The villain smiles. “So I won’t. But my people are destroying everyone you know, every person you care about, every cause you champion. Even as we talk, everything in your life is falling apart. And you will get to discover how powerful you really are.”

Your fingers dream against my skin, the sky whispers clouds to us and I am struggling towards words
Melting in your
I am burning with the cold and every leaf that falls tells a story we wish
was not real.

“For you I can pretend anything
Even -
that I am a poet
but for every word I lose when you ask me
anything at all.”

Cashier: *attempts to ring though zucchini of the customer ahead of me; scanner refuses to accept code, speaks garbled words*
Cashier: “It spoke. I didn’t know it could talk.”
Me: “Let’s all just back away slowly.”
Cashier: “And now the screen’s frozen. All over a zucchini.”
Me: *continues to back away*

Everyone is terrified of clowns, but all small children fear Santa Claus. They understand what the rest of the world has forgotten: the Santa is the next stage of the clown, just another disguise clowns wear to hide their nature.
Older adults learn the same about politicians, which are the final form.

The history of folklore is a long campaign of informational warfare.

We opened doors like they were windows, leaped through expecting a long fall to the earth.

I found the present under the tree. The one you said you hadn’t wrapped. And neither of us know whose heart is in it.

It’s all games of pretend. The trick is knowing it is a game, and just how far you’ll go to play a role.

I erased my greetings and the last message on my answering machine as if it meant no one would ever call me again.

His imaginary friend left him for someone else.

He stood, swaying, eyes like discarded suns.

Sometimes we almost pretend enough to make it matter.

How many poems have you lost? How desperate are you to find them again?

Nothing was broken, but everything was bruised. And somehow that was worse by far.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Fancy Fireworks

I enter the hotel suite and stretch slowly. The ending of one year is always a dangerous time to be a magician. I’ve spent the last twelve hours working small magics non-stop. A few whispers to the world here, nudging needs and desires there. Helping people make it through the night. Some years it is easier, others it is far harder. Magicians in cities tend to just barricade themselves at home and hide this time of year, the need around them too much for their magic to answer.

A wandering magician can’t do that as easily. So I do what I can, push my magic as wide and far as I dare in the town. I’m worn out and tired in a good way as I pour myself a drink Charlie put in the fridge that is full of vitamins, minerals and a host of other things. It tastes far better than the name implies, and I’m halfway done when Jay opens the door and comes bouncing inside.

He’s holding a bag in one hand and offers up a huge, beaming grin at seeing me. “Honcho, I got fireworks,” he says proudly.

I don’t choke on my drink. I consider the bag carefully. Small, paper, and what is inside feels like seeds to my magic. But this is Jay I am dealing with, and when an eleven year old boy from Outside the universe tells you he has fireworks... I pause, now wide-awake and not the last bit tired from the previous few hours.

“Fireworks?”

“Uh-huh! I bought then in a shop, with money!” Jay adds happily.

I know better than to ask what else he might have tried to buy some with. “May I see them?”

Jay hands me the bag and I dump seeds into the kitchen table. Study them. Then Jay. “Ah. Jay. These are just seeds.”

“Huh?”

“Someone sold you a bag a seeds.”

“But but who would lie to a Jay?” he demands.

I – ah. People tend to try and help you, when you ask them for things.”

“Of course! They’re being jaysome too.”

“Of course they are. But selling a kid fireworks on New Years Eve isn’t allowed in a lot of places. So rather than say no, you were tricked.”

Jay stares at the beans, then at me. I catch his arm before he can vanish.

“Sometimes it is safer to trick a Jay than say no to you, yes?”

He lets ou a huge sigh. “I don’t see why, since they were going to be fancy fireworks!”

“Charlie is having a nap in her room. You can ask her about them, and I’ll find some fireworks. Deal?”

Jay nods, and vanishes. I can hear him informing Charlie that a nap interferes with adventures, and Charlie throw something at his head. Which means Jay is distracted at least.

I slip out the door with the bag, asking where it came from and finding myself at one of those small corner shops that exist partially because some street corners rely on having shops. The shop has closed, but I can feel someone inside and head in.

An old woman is finishing sweeping up behind a counter and eyes me balefully. “The door was closed.”

“Doors aren’t closed to a wandering magician.” I hold up the bag. “You sold this to a boy earlier tonight.”

She sighs, setting the broom aside. “I wasn’t about to sell real fireworks. He was just – eager. They’re a kind of jumping bean I enspelled to glow a little when fire touches them. I figured it would be enough.”

“I am afraid not, at least not for Jay.” I don’t tell her that the enspelling didn’t work. I have that much kindness in me always.

Crimson flares in the depths of her eyes, and her shadow lengthens for a moment. “I have heard of that one.”

“Not enough, if you thought he’d be okay with being tricked.” I smile. “We could use fireworks in the sky tonight, if you are willing?”

“I am very old, magician.”

“I know. But Jay is very young, and disappointing him might be unwise.”

“Even for a magician, that was a masterpiece of understatement.” She lets out a deeper sigh. “I will do what I can.”

“Thank you.”

“Magician.” I stop, halfway to the door. “Did he tell you about me?”

“No. I am certain he knew you were a dragon, but it never occurred to Jay that a dragon running a corner store would be strange. I am not about to ask.”

“You think I am that dangerous?” Her voice deepens a little. I hear scraping against wood.

“I think it would be rude.”

The dragon’s laugh follows me outside, warm and delighted.

Charlie is awake and in the kitchen when I return to the motel suite. It is cutting it close to midnight, and I tell Jay to head to the roof and watch fireworks. Charlie looks at me wordless, her mouth a thin line.

“Sorry. I needed Jay kept busy. He’s getting fireworks.”

“He told me about the bag. I assume the seeds would lead to a giant bean stalk?”

“No. Just sparkles and a little light when they catch fire. And jumping. Nothing Jay would consider fireworks, and I thought it might be safer if he didn’t head back and lecture someone about lying to a Jay. Or demanding fireworks they might not have.”

Charlie looks at me. “But they have fireworks?”

I grin, gesturing, and she heads up to the roof as well. I bring a drink of my own, and hot chocolate for Jay. Distant fireworks are already starting, time counting down in a low rumble. Above us there is movement. A cloud that isn’t a cloud. Fire that turns into explosions of light and noise as the dragon roars over the entire town.

Almost no one will hear it. Almost no one will understand. But those who do will have a different story to tell come morning, and a new year with a hint of old mystery to join the happiness.

Jay whoops and cheers and the dragon fades away slowly from the sky in a dazzling display of pyrotechnics I doubt she had known she had in her any longer.

I suspect her new year will be happier than she had thought it would be, even if it is not the year of the dragon.