With an app one
And we only
– I kid, we
Every photo of you
has you hugging a stranger in it, only you’ve never met them
before. But you keep seeing their pictures in the paper the next day,
and they’re all missing.
You find all the
memories you’ve lost in a scrapbook in a used-book shop. The owner
only asks to keep the first 20 pages. And smiles at you.
The pride of lions
joined the parade.
Once upon a time
there was a ruler who refused to recycle, believing that any populace
that valued recycling items would sooner rather than later apply the
same philosophy to their sovereign.
We live in a world
where even the politicians no longer want to be politicians, but that
is only because they wish to become lobbyists.
The real estate
development listed the second phase as almost done though no one was
able to find half the buildings.
“You trust your
books more than you do me.”
lied to me,” he said.
She laughed, short
and sharp. “What else do you think words do? Why else chain them
And to that he had
only a furious silence.
“This is a gift
for Father’s Day,” she said, even though it was early.
Even though I am
not a father.
Even though I have
In the end, it was
easy to let go of everything save for hate. And they wondered why
The only thing
important about the story was everything that never ended up on the
Proof that cats
are better than dogs: you’ve never heard of a dog scan.
You said it was a
gift, but you made certain I knew the price.
don’t, I’ve found.”
“I know one
thing that helps me.”
Van Helsing, Van Helsing. Really? Your family is still coming after
me after all these
centuries?” Dracula let out a sigh, a feat for one
so very undead. “I have
killed yes, to sustain myself, as you do. And I admit I am a monster,
but I do not think I am your monster, not anymore.”
“Your lies will not avail you, prince of dark –.”
“Come now. I am centuries-old, yes, but I would have to work for a
very long time to accomplish the same evils your politicians do in
mere decades. I understand your desire to see the other as inhuman.
It is a very real desire. But I suspect the monsters you should be
hunting are abroad in daylight as well as darkness, and wear suits
far better than my own.”
You said dreams
could become real, but the cost to the real is always too much. No
one talks about the price others pay for their dreams to come true,
and sometimes I think it’s the only conversation worth having.
I said I had no
secrets from you.
And I still don’t
know why that made you weep.
The secret agent
was so secret that she didn’t know she was an agent.
And after it all
fell apart, I carried each piece despite the lessons everyone thought
I should have learned.
keeping this phone-made typo in:
“You’re not a
There is a pause.
“Not right now?”
wirelessly to the cavern.
wordlessly. Same thing, right?!
is a surveillance car costing $5 million that can hack iphones. I
suppose that's one way to get around the pervasiveness of cell phone
use in modern stories...
"What do you
mean, EVERY gang in the city has one?!"
“Use your power
“I have no
smiles. “Then you can be really good.”
“Why do aliens
keep crashing on our world in spaceships that can travel light
“Heh. What makes you believe any of them really
with power is that you are responsible for your power every moment of
every day. What you do, what you fail to to, what you incite and
support. Everything power does has consequences, and only a coward
tries to pretend otherwise. You must always guard against yourself,
unless you are a fool. In which case everyone else must guard against
“Or you are
cruel without kindness, and other powers must destroy you,” I say
And after the lion
in the wardrobe savaged all the children, there were harsh words with
the local zoo.
deliberately bad fantasy novel is an interesting experience.
The silent forge
the blade that only the speaking may sing to life, but every blade
cuts two ways.
- from the
Proverbs of Mount Asl.
A cold wind
whipped through the southern stepped of Westrin, the mountains
holding the winter despite the Juvery air. Farmers huddled with their
dhari against the wind, careful not to touch the fur that would burn
with a fierce itching. Lonely towns lay scattered across the scrub
fields, kin to fingernails of some long forgotten monstrosity that
did not wear the skin of civilization. From a distance the steppes
seemed almost steps, as though they had been carved in another age to
reach a plateau that no longer existed. The past lurked about with
promises, unremembered and unknown.
Threads of music
played from the taverns of the town of Molsk, the famous Molsk
brewery now only a distant memory to locals if they knew of it at
all. The threads formed skeins into the lonely night as though they
could lighten a sky that would be gunmetal if guns existed but
settled for a dull grey instead. The impression of Westrin to others
from the Three Kingdoms is that many things just settle, but what is
settled to one can upend the cart of another.
The third compline
in the waning of Juvery bore witness to the changing of the gods, the
wind promising rain and cold in the coming months of Nanomber, Mapil
and Arch. The huddled farmers eyed their flocks and began considering
what ones to shear, the fabled dhari fur able to insulate as only
glass wool could despite the ways it irritated the eyes, the skin,
and the respiratory system. The moon waned in the sky unclaimed by
any god of the Westrin pantheon, pale light offering some protection
against the shadows cast by the mountains.
The taverns and
inns of Molsk all claimed connection the ancient brewery that had
given the town its name for generations, the name remaining even
though the breweries were long time. Becoming a placeholder between
the present and the past, as though then world were a book one could
mark and definitively draw lines between one age and another. The inn
was alike as any other, shutters rattling as the shinoo wind of the
southern mountains played a gentle beat that seemed almost in time
with the last of the songs from the tavern below.
Above the sky, the
stars spread out across the night ways. Too many to be eyes even of
the gods, despite how many gods lay in Eastphalia to the east. The
eye of Akashic formed from a dozen stars looked down, those born
under its ascendancy often said to call the attention of the gods. In
time the eye would be gone, the stars shifting into different
patterns and promises. Proof that even the distant hand of fate
changed with time, that even the stars could touch destiny only with
a fleeing grip like the pale of the false dawn seeping through the
I am having too
much fun writing this story...
“The nature of a
god is to know knowledge as a burden rather than a blessing.”
“You expect me
to do a quest I do not understand?” Protagonist asked.
The god of the
hearth smiled within the confines of gentle flame. “It would be a
poor quest if you understood the ending before it had begun.”
“I am mortal. I
already know how my story ends.”
“Well. With an
attitude like that, perhaps you do!”
I am not a god,
the narrator said, even though it spoke without a voice.
Part of the fun of
writing Protagonist: a novel is the headers. Such as:
Sometimes we drown
not because we cannot swim but because we forget we are in water.
- from the
collected wisedoms of the wizards of Eastphalia
“I admit to
finding that a little puzzling. Why are they called the mysterious
caverns when there are many such caverns throughout Westrin alone?”
It was questions
like that which betrayed Page’s ignorance. Mysterious caverns was a
modern translation of mysterious’caverns in old Westrin, which has
a very localized meaning in the southern steppes.
“The words are
mysterious’caverns – with an apostrophe between them – in old
Westrin,” Protagonist said after a short pause. “I imagine that
makes all the difference.
“You would kill
me?” Antagonist asked.
“You ask it like
that, without fear. Why?” Protagonist pressed.
“We all die,
even wizards. The least we owe this world is our bodies. I would
rather live and pay back more than was given.”
power to destroy poetry scared almost no one.
Not until they
turned their attention on love.
Protagonist had any use for ghosts: one of the older monks at the
library, Name Later, had told him that if the dead could haunt the
world, we would all be drowning in regrets. The idea had stuck with
Protagonist for some time, though he had no idea why Name Later had
been so insistent on that truth.
will, of course, be very important to the plot. Later.
Molsk was a small
town situated well away from any major trade routes, the cluster of
wood and stone buildings organized around the central well and market
that typified small towns in the country. Not that travellers from
outside Westrin ever went to many podunk one-syllable places, none of
which had combined with other towns to attain a second syllable. The
comparison faltered against reality when one recalled that the towns
of Po and Dunk had merged to become Podunk over a century ago, an
alliance formed from both geography and trade routes more similar to
the arranged marriages of Eastphalia than anything else. As little
happened here, the destruction of the old fort on Guffin Hill had
drawn people from their homes, even though an old stone fortress
being reduced to little more than dust and shadow-scars of what it
had been would do that most anywhere.
his horse. “What was that?” he asked, though no one responded.
“You are responding. Whatever god this is, I do sometimes hear your
voice. I am just trying to find out why you insist on telling me
things I already know?”
The news is, after
all, everything that is not normal. If it was normal, it would not be
But sometimes it's
hard to remember that.
“Everyone has a
power they should never use. I knew a woman once who could destroy
any faith with logic and leave nothing behind; she never spoke in all
the years I knew her. A man in Bangladesh who always got bargains.
Even, his family claimed, from death. But the worst is when someone
doesn’t know they have a power. When they unite the world for all
the right reasons, in all the wrong ways.”
“You mean the
“I mean that meme you started two weeks ago.”
think you’ll forget me. That I’ll turn around one day and you’ll
be gone and everyone I meet will be a stranger who looks like you but
doesn’t know me at all.”
forget you. I’d have to know your name first.”
to die, aren’t we?”
not pause a beat. “Of course we are. What else is being alive for?”
Page said from between clenched teeth, “right now.”
“Oh. In that
case, I rather hope not.”
to the climate catastrophe:
Move to the
underside of the flat earth, where a new world awaits us.
he said, “to save a thing you must destroy it.”
And I backed away
because no one sane said anything like that.
right, I need to do that prompt about things overheard when
... proceeds to
write a short story about someone wanting to use an interstellar
mining vessel to help with apartment renovations.
And all your
kindness becomes undone
By the monsters
who work above you
To see only good
is to be complicit
In evil that seeps
through every crack
Page rode their horses for hours without rest, stopping briefly for
the night to continue onward the next morning. By the second draft,
they would be stopping and switching out horses every hour since
horses are hardly cars. By the third, the author will be grappling
with the fact that a horse doesn’t actually equal one horsepower.
By the fourth draft, at least one horses will be called Hoof Hearted
and the author will be wondering why anyone would take long journeys
on a prey animal prone to spring from imagined danger with all the
grace of the springs in a broken mattress.
It is not an easy
thing to get book fairies into your home. A library is not enough –
some of the greatest libraries in the world have never seen one –
but sometimes it does happen. Firstly, one must not have a library.
By which I mean: books one has never read. A library full of unread
books is a deep sadness and not a true library at all. You will know
one by the volumes with bent spines that have never been read.
Secondly: one must have an infestation of book worms in your home.
Thirdly: one must be kind. To books, to people, even to the book
If you wish them
removed but cannot bear to harm them – for they, like all things,
must eat to survive – the book fairies may arrive. Unfortunately,
the book worms are often drawn to the books one loves best. But if
this happens, and the fairies come, you will never have dusty books
again and book worms that will only eat books one no longer needs.
(It is hard to think of such a book, but it must be done.) The book
fairies are fed by leaving fine ink in inkwells overnight and not
minding if they take some books to read for themselves. And that is
all that one must do, as easy as all difficult things can be.
“The problem we
have is that I cannot do it. I cannot imagine a world in which you
don’t exist, for I fear if I do that I will not be able to live in
a world in which you do.”
you asked me to
write a poem
and this is
turned out to be a nightmare when it turned out that the alien name
for themselves, translated into English, was ‘Hashtag’ and they
were very, very baffled at the things humans said about them. #woke
“The results are
in from our experiment, sir. It turns out that it’s easier to make
people believe the Earth is flat than make them believe that
politicians will act in ways that benefit the public.”