Saturday, January 31, 2009

Gloaming: 2


Adrian pulled the hood of the snowsuit up again. “Do you like hot chocolate?”
        “Look, I never said you had to believe me,” I snapped.
        He stood up, shoving the scarf into a pocket. “I do.”
        “Just like that? I saw a groundhog that didn’t have a shadow!”
        “I know you did.”
        I stood as well. He didn’t fall back, this time. “What?” My voice was almost as quiet as his normally was. My mom does that, when she’s really angry: she just gets quiet and cold, and I’d never thought I had it in me to do the same before now.
        Adrian sighed, not moving. “Can we talk about this somewhere else, inside?”
        “There’s a coffee shop on the corner of Six and Eight,” I said, still quiet, “and you are going to talk. Got it?”
        I marched towards the coffee shop, then had to stop and wait for him to catch up.
        “Thank you,” he said. “It’s hard to walk in large shoes.”
        I said nothing and we reached the coffee shop in silence.
        The Coffee Place was your average downscale hole in the wall; all the drinks were in mugs or takeaway, the coffee was just listed as coffee, and even called itself small, medium, and large instead of other sizes that impressed no one. They didn’t even serve tea, believing it was a way of ripping people off. They did make awesome hot chocolate though.
        I got two hot chocolates while he claimed the chairs by the fire and peeled off the snowsuit and a sweater. I walked back as he was putting his shoes back on.
        “Three pairs of socks?” I said as he finished putting the second boot back on.
        “Yes.” He wrapped his hands around the coffee mug and inhaled the aroma of the hot chocolate for a few moments before looking up at me. “I couldn’t ask until today.”
        “About what I saw?”
        Adrian licked his lips. “Would you have been back tomorrow?”
        His gaze was just a gaze this time, but even so: “Yes,” I said. “I don’t know why.”
        “It is dangerous.”
        “Coming back to the field, or not knowing why?”
        That won the hint of a smile. “Both.”
        “You saw the - the groundhog too?”
        He shook his head. “Not then. I saw where its shadow went., when I saw you. But you want answers, and the groundhog can’t give them.”
        “Because it’s a groundhog, maybe?” I said.
        “That, and you have his shadow.”
        “I stole the groundhog’s shadow.” Adrian nodded, then took a sip of his hot chocolate. “That makes no goddamned sense!”
        “The groundhog you saw did not have a shadow,” he said. “The shadow has to be somewhere, correct?”
        “Don’t shit with me,” I snapped, grabbing his arm when he reached for his coffee again. “You don’t try to pull logic out of your - your ass after telling me I stole a shadow!”
        Adrian stared at me, then his arm, then said: “Could you let go? You’re hurting my arm.”
        I blinked, then let go as he rubbed it with his other arm, looking paler than he had earlier.
        “I --.”
        “Don’t. I’m sorry.” He picked up the mug again, wincing a little and trying to hide that. “I told you I had a medical condition, right?”
        “You look kind of thin,” I said.
        He shook his head. “I’m not -- strong, if that’s what you mean. But that’s just me, not other things. I see things that as they are.”
        I waited, he said nothing else. “That’s a medical condition?”
        “Most people don’t. They see what they want to, or have been conditioned to, or --.” He frowned, thinking. “If one person says they saw a ghost, the chances are that others will follow suit. Mass hallucination. People see what they want to, not what is actually present.”
        “Including, what, captive shadows?” I tried, but the sarcasm was utterly wasted.
        “So it involves being sorry how, exactly?”
        “I’ve never had to explain it; I don’t think I’m doing a good job.” Adrian set his empty cup down on the table and looked at it.
        “You buy the second one,” I said.
        Adrian looked up at that. “I guess telling isn’t enough,” he said a few moments later, picking up the mug. Steam came out of it.
        I stopped him before he could drink from it, not caring how it looked to the staff.
        “It’s only half full,” he said, showing it to me. “And not as good. Magic is a lot of things, but it’s no longer a way into Eden by the back door.”
        I stared, then watched as my mug was suddenly almost half full as well. Adrian set his own down quickly, but I caught the slight tremble to the cup before he did.
        “It’s not easy then?”
        “Not in the normal world, and definitely not doing things on the fly like that.” He picked the mug up again with both hands. “The gloaming is gathering around you, because of what you saw and refused to unsee. Magic, in other words, from where magic went to die.”
        I took a drink of the hot chocolate, trying to gather my thoughts. It was a little watery. I took a drink of it, feeling a little better, and said the words all parents hate to hear: “Why me?”
        He gave a half shrug,. “I don’t know.” He looked up from his drink “It wasn’t an accident though. Somehow the groundhog’s shadow entered your own before you saw the groundhog. You did it, or she did, or something else.”
        “I like accidents,” I said, quoting Duncan. “They’re good for blaming other people.”
        Adrian shook his head, taking another sip of his drink. “When it comes to magic, there aren’t any accidents. There is the gloaming proper, magic, fate, destiny, the influence of gods and powers, dreams and wishes, us and our potentials ... a lot of things.”
        “Even the stars?” I said.
        “I had a really good horoscope today.”
        Adrian stared at me for a long moment. “No.”
        “So, astrology --?”
        “Just because magic is real don’t mean some things aren’t bunk,” he said tightly.
        “So,” I said, “what about chakras?” Adrian just stared at me. “Okay, then. I sort of feel better, actually. How much is ‘bunk’?”
        Adrian shrugged. “I’m not entirely sure. People can become aware of the gloaming on small levels, and see it through their own beliefs. It could manifest as chakras, for that, responding to need and desire.”
        “But the map isn’t the territory,” I said.
        Adrian smiled slightly for a moment. “Definitely not. And some of the stuff that isn’t real about magic is deliberate, like auras.”
        “My mom has seen auras,” I said.
        “Then she saw what she wanted. They’re actually a myth invented by magicians. Put out word auras exist, and those who ‘see’ them aren’t suitable candidates for real magic.”
        “But auras have been reported for longer than magicians would make made this myth, right? I’ve had enough lectures from my mom on Saint Hildegard and the like.”
        “Migraine aura art. You have a migraine, you translate it into art. Normal headaches probably work to, but it’s where magicians got the idea from. I think the whole holy auras for people and such is just what it seems to be, artistic licence. And how people translate what they see in their heads, making it bearable, normal. Making the wondrous mundane.”
        “Which would be why everyone knows about auras,” I said slowly, putting down my empty mug. “They are mundane now, at a certain level.”
        “Yes. At least, that’s my understanding of it.” Adrian finished his drink and started putting his snowsuit back on.
        “You never said why you really had to come outside and bug me,” I said.
        “You’re attracting the gloaming to you,” he said, wiggling his right arm into the snowsuit. I fought the urge to giggle and helped him instead.
        “Thank you,” he said once we were done.
        “Magic is dying. But it dies slowly,” he said as I opened the door, following me outside. “Like gods, long and slow. And it doesn’t want to die, so when people become aware that things aren’t kosher, it latches onto that sometimes. Puts more magic into the world, uses your confusion as desire. Things will begin to happen around you, the magic tough other people. They might find it normal, or not. And eventually ...”
        “Eventually what?”
        “I don’t know. I imagine the result is different for everyone. I thought someone should warn you, in case -- before -- it started to happen to you. That was it. I should get home now.”
        I nodded to him, thanked him, and went to catch up on lost sleep.
        And sometimes, hearing is like sight. We hear what we want to, or don’t hear what is really said. I’m not sure what would have happened, if I’d known what he meant then. Maybe it would have turned out differently. I don’t know. And even if I could know, I think it would hurt too much to know.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


(Jan 2009)
Josh MacLeod

Being a god means no longer being accountable.

You will be given power. Yes.

You are not of this world. Oh, yes.

Yours is a power of creation. And, yes, again, yes. This is what I was given, the power to shape the universe to my will. To work miracles that drive men mad, to waken them to the larger world. I have done all this. I have seen wonders and terrors, beauties and abominations.

That I have been marked by this, I cannot deny. That I have been made Greater, I cannot forget.

And yet, the world calls. Mundane, stifling, as fragile as a reflection on water. I don't know how phones reach here. I was given a cell phone, though I've never paid a bill I know of. Told to answer it. Mostly it's other gods. Sometimes mortals with prayers. But never a wrong number.

This time, it is my mother. "Are you coming to the family reunion, Donald?" No mention that we haven't spoken for at least ten years. No explanation of where she found this number. Only the question.


"Why not?"

"I'm busy."

And there is silence, for a brief moment. "Too busy for family?" And her voice has need in it, and pain. And my Duty rises up inside me, like heartburn, reminding me I must answer pain, must work to free the world of snares. That the God Of Cracks is more than shielding from bureaucracy, more than making stands in the moments between moments, more than letting broken things fall through to heal.

"It seems not," I say, and ask for the date. My voice is different, to my ears: more Donald than Power, more man than god. I remind myself of all I am, and how small is what I am not.


The rain is not my doing, not consciously. The caterers not arriving was mine: one more glitch in the system, one more crack for things to fall though. They wouldn't trust online maps as readily, which was reason enough for what I did, even if not the reason entire. I am waiting for someone to suggest cannibalism, listening to voices, trying not to wish for some lightning.

"Road coming here was, dude, slipperier than frog snot!" "Can't we just order pizza?" "And then I said: form 224-f? Really? That isn't even my department!" "And after the lancing the baby was fine." "So I told her I didn't date protest ants! Get it?" "After he broke my heart, I told him that was just more pieces to love him with. Then he slapped me with a restraining order." "So I said, 'No, this is how you use a boning knife' and the trial is probably next year." "Donald?"

I turned at the last voice. "Aunt Agnes?"

She waddled over, weighed down by foundation, wobbling on high heels like a druken top. "Donald! Dear little Donnie. How are you?"

"I am."

"That's just wonderful! What are you doing for a living?"

"Finances," I said, which was true enough.

"Oh, a shame. I'd hoped you'd become interesting," she tsk'd. "No wife yet?"


"Everyone need a good woman. Or a good man, hmm?" She winked a few times, eyelids cracking.

"No." I put some of what I was in my voice.

"Oh, well then. No need to be like that, now, is there?" She sniffed. "Why, Gilbert is still in the Service, and our little Shadow is a hair follicle replacement engineer, and Agnes Jr. has three grandchildren, but one of them --."

"What does Shawn do?" I said, feeling the weight of things unspoken between words.

She hesitated, then said: "Hair, at a very fine salon. And he's looking for --."

"I am a God," I said.

"Oh, moved down in the world, have you? Become a CEO?"

I stared at her, and dropped the Veil. She stared back, holding her purse a little tighter.

"Well. That's done horrible things for your hair, that I can tell you!"

"Pardon?" I said, and people turned. The veil held for them, but they weren't entirely stupid, not quite all lemmings. A few headed for cars, making excuses.

"Probably the god of some big, important thing, like not seeing family, hmm?"

I could, now, see some Protection about her, and almost pitied the god who must have Chosen her.

And I reached out, with my nature, and opened cracks.

People gasped, blanched, fell to the ground. Even Agnes reeled slightly at the collective stench.

"I do hope you have another one," I said to my mother, who had turned the colour of curdled milk, and then I went home, not caring if they saw my step through the world.

I turned my cell phone off, and gathered up my power. It would take some work to ensure this miracle was lost in the celestial bureaucracy, but it was what I was About.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A quick ficlet

"So I have to eat them?"
"Yes, Johnny. Vegetables are good for you. And don't you roll your eyes at me! You have to eat them."
"I've been eating veggies at Bruce's. But we play with them first."
"We do not play with vegetables at the table!"
"Dear, if it gets him to finish supper ..."
"Fine. You may play with them, then eat -- oh my God! You do NOT do that with vegetables! Oh my God! Angels and ministers of -- you put your clothes back on right this minute!"
"Geeze. Sorry."
"What do you have to say for yourself young man?"
"Carrots are better when they're peeled. Duh."

Gloaming: 1

And here is the first installment of Gloaming. It's about teenagers, growing up, and what happens when magic begins leaking into your otherwise sane life. Each installment should be about 3 typed pages, with some variation. I promise to post one every two weeks, at least.

I'm currently writing #6 and haven't had to go back and change too much yet (though I finally figured out some things about Adrian's mom tonight that are pretty important for her). The goal is for the project to be from mostly Katie's pov (I hesitate to say all, because a scene or two may need to be from Duncan's.)


Hello, me. I’m trying to remember you. They’ve give me paper and a pen. It took -- has taken -- over two weeks for me to come to grips with it not being that paper, and that pen. I knew it wasn’t at all, couldn’t be, but
        No, that’s not working.
        I promise to write more coherently, or at least chronologically.. I’m telling a story here, after all. All I can ask is that you don’t confuse the teller with the tale; I think that’s the best I can hope for anymore.
        Everyone has a story. That’s one of the things mom told me that winter. It was the winter of Moby Dick, which explains a lot of that. I plan to keep my story shorter, since I don’t know how much paper I have, or for how long.
        Writers are told to leave out the boring bits, so I’ll try and do the same. Make this just be about that winter and nothing else. But if not for this winter, my life would be just boring bits, the things left out of stories. This may limit some of the people I’m going to tell you about: you won’t understand my mom with just one winter to judge her by. So try not to judge anyone harshly, except me.
        This is a story, even if it’s my life. And all fiction is lies, even if it’s about things that happened. Even if I was there. There’s parts I remember clear, others not so much. Sometimes I get the feel of things, sometimes the think of them. Some conversations are verbatim, others are prose and not spoken words.
        I’m going to tell you some lies now, about true things.

        It started with the groundhog.
        It was February second, and it had snowed last night. I was seventeen, going on eighteen, and I like to think I was just that. Not thirty two in cynicism, eighty one in sexual awareness thanks to the internet and so forth. I was home-schooled, but don’t hold that against me. I like to think I was normal, is what I’m saying.
        The ground was slushy after the snowfall and I’d spent eight hours standing in the old Baker Street park staring at a hole on the ground. My shoes were soaked through, the rest of me getting there, but I didn’t actually feel all that cold. Mostly numb. Fogged up a little, in the head. I’d must have lost track of a couple of hours, because the ring of my cell phone jarred me.
        “Hey,” I said quickly, just managing to dig it from a pocket, check the time and open it before it went to voicemail.
        “Katie Gwendolyn Smith.”
        “Oh. Hi, mom.”
        “Where have you been? I called earlier.” And I had ignored the phone, since it was too early for Duncan to call about playing a video game together. (Things like this are why I never got call display on any phone my mom paid for.)
        “I was waiting for a groundhog.”
        A silence. “And?”
        “It’s Groundhog’s Day, mom. I’m testing the superstition.”
        “Since Seven a.m.?”
        “Well, it’s not getting you out of doing your math work. Your grandfather is going to be home within the hour; and it is also your turn to make supper, in case you forgot that as well?”
        “I’ll be home quickly,” I said, casting the ground a last look before hurrying to the road. I looked back from the road, just in case I saw the groundhog again, but I saw nothing.
        Feeling returned to my feet as I walked, and Duncan called a few minutes later, asking if I wanted to play a game with him tonight. I said I had school and he got into the usual ‘you homeschoolers get homework?’ mock horror, our old routine. We meant nothing by it, not anymore. It was just how we talked to each other, and I lobbed some fake insults his way, keeping it normal. Which was a lot more comfortable thank keeping it real. (I’m pretty sure I thought that then, or something close to it; it was a strange winter.)
        Supper was chicken surprise, the surprise being that I didn’t overcook the pasta. Grandpa said it was good, which meant it was. He never said if supper was bad, but that was because he insisted I learn to cook if me and mom were staying with him. Grandpa thought everyone should learn such things and since he had insisted I cook in the first place, he never complained about some of the results. I think he must have made grandma very happy, but mom never talks about her.
        I did the math quickly, trying for sleep after and failing. I kept imaging groundhog shadows and couldn’t shake the feeling I’d have terrible dreams if I slept. So I did English until I heard grandpa getting up and stumbled out of my room for some coffee.
        “You are far too young for all-nighters,” he said, looking over the paper at me. “You should save that for college.”
        “I wanted to get some things done this morning.”
        Grandpa just nodded; I hadn’t said what things, so he didn’t press.
        I had the coffee, porridge, left a note for mom and dressed warmer before getting out again. I made sure to leave my cell at home. The park was mostly empty except for old Mr. McClure feeding pigeons at the far end, but he pretty much did that most days all over the neighbourhood so I gave him a friendly wave and went to examining the hole after cleaning a rock off to sit on it.
        I knew the burrow had other entrances, but I figured I’d see them from the rock as well. Mom doesn’t get sarcastic often, but she definitely would have if I sprained an ankle looking for groundhog holes and waiting.
        It was a little past noon, going by the sun, and I was starting to get angry. I mean, I’d seen it yesterday morning, and it hadn’t shown up again. I was half-seriously debating a shovel when someone coughed behind me.
        I turned, almost sliding off the rock, and found myself staring at a kid in a bright pink snowsuit compete with balaclava, toque and scarf. A mittened hand waved awkwardly, followed by a soft, muffled male voice: “Hello?”
        “Hi yourself. Rock’s free,” I added.
        “I suppose.” He walked closer, moving as if he had almost no joints, and waved a hand behind him, a little to my left. “I came from that house. The one with all the trees,” he added before I could ask.
        “So, no school?”
        “Homeschooled. I have a medical condition of sorts.”
        “It involves clothing?” I said, because I wasn’t my grandfather.
        “Sorry, I thought --” I paused, not sure what I thought. “Do you need help getting home?”
        “With, ah, walking?”
        “Oh, clothing. No. My mom is very protective sometimes. I’m wearing two snow suits, else I would be walking fine.”
        “I guess that explains why one is pink?” I said dryly.
        “O-kay. What brings you out here?”
        “You have been here two days: I wondered why.”
        I eyed the house, and then his clothing. “Must be some wondering, to come all the way out here wearing all that.”
        “Twice is interesting; more seldom is,” the boy said.
        I sighed, looking back at the hole. “Go home, kid.”
        “You are looking for a groundhog.”
        I didn’t fall this time. I turned carefully, and then stood and looked down at him. “That wasn’t a question.”
        “You are in a field with them, on the third of February. It seemed obvious. You want to talk about it?”
        “Get lost,” I said, no longer feeling friendly. I was feeling stupid enough as it was, but I also knew it wasn’t enough to make me give up.
        “I just --.” I took a step towards him and he stepped back, raising his hands. One mitten fell off to reveal a glove under it.
        We both stared at it, and I looked at him, then sighed. “I didn’t mean to startle you like that.”
        “I am okay. Can you pick up my mitten?”
        “I think,” he said gravely, “that I would fall over and not be able to get back up.” And then he laughed, as soft as he spoke.
        I laughed too, surprised, and got it, putting it on him. “I’m Katie.”
        “Adrian,” he said, wiggling it after it was on his hand.
        Then he went home, making his almost-robot way back through the show and somehow never quite falling.
        And that was how I met Adrian.

The third day he showed up before lunch, wearing less layers than before.
        “Hey,” I said
        “Hello,” he said, still quiet even with the scarf undone. Some people just talk softly; Adrian was one of those.
        He sat down on the rock beside me slowly, having only the pink snowsuit, mittens, a scarf and whatever was under it on. It seemed enough, given he wobbled slightly when he sat.
        “What are you wearing?” I finally said.
        “Two sweaters, a t-shirt, undershirt, long johns, two pairs of sweats, one snowsuit, scarf, gloves, mittens,” he said, pulling the hood back off the snowsuit. Under it he was pale with dark eyes and curly dark hair framing a serious face.
        “How do you get out of that?” I said.
        “With help.”
        “And you don’t need to wear it?”
        “Not this much,” he said firmly.
        “So maybe this is a lesson to not come out and bug me?”
        He smiled briefly at that, quick and shy, and then looked grave as if it hadn’t happened at all. “Perhaps.”
        I sighed. “You should go home before you need to go to the bathroom or something.”
        “I mentioned the problem; my mother took it into account.”
        “Wait. What?”
        “A diaper,” he said, the tips of his ears turning pink.
        “Is your mother mental?” It slipped out before I could stop it.
        “She is concerned.”
        “Concerned is a little less than dressing someone in more than six layers of clothing,” I said. “There’s no wind, and it’s not that cold.”
        “Worried, then. I am, too.”
        “About what?”
        “You. Why you are waiting for a groundhog.”
        “Look, Adrian, just go home, okay? I don’t feel like being bugged.”
        “I spent an hour getting dressed this morning,” he said, raising his voice a little.
        I sighed. “What do you want me to say?”
        “The truth?” he said, soft again. “About why you are here.”
        “Kid,” I began, and he looked into me. I don’t have words for it, even now. It was as if his gaze went right into me, pinning me in place with an intensity that took my breath away. It was as if he looked and into me, and right through me at the same time.
        I took a breath, managed a cough, and the moment passed and was gone. I looked away quickly, trying to gather my wits.
        “Please,” he said, a little louder, almost sounding desperate
        So I told him.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Radom thought

Are there people who seriously believe they should not be the exception to the rules?