Saturday, May 30, 2015

Flight Day!

Charlie is sleeping now so I get to sneak out the wind and practise flying like a BOSS!


“So! I have a big uhm for you,” I say as I bounce onto Charlie’s bed for a good morning hello.

She opens her eyes. “I don’t hear sirens. I’ll take this as not being a worrying uhm?”

I grin like a jayboss at that. “Nope! But but but I went flying last night, and I was mostly with birds and hiding like a boss only I think people saw me?”

“Jay. You hide your nature better than anything else. You can be invisible if you want to.”

It’s not invisible, but I’m smart as a Jay and not about to correct Charlie before at least two cups of coffee!

”But there were fireworks all around me. I can’t see, but I could hear them really well,” I explain.

Charlie groans. “That was for Memorial Day. Not because you were flying.”


“I imagine it was very Jaysome flying,” she says, poking me on the nose with a finger. “But if people set off fireworks every time you did something awesome, there wouldn’t be any fireworks in the world in under a week.”

“Oh! That makes sense,” and I give Charlie a huge hug and head out the door to get her morning coffee.


“Jay,” Charlie says. “Quick question: how big we’re some of those fireworks last night?”

“Pretty loud! So I guess they were big?”

“Because the local paper has a report of a fighter jet shooting at a ufo. The base is, of course, confirming nothing.”

“I might have played tag with birds and got a little carried away?”

“A little.”

“But I was definitely identified so I wasn’t a ufo,” I say proudly.

“You … were identified.”

“I thought the pilot might be more okay if he could see me.”

“You thought a flying boy would make sense to them?”

“Well, more than an invisible shape moving within a flock of birds?”

“Of course. Because doing that is very subtle.”


And I don’t even know what Charlie would say to that because some bad bindings snag at us and the coffee shop has full of gas and Official People with guns.

And Charlie passes our really fast so I fake it as well because she’s my friend and this is definitely the kind of adventure you rescue friends from!


I’m being even quieter than a jay when government people try and search us. Because Charlie is still all sleeping and I might learn Stutf


Okay! I’m figuring stuff out like a Boss! Because! the government people have a psychic guy who is all twitchy, and he sensed Charlie was all kinds of nifty but not me at all. But Charlie still hasn’t woke up from the drugs they gave her and unbinding drugs from humans is pretty complicated so I’m waiting and they’re worried and I might be getting a little cross!


“She still isn’t awake? Shit. What about the boy?”

“He’s sleeping,” the psychic the government people employ says in his nasal whine and

"Hi,“ I say, jumping to my feet and unbinding the ropes and chains they put on me. The cell door opens as I grin. Some of them don’t like it when I grin, even like a Jay! because they begin shooting at me. I’m tough and I unbind guns and make them fall apart even as a few bullets leave small bruises on my skin.

"I want Charlie to be woken up now,” I explain, and the psychic does some mental thing that doesn’t hurt at all. And I’m getting all kinds of cross, so I grin like a Jaysaurus and some of the men with guns run away. “I can count higher than ten but I’m not going to because Charlie is my friend and –."

"What are you?” the psychic whispers.

"A Jay. And you didn’t sense me cuz I’m all Jaysome!“


"I just said, and anyway,“ I begin, but some people don’t want to make friends at all because my bindings with Charlie go all funny as the psychic tries something. And Charlie is hurt and I’m all kinds of mad do I roar like a Jaysaurus with a huge "Rowr,” and the psychic screams and falls, every binding inside him breaking down.

His brains are all kinds of mushy as they leak out of his ears but it doesn’t feel like an oops at all.

I poke the god inside Charlie awake and we try to wake her up but the military people are getting all kinds of unfriendly so I have to unbind parts of tanks and everything before I sneak us away.

I ask the internet how to hot-wire and drive a car and we totally escape. I might have kinda taken the car sideways from the world a little, but it doesn’t crush either of us to death and the screaming of dying metal wakes Charlie up nice and fast. She doesn’t ask a single question, not for a whole hour. But I am grounded for FOUR days from flying!


Charlie says we’re all adventured out for a few days!

So I’m going to do a sleeping tonight and not fly at all.



I woke up and it wasn’t an adventure but! Charlie was woke up by a very sad god she knew and she’s trying to explain human politics to her Uncle Sam and I didn’t know Charlie had an uncle who was a god and politics is lots of weird bindings that don’t make any sense at all.

So I leave them to a talking and head out to make some new friends :)

Friday, May 22, 2015

When Quirks Define Character

I've been writing a series of stories called the Magician Series since mid-2013. It began life as mostly stand-alone short stories and evolved into a handful of novellas and 2 (of 3) novels written in the series so far. In time the cast grew, and the magician was joined by a girl named Charlie and a creature from Outside the universe named Jay. It reached the point where Jay and Charlie wandered off to have their own adventures in the world at the end of the second novel. (Charlie had ceased travelling with the magician and come back during that interim.)

And Jay, who was ten(!), fast, tough, very good with bindings and spoke with a lisp, lost his lisp and ended up being blinded at the climax of the second novel in November of last year. the end result of that was that Jay got a tumblr . Granted, he had been 'on' it for some time in the stories before and I had resisted giving him one figuring it was going to be a time sink among other things. But Jay's lisp had been a huge part of him. In multiple-character scenes, it was easier for the reader to know when Jay was speaking and so forth. Jay could cameo on stories other people wrote easily with that short-hand of 'here is Jay'.

But without it, I was left uncertain as to where I was taking the character. How his speech patterns would change without the lisp, how he was going to cope with not being able to see* and how Charlie was going to deal with the changes to/in Jay as well. Jay's response was to become more exuberant, subconscious worries at people making fun of his lisp vanishing leading to dialog peppered with excessive punctuation and emoticons. And also Jay missing his lisp, since to him that was a huge part of being Jay, as it was one of the first things Jay learned about himself when he entered into the universe.

The third novel is going to alter all the characters further. Many details are hazy, but it is the last novel I plan to write for the series though there will likely still be short stories done after that. Some probably dealing with how Jay adjusts to things again. It should prove quite interesting to write, and nicely odd to work on. Jay was definitely the breakout character in the series and it's been interesting to see what worked or didn't work and to explore various aspects of the world via his peculiar world view.

* The magician (and a fae named Dana) promised to fix Jay's eyes when they found a way. Since he tends to take people at their word, a part of him accepts the blinding as temporary so it doesn't alter/define his world as much as it might have otherwise.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Prompt: blue or purple

“Jay.” Charlie pauses. “What are you wearing?”

“Well. I want to go back to school for another day and,” I add firmly, “I’ve been listening to lots of articles online about schools.”

“Are these schools based on Japanese horror anime?”

“Schools have uniforms. So I found the school colours on their website and totally made this outfit work!”

Charlie buries her face in her hands. I don’t need to be able to see to know when she does that. “Dare I ask what the colours are?”

“Blue and purple, but they don’t have a uniform right now and their school paper said the outfit they eventually get should be blue or purple because the colours match too much?”

“It is very – ah, bright. Kiddo. You can’t see. Do you have any idea what other students are going to make of this?”

“Nop! Because I’m not using bindings so I won’t know,” I say proudly. “And I solved the colour problem but I kind of had to use bindings and bind light and things together.”

“Oh. I wouldn’t have guessed.”

“It’s both! Because choices between colours are mean to either colour, so I found blurple! It’s blue and purple together like a Jayboss.”

“You found a colour?”

“It took a bit of time, and it was pretty shy but I asked really nice so it’s the colour of my clothing. You said it’s bright?”

“It looks very bright, yes.”

“That’s probably camouflage.”

Sometimes Charlie is really slow at stuff. This time she says: “What is it hiding from?” maybe because she knows me really well!

“I’m not sure. It talks in colour and I can’t see colour so I kind of guessed. I think that, maybe, if an alien rainbow with lots of teeth appears, it might run away?”

“Of course. Amazed I didn’t think of that. Can you get your, ah, blurple, to be a little less bright?”

“I can try,” I say, and then I’m all out the door and heading down the hallway and stairs to get the bus, and a lot of people kind of gasp but I probably moved a bit faster than I should have since if I don’t hurry to school I might get scared and not go and I am pretty Jaysome, which is always a good reason for people to stare at me!

Sunday, May 17, 2015


The TV screens spent two days full of grave talking heads that spoke their sincere lies. Bethany and five other friends died from gas inhalation, the same gas that caused her parents home to explode like the final scene in a movie where they burn through their effects budget like virgins having sex for the first time. It’s a fun image in my head and I think about it through the entire walk to the town morgue. They’re gong to do autopsies. I need to talk to the coroner, and I’ve run out of time to put it off.

Because Official Questions will be asked, the kind that lead to cutting bodies open. And I have no idea what will happen when the coroner does that and finds that their bodies were just skin and the contents of bones and muscles and organs are really simulacrum made by tree branches and roots. I saw the tree sprit do that, Dylan hiding the fact that their bodies had been hollowed out days before and turned into puppets for Things from Outside the universe.

I got Dylan involved. He saved me and maybe the whole town too. And then went back to his small shack of a home. Left me to try and clean this up. I’d laugh but I’m not sure I’ll be able to stop if I start.

I’m not sure about many things anymore. I know my name is Kate and that I’m fifteen and that even a week ago many life was pretty normal. Before angles that frightened shadows took me some place far from this world. Before a magician saved me, saying that there was magic in me but he would bind it until I needed it, until I spoke his name. A name he never told me.

Only I was changed. I sometimes see things other people don’t seem to. When people talk I can hear under their words to what they really mean. It’s not power: I’ve seen real power and whatever I have isn’t that. But it’s enough to mark me, to make me different. Enough to mean I’ve seen enough to know I need to speak yo the coroner.

I’ve done my research. I’ve googled him. I have no idea at all what I’m going to say.

Luxenford isn’t a large town as such things go, but it does have the largest and most modern hospital around owing to political favours a decade or so back and probably backroom deals that define politics more than anything else does. All I knew was that our hospital was full of apps long before that caught on in even major cities and reason enough for a large morgue to be built here in order to serve every surrounding town.

Emily Price has been the town coroner for going on twenty years, only she is retiring – well, she’s been saying she is for over four years – but this time she actually hired an assistant. Emily goes to scenes as the medical examiner, gets all the press and knows how to deal with them. Meanwhile, Ronald Donald does all the work in the morgue proper. I didn’t dig up that much on him, only that he was in his early twenties, probably overqualified and had left a prestigious job in Toronto without notice to move out to the middle of nowhere.

I was certain there was a story behind that, but it might be even less interesting than what had possessed his parents to name him Ronald. The morgue was half a block from the hospital, an old brick building that had been a warehouse for some company in the fifties. Now it stores bodies instead and boasts a parking lot that is almost always empty. I poke my phone a bit, finding out that there had been plans to make a family tribute centre – aka a funeral home – as well, only they’d been nixed as not being tasteful and too close to a couple of retirement buildings. Which somehow didn’t nix the morgue.

I bluff my way past the receptionist with the magic words of ‘school paper’

The assistant coroners office turns out to be small, neat and tidy. Not a thing is out of place, not one stray piece of paper visible anywhere. The metal desk looks clean rough to use as an examination table if someone had to. Ronald Donald himself is a tall, narrow man with glasses so thin they were invisible in uncertain light. His clothing has a crispness to it that makes it seem like forced casual, as though he is wearing jeans under protest and his eyes are cold and hard as he looks me over.

I notice a small scar running across his left eyebrow. I have no idea what he might notice about me until he gestures sharp with one hand for me to sit in the lone chair on the other side of his desk, sitting stiffly with his hands clasped tightly together.

“You told Maureen that this is about a school report, yes?” Ronald says, barely making it a question.

“I did.”

“I see. You were not friends with Bethany,” he states as a fact it up for discussion, “and participating in an autopsy goes far beyond a mere school report even as a witness. I will not have the dead profaned in order to sell pictures for a high school paper. You may leave.”

I take a deep breath. “The bones and organs aren’t made of bone.” Ronald says nothing, but the silence is a weight pressing around me. “They’re made of tree roots. They will hold together until the funerals. I don’t know for how much longer after that.”

“You are telling me that I have six dead bodies without human bones in them.” The assistant coroners voice is soft and brittle, and there are old pains under it, deeper even than the fury that doesn’t show on his face at all. “Was this the cause of their deaths?”

“No, sir.”

“Did you do this to them?”

I shake my head. I have no idea what else to say.

“Very well.” He stands. “Follow me.”


“I shall perform the autopsy now. You will witness it.”

I want to say that I’m not here for that. That I just came to tell him about the bodies. But I’m not that brave. I’m not brave enough to leave. I’m not sure I know what bravery is anymore.

I stand. I follow, not daring to break his silence, not even with my own.

The body Ronald performs the autopsy on isn’t Bethany’s. The experience is quick: slice, peel, examine. He snaps off a piece of wood, makes a few more incisions and examines them without a word before stitching the skin back together in the same silence.

“Will this happen again?”

I start, blink. “I - I don’t think so? The creatures that - they were stopped.”

The assistant coroner looks over at me. “We will have no further involvement, I trust?”

“I really hope not!”

He almost, almost smiles at that. “I will make the necessary arrangements with the funeral home.”

I hesitate, then: “You’ve done this before?”

The could-have-been of a smile vanishes. Ronald Donald begins putting tools away, his silence a wall between us.

“Please. I don’t understand any of this,” I say; it comes out as a whisper. “The things I am seeing are one thing. I can accept the world having more to it than I ever knew. But how it - it intersects with everything I know…” I trail off, shaking my head.

“If you do anything long enough, you touch the edges of things that are not normal. Most forget them, sometimes by their own choice. Sometimes not.”

I remember the power in the magician’s voice and shiver a little as I nod. “I got lucky, then, meeting you?”

“Heh.” He says it as a word, not laughing at all. “Perhaps.”

And under the word are things he doesn’t want me to know, truths that could only hurt if pulled up out if the dark. I try not to hear, thank him and leave the morgue slowly. It’s dark, and dad is going to wonder why I am late coming home.

I have no idea what I am going to say at all. I just walk quickly, trying not to flinch when I round corners. Not wanting to remember the creatures that took my far beyond the world I know. And I wonder if the coroner helped me because he saw something close to kinship in my eyes.

“When I stop being afraid, I will have become something the dark fears.” The words slip out like a promise and it takes everything I have to say nothing more.


Where have you been?” His voice is a whip, is a crushing, but under the anger a fear that takes my breath away. Who am I, that I should know this?

A week ago, I would have said: “Out,” made reference to the bottles beside his chair. Now I say nothing, every word feeling like it’s too much.

Kate Emilia –,” he begins into my silence.

Dad. Don’t. I can take care of myself. You don’t have to be scared for me every time I’m out late.”

He rocks back a step, eyes narrowing. “That’s what you think this is about?”

He doesn’t know. I almost laugh, choke it back. “Underneath, yes.” I don’t say I’m not mom, that I’m not going to leave. I reach for my own anger, can’t find it. I know him too deeply, hearing what he is saying and the words under that.

You can’t hate someone who loves you. Not when you know what drives them.

I don’t want this.” The words slip out. “I haven’t –. It’s not –.” The magician said I wouldn’t have magic, not unless I found his name, not unless I spoke it. But this seeing, this knowing, this peeling back: this I seem to have no matter what. I’ve been marked and I don’t know how to undo it. It’s too much I don’t have words for, not ones that wouldn’t hurt or confuse.

Kate?” The anger is gone, Dad fear-cold sober. “What is it? Drugs? Boys? Girls?”

Nothing. Nothing like that. I promise.”

He stares at me for a moment that stretches almost to breaking, then: “There is pizza in the fridge.”

I nod, head into the kitchen. He’s trusting me, and somehow it’s that which threatens tears. I take a deep breath, another, a third. I don’t cry. I don’t cry. I don’t cry.

Friday, May 15, 2015


Some days start out bad and only get worse. This morning was the alarm not going off, missing the bus, half of first period, my lunch having fallen out of my bag as I ran to school, having no money to get something from the cafeteria. But it’s all small things, things that don’t matter, so I’m doing some homework I forgot to do last night when Cassie sits down across from me without asking if the seat is free. We’re friends. Well, sort-of friends some days. Sometimes I think high school is just a long procession of sort-of friends. Cliques change, styles move on, people keep up, fall behind, move into different groups. We’re all treading water, grasping onto any lifeboat we find, swimming for islands only to find most of them are mirages.

And all the while teachers expect us to pay attention to lessons.

“Tisha told me you lost your lunch and you’re just doing school work?” She pauses, her silence a waiting thing, her eyes searching mine. “You missed the bus this morning.”

“It does happen.” I close the textbook. “You came over to sit with me because of that?” I ask, pretending mock-outrage.

“I remember last September, when the bus was late getting us to school because of a traffic accident. You were bouncing in the seat with worry.” She pushes her glasses harder up her nose, is trying to hide worry of her own and failing. “Last week, Bruce made one of his rants picked up from some shitty comedy show, making sure you’d hear him since he has six friends around him. You told him last month if he spouted that crap again you’d be picking his teeth out of your fist, remember? And you just ignored him this time.” Her pause stretches, then: “Are you on meds, Kate?”

“No.” I don’t look down at my textbook at all now. Cassie doesn’t pry, not really. Her family has money, not that you’d know it. She’s taller than me, solid, with old coke-bottle-thick glasses. Her older brother is solid, but Joe’s is all muscles and clenched fists. No one thought they had money, and if kids in high school hide the wealth of their parents there are all sorts of reasons. Most not them involving the wealth not being legal.

“Family trouble?” she asks, not wanting to, concern overriding her defenses.

“Not more than usual.” I think my voice is even, but I’m not sure. I hadn’t even noticed. Some Other place filled with shapes in shadows tries to kill you, a magician saves you. You can’t expect to leave that unchanged, but I’d thought no one would notice. That I hadn’t changed that much. “Just distracted. Things, you know,” I say with a shrug, holding her gaze, knowing she won’t press the matter further.

She doesn’t, turning the conversation to normal school topics. I only half-listen, thinking about the last few minutes. About whether I’d known Cassie this well before. About the troll I’d seen a few days ago in the park.

The magician had told me I wouldn’t have magic, not unless I knew his name, that he’d hidden it in my heart. But part of me is thinking that there is magic and magic. You don’t escape weird shit unscarred, and part of that might be being able to see the scars of others. I don’t want this. I don’t know how to stop it.

I don’t trust anyone enough to tell them I talked to a troll under the bridge in the park. It hurts to know that, to have to admit it is true. I don’t have the same lies to tell myself I used to have; all I can do is hope it doesn’t make me think I’m more than other people. I’m seeing things other people don’t; I have to think everyone else does the same. They aren’t seeing trolls, haven’t been pulled from our world into a place of false dark and things made of twisted lines hungering to be real. I want to ask Cassie why she’s stopped wearing a cross around her neck, want to know where her own way of knowing took her.

I don’t. I offer up a smile, thank her for asking, for worrying, make an excuse to head out of the cafeteria. I need space, time for breath, for sorting out, but it isn’t given. I might have gone days without seeing her – our school only boasts four hundred students, but it is narrow and old, a windery of small corridors – but instead it happens today. I know Bethany Cormier as a cheerleader, also the life of any party she goes to, the person with so many friends it’s almost dangerous to be her enemy.

I’ve seen trolls under bridges, but what is inside Bethany is something else altogether. A hungering, a Something, an Other wearing her face, walking in her body, smiling to everyone and taking something from them as they smile back. She’s chatting about a party, inviting select people she knows and no one seems to realize she’s doing it in the way of someone ordering food. I keep walking, holding myself together. I don’t know if she knows I know what she is; I think she might if I look too long. I think monsters know when they’ve been seen. I wonder how long this creature has been Bethany but I have no way of knowing that.

I know what she is going to do in the same way I understood Cassie. People talk in so many voices, and I’m underhearing them and don’t know how to stop. I have one class left before the day ends, but I’m out of the school almost without thinking about it, heading toward the park half on auto-pilot. Part of me wants to scream; the rest is terrified of being heard. The magician bound my magic. He told me that, and when he tells true things you know they are true. But I changed. You can’t have your understanding of how the world works be ripped apart and not change.

I don’t know how to change back. I don’t know if I can. I’m not sure anyone can, not from real changes. All you can do is hide from them or embrace them, and I don’t know what one I am. I just know I can’t keep this inside, and so I walk down the narrow path in the park, and under the bridge where the troll lives.

To normal eyes, the brickwork under the bridge is only that. One might wonder at the lack of graffiti or how neat the walking path is, but doubtfully for long. The troll comes out of of the rock and is the rock, a solid flowing like liquid for a moment, a weight of presence on the world. It’s eyes are deep and calm and the troll merely stares down at me and waits.

“I don’t know who to talk to. I saw – I’ve seen –.” My voice cracks, breaks apart.

“It is always dangerous to see what you cannot unsee,” the troll rumbles.

“Bethany isn’t human. She looks human, but she’s not. There is a hunger, a – she is going to kill them.” The words feel flat. I try again. “No, something worse. Hollow them out and leave something Else behind.”

“They will die anyway, in time. Not even magicians escape death.”

“But not like this.”

“That is true.”

I sit, back pressing against the stonework of the bridge, half-facing the troll. “There is another thing. The magician I met. How does he – how do they –?”

“I am not human, but I have seen many humans in my time.” The troll crouches down like boulders don’t. “One deals, gets on with life, moves. Because that is all there is to do. You may fall apart, you may fall down, but you get back up. Do what you must, because it is always and ever about more than just you.”

“Do what I must? I don’t even know how to be me!”

“You are young. You may define yourself by what you do not want. You can see clearer than others, but you have no wishing in you to be a magician, to be deeper than them?”

“That, yes.” I don’t look up.

“There is a small house a half-block from the park, at the end of Parker Drive. The one who lives there may be able to aid you.”

“Okay.” I stand, not looking at the troll. People might die because of what I don’t want to be. Because I’m scared, afraid, won’t let the magic change my world this much. Because I’m a coward and I am certain I will see that truth in the eyes of the troll.

“Child,” the troll rumbles behind me as I begin to leave the bridge it lives under. “You do not desire power. That is not a weakness but a strength.”

It takes everything I have not to run away from the kindness under those words.

Parker Drive isn't much of a road. Narrow and winding, a dead end street crowded with two dozen small homes. If there were anti-beautification awards, Parker Drive would be in the running for them. Which makes the house at the end of the street almost remarkable, if only because someone was brave enough to consider it a home. The shack is small, almost devoured by surrounding grass and trees trying to turn lumber back into part of a forest.

A rusted mailbox lists the house as #33 Parker Drive but there is no mail in it, not even a single junk flyer. The windows have no glass and the front door was barely hanging onto hinges as I make my way up the path. The troll had said someone could help me here. I remind myself that appearances are often very deceiving. It doesn't help much.

The man who opens the door is pale behind grime, fingernails blackened by dirt, hair an unkempt mess, clothing that has more holes than fabric. And skinny. The kind of painful thin that would make anorexics ask if he should eat more. Only it took a few seconds to notice that, and somehow it didn't seem wrong with him.

“I have a problem I was told you might be able to help me with?” I say, trying not to stumble over words, trying not to breathe too deep.

“Oh?” His voice is rough and scratchy, his eyes

his eyes are a shade of brilliant green I've never seen before, and I’ve seen colours in places humans don’t go. They're blue as well, his eyes, a shade the sky would be envious of. Alive. If forest green and sky blue were true, they would be his eyes. They shift between colours and somehow it seems entirely natural, as if everyone should have eyes like his but we don’t.

I take a deep breath. I can see more than most people do now, but it’s not only sight. I smell dirt. Filth. But under it loam and moss and the smell of a fresh spring day. His fingers are as thin as twigs. “The troll sent me, the one under the bridge?”

“How is Rocky?”

“Rocky? I didn't know it had – I didn't even ask –.”

His chuckle is soft and low. “It's the name I use. Trolls don't bother with names. Humans do.”

“Kate.” I don't hold out my hand for him to shake.

“Dylan. What do you need?”

“I don't know. There is this girl at my school. Bethany. She isn’t human anymore. I don’t know how long she hasn’t been human, but sometimes I see –.” I gulp, try not to think about it. “She’s going to make people into things like her. Hollow them out.”

“And you think I could help you?”

“Rocky did.”

That wins a hint of a smile. “And if I suggested you do not need my help, Kate?”

“I don’t – I’ve met a magician. I don’t want to be one. Please,” I add.

Dylan cocks his head to the side. “An interesting goal,” he says softly. “Very well. I will aid you if you tell me what I am.”

“Don’t you already know?”

The hint of a smile widens. “Consider it a test.”

I step back, stare into eyes like the dream of the forest, then walk about him in a half-circle. “The sky and earth, the smell of loam,” I say, the words sounding oddly formal. “A body as thin as twigs, as sticks, a home made of wood.” I stop, shake my head a little. “You’re part of a forest, aren’t you?”

His eyes are blue and cold. “Clever.”

“I made a guess.”

“Sometimes not being clever can be quite clever in itself.” His smile is a flash of teeth so yellowed they are almost green. “It has been a long time since I left my home, though the troll is hardly one to speak. Very well. I will aid you, if only because your goal is both noble and doomed to fail.”

I thought he was talking about Bethany, and not being able to do anything about her without his aid. It never occurred to me that he could mean anything else.

The interior of Dylan’s home is even smaller than the exterior of the shack suggested. It’s also the inside of a tree. The walls are thick wood, the floor moss, roots woven into a bed and chair. Sunlight streams in through the ceiling despite the cloudy sky. It’s like something out of the Hobbit, only more natural. I sit carefully in the chair as he sits on the bed, trying not to jump as the doorway and windows fill with vines between one moment and the next, nettles of every size and shape flowing out of the walls or the air itself.

“Privacy,” he says, blue-green eyes dancing with cool merriment, thin hands in his lap.

“Okay.” I take a deep breath, smelling fresh spring rain. “I’m going to be really rude I think, but Bethany is something other, something monstrous in human skin. What can you do, in general and against her?”

Dylan smiles strangely. “The troll has not offered aid, nor told you all it can do.”

It isn’t a question, but I nod anyway. “I don’t know much about this. Magic, weird things I’m seeing, any of it. I guess it’s like true names, or superheroes? You don’t tell people everything you are or can do in case they use it against you?”

“Superheroes,” he repeats, his voice calm, face carefully blank.

“I’m doing this all wrong, aren’t I?”

“Oh, yes. I have been called many things over the years. Until now, that wasn’t one of them.” His smile is softer, almost kind. “I am a forest spirit. Some of us remain even as the forests fade into woods and parks. Others have passed on or become other things. This area is still my forest, even if most of it no longer remembers what it once was.”

“So you can make vines.”

“And other things, if I have need. I am no magician, to banish a creature such as this Bethany back Outside the universe. If, indeed, they are from Outside, but I imagine I can convince Bethany to depart.”

I want to ask why the town is here, how the forests became parks, how the woods became fields and farms, but I have no idea how I could even bring it up. Not without hurting him, maybe even more than he must be hurting himself.

Dylan doesn’t have a car. Of course he doesn’t. What self-respecting forest spirit would own a car? He confesses to having a Segway, but I’m pretty sure he’s joking. I call a cab and check Facebook on my phone to find out when the party Bethany is hosting is going to be. I’m a little relieved Dylan knows what Facebook is and not sure how I should feel that the creature inside Bethany doesn’t know how to manage privacy settings. The cab is one of the dozen in the town and if the driver is surprised at the location or Dylan’s appearance, she hides it well.

“What do we do?” I ask as the cab drops us off at the end of Hemingway Street. The street is all larger homes, part of a series of dead-end roads designed for privacy. The homes weren’t gated but might as well have been: you didn’t own one unless you Were Someone and that required far more than mere money. I have no idea if that is why Bethany was picked as a host or if that is entirely a fluke. I don’t know enough at all.

“The home is not protected,” Dylan murmurs. “We walk in the front door and see what happens.”

“Just like that?”

“Anything else would be rather suspicious.”

I’m not dressed for a party like this and Dylan definitely isn’t, but I follow him down a marbled driveway and to the open front doors of the Somerset house. Bethany’s parents had made their money as lawyers in the city, away as often as not and somehow trusting Bethany. We didn’t move in the same circles, but it’s not as if the house had been trashed or burned down before. Bethany had been a lot of things, but not foolish.

A guy I didn’t recognize was standing outside the front door. Dylan held his gaze and did nothing I could tell, but he didn’t offer a word of protest as we went inside. The interior of the home was surprisingly normal. Nice without beng more than that, feeling like a house rather than a show home. A dozen people in the living room were clustered around a large tv getting drunk. Watching some talent show and drinking shots. I wondered for half a moment what Dylan would do if I joined in and just walk down the wide hallway and into a large kitchen.

The kitchen turns out to be Martha Stewart modern, filled with gleaming appliances that look as though they are seldom used. Two fridges, two stoves and microwaves, island and small breakfast nook. Bethany is in it making snacks for people. She is even wearing an apron. I remind myself that people wear aprons. The thing inside her is a rolling mass of thick grey the colour of mucus, like a fog crossed with some sea slug found on an ocean bed.

“Kate.” She doesn’t sound surprised at seeing me. “And you brought a friend.”

I’m trying to decide on a lie when I hear footsteps behind us. The hallway is blocked by two quiet, tall girls with fogs inside them. The exit from the kitchen leading outside is blocked as well. Bethany is smiling tightly as she walks toward me and Dylan.

“I thought you had seen Me,” she murmurs. “I do so enjoy being right.”

“What? Is this some initiation no one ever told me about; I’ve never crashed a party before and –.”

“And you really should have at least had a plan. No matter.” Fog writhes about her fingers, visible in the air.

“I would ask what you are doing and why,” Dylan says quietly, not moving.

“You are nothing. A forest spirit with no wood. This is not your forest,” Bethany says flatly.

“Even so. You may consider this a polite request.” Dylan didn’t move, a thin presence beside me, but something about him causes Bethany to step back a pace, the swirling inside her shifting colours to paler hues.

And then Bethany smiles, and the smile looks so human and ugly that I almost think the real Bethany is still there inside her own mind, as if there was a mind inside her body at all. “You have brought us the child. For that we shall let you live.”

“What do you intend?” Dylan asks, his voice cool and empty. I can’t look over. I have to hope that’s not true.

“She has a small gift; we will harvest her and it will never grow.”

“I begin to understand. Small towns, small places. You expand slowly, picking hosts that are visible in the community. Find those who might be magicians and murder then so that there is no one to stop you.” And Dylan’s laugh is soft and fey, coldly amused. “You honestly think that is going to work? The fae will dispose of you even worse than the wandering magician might. He has been so many places. There are those who can summon him by name.” His voice drops, harsh and ugly as winter. “I will give you one chance to leave. Just the one to end this and return Outside the universe.”

The people behind us don’t move. There is no flash of light, the temperature doesn’t alter, but something causes me to spin about. One of the two people that was guarding the hallway has fallen, the skin lying on the ground like a discarded costume, the mist of it all green suckers covered in ugly barbs hurling toward Dylan.

The thing in the air twists abruptly; the human skin on the ground is green, being consumed by moss that is somehow inside the creature, eating it from the inside out.

“They have walked in my wood,” Dylan says calmly, as though he was chatting about the weather. “They have breathed my air. How does it feel, little parasite, to have one inside you in turn?”

I turn away as the air twists about Bethany, the world rippling unpleasant – I almost think I hear tearing, like the skin of the world being peeled back, and between one moment and the next the bodies strike the ground, empty of ogans and bones, sacks of skin tinted green.

“Bring them,” Dylan says, not looking at me as he walks out the back door.

I gather up sacks that were bodies, picking up skin and trying as hard as I can not to think about them as people as I walk into the back yard and set them down.

Dylan reaches down, running his fingers over each, whispering words in a language I don’t know. The words are green. I know that without knowing how I know it, but each body fills up as roots wriggle into them, replacing bones, making them seem human again. It takes the longest ten minutes I’ve ever known, hoping no one comes out the back door and sees me with the bodies.

They look normal as he stands up, movements slow and stiff. He looks somehow even thinner than before, and there are lines on his face I could swear weren’t there earlier. “The simulacra will last long enough. You will need to go to the morgue, speak to whoever does the autopsies.”

“And tell them what?”

“I do not know.” He lets out a heavy sigh. “I have done what I can here.”

“I know, I –.” I move in close, and snag his hands. They feel far too thin as I squeeze them, and he winces as I let go. “Thank you. I don’t know what I would have done, could have done, had to do – thank you,” I get out.

He smiles weakly at that. “They were an infection; you were right in that, Kate.”

“What now?”

“You’d best go before they find the bodies.”

“But –.”

“There will be an explosion,” he says. “I woke power that remembers what it used to; it needs an outlet for old hatred.”

This is too deep for me. Too deep by far, but even so I hesitate, searching his face. “What you said, Dylan. Could you have done it?”

“To all of them, that quickly? No.”

I wonder what he would have done instead, think about lost forests and ancient anger. I ask nothing else, manage a nod and walk away.

I make it half a block before I start crying, and I’m certain I don’t know even half of why I am.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Facebook status updates part XXXIV (April 2015)

I delete more than I will ever write about you.

“Sometimes I feel as though my entire life was a run-on sentence without end that gave me no time to pause for breath or even consider stopping but only rushing onward without a hint to any road signs or even a chance of stopping to smell anything at all as I hurried onward through my life from circumstances and chances that piled up behind me and fell away ahead of me so that I kept on running as I tried to grab at a future I had long ago left behind me some place where I had forgotten the simple pleasures of punctuation in my rush for an ending that was not the same base period everyone else ended up with but rather an exclamation mark or even a question mark that would tell others I had been in some small way unique.”

They say pain is relative because they are often the cause of it.

“You can’t break someone, even with the best will in the world, and not risk breaking something of yourself as well…. Change is never welcomed, but always necessary.”

Voodoo has nothing on momdoo.

“I wanted to love you, but a heresy doesn’t become less heretical because of love.”

A horror story about the first zombie who, on becoming a zombie, hides from humanity because they have seen too many movies and video games about how humans treat monsters. (Basically, the AI-are-evil problem in sci-fi applied to another genre.)

“I forget nothing.”
“You forgive less.”

I started to make a joke of our argument but then you kissed me, which wasn’t fair to either of us at the time.

"We haunt the places were we lived, avoiding those where we died. That's why you never saw me before for all your searching," the ghost said. "I have moved on. You did not."

“I thought I was over it. Four days. It’s been four days.”
“Jesus, Marc.”
“No. My loss is my loss, my pain is mine to own. You don’t get to judge my hurt by what you have suffered. You don’t get to decide my pain isn’t enough because it isn’t the same as yours! Four days. It’s been four days since my last relapse. Since I fell into the void. Some wounds never close. People say they do, but they don’t. You just learn to hide the pain. That’s all we do. We learn to hide it. We become what we pretend, until there’s nothing of us that isn’t a pretending. That doesn’t think the pain is normal, that doesn’t think the hurting is meant to stop. We try, and we try too hard, and we fall away. We fall away. We have our ideals, and we fall from them.”
“You binged on Netflix for six hours. I think you’re taking this a little far.”

“Make your choice.”
“This - this wasn’t in our marriage vows!”
“I don’t care. I said, choose. It’s either me, or –.”
“Wait? For wha – you’re tweeting this conversation, aren’t you?”
“I –.”
“I said you had to choose between me and your phone. I see you’ve made your choice.”
“But - but this just got us a gold star on reddit …”

“I used to be scared of you. Until I learned what real monsters are like, that sometimes the worst scars are the ones others can see. But I won’t thank you, not for anything you might have tried to teach me, but for a single sleepless night of curled-up pain.
“Because I’m pretty fucking sure teaching me wasn’t the point of it at all, dad.”

The forest spirit didn’t have a car. Of course he didn’t. What self-respecting forest spirit would own a car? He confessed to having a Segway, but I’m almost sure he was joking.

All numbers are lucky numbers. Because if they were not numbers, they would have to be very confused letters.

My response to the question 'When will the trend of Disney-related things in other contexts die?'
Cruella, Cruella, Cruella. Think of it like this: 101 Dalmatians. Bondage gear. Goofy. All trends must have an end-point, and until then the puppies can finally be punished for all they did to the carpets.

I didn’t declare a major in university because I didn’t want to be associated with our military.

“Do you have a discount for seniors?”
The grim reaper considered that. “No.”

He added ‘sin eater’ to his resume on the basis that he didn’t believe sin existed so it would be quite easy to eat.