Sunday, June 28, 2015

Creating Movement

Every magician has vices and addictions, or we wouldn’t be magicians at all. You don’t become a magician without developing ways to cope with all that comes with it. I drink sometimes, smoke a little. Right now it’s coffee. A simple walk into a coffee shop, a walk back out and Jay and I can be on our way from this town. As if magicians are allowed to have such simple things happen to them.

As if Jay isn’t very much Jay.

I hear someone scream the word, “Move,” and the sound of tires and horns. I put the lid on my coffee and the hot chocolate I got for Jay, walk to the door with one in either hand.

I leave the coffee shop to see a young woman across the street who is trying to sob and not ruin her mascara at the same time, shaking Jay wildly on the sidewalk. Two cars have collided in the street; that there seems to be little damage to have has not prevented the drivers from screaming shrill abuses at each other. I walk between them and the gathering crowd. People move aside for magicians in the same way they do for ambulance crews, though with less understanding of why.

Jay’s glasses and cane are scattered on the road like remnants of a fatal hopscotch, and Jay is lying on his back on pavement with his jeans torn. The girl is holding his head up, crying and asking if he is all right. A friend of hers is taking video with a camera, possibly because the iphone compels her to observe rather than help – if I’m being cynical about it.

“Talk to me,” I say, and I put only a hint of power in words, enough to loosen her from her own fear.

“The boy was waiting across the road for someone, and said hi to us and Emiline asked how he knew we were there and made she joke about him not being really blind and the boy said it was and ‘Honcho would agree’ – a friend, relative? No idea, but he began going across the road and cars were – were –.” The girl waves a shaking hand to the road. “Emi shouted for him to move, but he froze. She pulled him back but the prius clipped him. She was – she didn’t mean –.”

I take a moment to let the past overlay the present – sometimes it is so easy to do that seems as if some places only exist in their past – and then crouch down beside Emiline and Jay. I make a ward from the distance photos put the world at bay, keeping other people from getting close, set the coffee and hot chocolate down.


She raises her head at her name. “He – he –.”

“He was just stunned.” I resist the urge to tickle Jay. Or kick him. “Jay.”

Jay cracks open eyes filled with broken light, sitting up slowly. He looks to be about eleven: pale, entirely human, and being Jay he can’t help breaking into a huge grin when he smells the hot chocolate. And probably me. “Honcho? I’m all kinds of okay,” he says firmly.

“How Jaysome of you.”

Jay blinks, and some of the grin slips at what he hears in my voice and senses in the bindings between us.

“He’s just bruised; he will be fine,” I say to the girl, and weave power into the words, reassurance that shakes her from her fear.

Emiline nods jerkily, heading to her friend. There are sirens, distantly, but Jay is very, very good at hiding he’s from Outside the universe. So much so that he won’t show up on cameras or videos, so I reach out with the magic, wrap the confusion of events into the minds of everyone watching. Witnesses are confused anyway: I just add another layer to that.

Jay retrieves his cane and glasses, putting the latter back on and following me down the sidewalk. I hand him his hot chocolate, and wait until we’re two blocks away before looking over. “You terrified that girl.”

“It was only one car hitting me and I’m tough like a Jay and –.”

“She had no way of knowing you were tough.”

And Jay stops at that and turns toward me, raising his chin a little. “She didn’t have bindings in her for anyone but herself and I helped make some, Honcho.”

“By tricking her?”

“You magicians trick people all the time and!” he says, flinging out the word like a challenge, ‘she didn’t think I was blind because I’m all kinds of good with sensing bindings!”

“So you decided to make sure she realized you couldn’t see by letting a car hit you.”

“It made her see stuff, and she was probably more blind than me if she was being mean like that,” he snaps.

I sip my coffee. “So you did that to help her?”

Jay hesitates, then bites into his lower lip. “Nope,” he mumbles.

“I can do things like that, and the magic has a cost down the line. A balancing of a pendulum, in some ways. A restoration, an equilibrium. You don’t have that, Jay. You can simply act and do whatever you want with bindings.” I pause a beat. “But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a cost.”

“Even if there isn’t one?” he says slowly.

“Perhaps especially then.”

“Oh. I didn’t mean to make you mad at all. But I can’t see right now and people thinking I can makes me a little mad.”

“Just a little?”

“Uh huh.”

I don’t point out that he liked shook two drivers badly, terrified at least one girl and her friend: Jay can sense bindings better than magicians can hope to. I make a note not to ask too much about what he’d consider more than a little mad, at least not right now. I reach over and gentle ruffle his hair. “All right. I think I understand that a little. Next time, just ask me to talk to them. Getting yourself hit by a car every time people think you aren’t really blind in order for them to realize you can’t see isn’t exactly a solution.”

“But it’s worked so far,” he says, radiating innocent pride.

I close my eyes. I count to ten. I decide not to ask how many times he’s felt the need to do that. “Other things can work as well,” I offer, and give him a light poke in the shoulder. “Take the next left to the car. We should probably leave town before the police try and find us.”

“Does that mean we’re going on an adventure?” he asks eagerly.

“You don’t think this counts?”

“Nope. This is just a morning,” he says, as if that explains everything.

I walk to the car, thinking about movement, about actions and reactions, and I wonder if even Jay understands how different he is compared to last year, how much losing his sight like this has changed him, but I think – I think it is best to save that conversation for another day.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ghost Church

The church walls are stone, a few translucent ones serving as windows, sourceless light filling the small interior. There are no religious symbols, no pews, just old pale stone as an altar with unlit candles on it. The church shudders slightly, as if the ghosts of earthquakes touch ghost buildings, but Charlie doesn’t look back as I enter, not even when I close the church door.

“I had wondered where you would be; the Grey Lands is an interesting place to hide. I did not know a god-eater could enter this place.”

“I have a friend who is a ghost-eater, and gods have ghosts as well.” Charlie does not turn about, the god inside her still; whatever she is feeling, it is too complicated to be mere rage. “He sent you, then.”

“I was not sent by anyone.”

“Heh.” She turns at that. “I don’t know you well, fae, but I know the wandering magician. He’d want to know if I was safe, and how I was hiding from Jay finding me.”

“You planned to run away from Jay for some time, then.” I don’t make it a question.

The god inside her flares up with her anger, burning in her eyes as monster’s sometimes do. “No, Dana,” she snarls, as if using the name I use in this human form would somehow wound me. “He is my friend.”

“He waited for you to return for over a day, not leaving the motel room.” Charlie goes still, trying not to show how deep that wounds. “He does not understand why you left.”

“He wouldn’t.” Her voice isn’t steady at all. “Sunday night, we were an hour late to a showing of Jurassic World. The movie, with over two hundred people in the audience. The movie started an hour later than it should have, and no one even realized that: he did bindings to cause that without even thinking, without even trying to, because he didn’t want to miss hearing part of a movie we’ve been to over a dozen times already.”

“You are scared of him.” I do not even try to make it a question.

She shakes her head. “I am scared for him. He would have been so guilty if he’d realized what he had done, that he’d broken agreements made with the wandering magician in letter if not spirit by manipulating people on that level. He isn’t human, Dana. But he’s trying to be a little kid, acting like one, hiding his nature. Wanting, as kids do. Obsessing over movies, as they do, and I’m not sure even Jay knows how much of that is real. Fuck. At least the wandering magician can reason with him, can technically bind Jay if he has to. I can’t do anything like that, for all that I am. I can’t protect Jay from himself, no matter how hard I try. No matter how necessary it might be.” Charlie pauses as the church floor shudders. “He’s trying to find me, isn’t he?”

“He is your friend; he is concerned. What he will be when he realizes you abandoned him, I am not certain.”

“I didn’t –.” And she spins back to face me, the god inside her burning claws of darkness about her fingers.

I do not move. “And you are certain he will see it that way?”

The claws gutter out like candles on a birthday cake; I am not certain the god-eater notices. “No. It’s hard to know, with Jay. I just couldn’t manage anymore, not alone.”

“We did not consider that.” I smile, or try to. True smiles are hard for most fae, and I am not exception. “We do not always consider matters as deeply as we should. But he will miss his friend, Charlie.”

“He’ll be happier with Honcho.”

“I imagine so, but you are his friend. The wandering magician is many things, and not all of them are a matter of choice on Jay’s part. They are bound together very deeply, in ways even the fae do not understand.”

“You want me with Jay instead?”

“We do not know why Jay was placed with that magician, and there are few things that can be hidden from our power. He is safer with others, though I imagine he does not see it that way. You know he will forgive you,” I add.

Charlie snorts. “I know. That’s part of the problem, sometimes. I’m going to need time. To think. To do things on my own.”

I nod and walk back out of the church. “You will be given some time, yes. We would rather not make remaining with Jay part of the payment for us hiding you from him, but we will if we have no other choice.”

I close the door behind me, and walk back into the world before the god-eater can think of a suitable reply to that.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Journey

1. – Monday Afternoon

“Jay. You have talked about nothing except dinosaurs for four days.”

Mostly, Jay is good at realizing when bindings are fraying between us. Also known as when I’m getting cranky with him. Right now he just offers up a huge grin from the other bed in the motel room. “I’m learning lots more, too! Like if lizards and birds all came from dinosaurs, then I bet some humans did too and that could ‘splain why some people think other people are humans in lizard skin suits!”


“I bet if we see the dinosaur movie today I can totally hear which actors are really reptilians,” he boasts.

I open my mouth to say that’s just a conspiracy theory, close it. I’ve seen too many weird things over the last two years for that, and Jay is one of the weirder ones often enough. Even if he does look like an ordinary-enough human boy of eleven. “And if none of them are?”

“We could visit Hollywood and I could ask if any of them want to be those,” he says.

I don’t even bother to ask if he’s joking. “I’m getting a coffee. You wait here in case the fae call us about work.”

Jay just nods to that and sits in the motel bed, humming the theme song from Jurassic World.

I remind myself that he wants to see the movie so often because he can’t actually see. I remind myself that, creature from Outside the universe or not, he is still a little kid. This time it’s not working. It’s not the movie. Not Jay. Not just that, too much and more besides.

I punch a number into my cell phone. “This is Charlie. I need a shield from Jay.”

“Very well,” the fae on the other end says, and we both hang up. There will be a price for this, but right now I don’t care.

I make another phone call, not caring that it goes to voicemail. “Magician. I’m taking a break. Find Jay and keep him company.” There are other words; I don’t say any of them. I hang up, I walk.

I try not to think about what Jay will make of this.

2. – Tuesday Afternoon

A man comes in smelling of old food and he opens the door to the motel room with a key. “Uh. Kid?”


“You have to leave this room. The rental was for one night.” He pauses. “You do have somewhere to go, right?”

“With Charlie, who went for coffee and is all coming back,” I say, and I’m totally firm as a Jay.

“Yes, but you can’t stay here. I have other customers –.”

“I’m waiting for Charlie,” I explain.

“Kid. It’s past soon. Rents expire at 11 am. I get that you can’t see and you’re alone; I could call the police or your family if –.”

I am waiting for Charlie,” I kind of yell and the landlord runs back outside because I roar like more than a Jaysaurus for a second, but I’m all calm after. Yup. Calm as a Jay, even if I c an’t sense any of my bindings with Charlie because she left and she said she’s coming back and she’s my friend so she’s going to and we’re going to see a movie and have lots of fun together!!

(I think a light fell off the ceiling; I broke a few bindings in the room when I did the yelling. But that’s okay. Charlie will yell at me and I’ll fix it and everything will be tons of kinds of OK :D)

3.  Tuesday Evening

“Jay.” I enter the motel room carefully. No wards, no protections beyond those a magician carries with them because of what we are.

Jay turns his head toward me as if surprised. We’re bound together, on levels so deep I can barely sense some of them, and he almost didn’t sense me arriving. “Honcho? I’m all kinds of busy looking for Charlie,” he says. And there is nothing but trust or truth to that, because he’s Jay.

For a moment, almost, I stare into unseeing eyes filled with broken light behind dark glasses and consider lying. Not that I can, as other people do. Not that Jay wouldn’t sense the twisting of bindings and demand to know what was wrong. I left him and Charlie to travel alone because I didn’t want to use him anymore. Because I didn’t want to hurt him. And I didn’t consider, not deeply enough, how much I’d be hurting her. How hard dealing with Jay’s blindness must have been, to say nothing of Jay himself at times.

“Charlie called me. She’s – gone away.”


“Travelling. On her own.”

“But – but we were going to see a movie,” he wails.

“We could see it. Which movie?”

“Charlie knew and you don’t,” he flings out. “You went away with Dana and left us and Charlie’s left me and everyone leaves me,” and the last three words are screamed out.

No power comes with it. No unbinding that tears the building apart. Just rawness in his throat, the weight of reality pushing down on him.

“Jay,” I whisper.

“I’m waiting for Charlie,” he says, in a flat tone I’ve never heard from him in the almost two years since he entered the universe. “I’m waiting for my friend and and and you can go away!”

I don’t move. It’s not magic that keeps me from flinching; magic couldn’t stop Jay if he wanted me to move. He can do things with bindings that magicians like me can’t even grasp. I take the blow, lying that I’ve had worse flung at me, keeping still. “You really want me to go away, kiddo?”

“Yes,” he get outs, shaking all over. He can’t cry with his damaged eyes, but his voice is thick with ugly pain.

“I don’t go away, Jay. Even when I do. We’re bound too deeply together for that,” I say as softly as I can into his soft sobbed breaths.

“You go. It matters,” he says, and this is about us, and Charlie, and Jay, and there are undercurrents I don’t know anymore. Parts of Jay that go deeper than any root I can make.

“I know.” I step toward the motel bed. “I’m not as strong as you are, Jay. You’re strong enough to let me hurt you, let me use so much of what you are that it damages you. And you take that on you, accept it, because you’re Jay and I’m me. And I can’t do that. You keep doing things I can never pay back, and to a magician that is – it is – it is a terrible giving.” I sit on the edge of the bed gently.

Jay looks over, his knuckles as white as his cane as he holds it in shaking hands. “You’re my friend, and that balances everything and you never get that at all!”

“Charlie’s your friend too,” I say, and I don’t even attempt to thread power in it. “But she is scared of you getting hurt, or losing control and being unable to stop you since she knows how much that would hurt you.”

“But but but –.”

“You can be pretty scary,” I offer up as gently as I can.

“But I’m Jaysome!”

“And you don’t think that scares Charlie even a little bit?”

Jay is silent for almost a minute. “I don’t want it to,” he whispers.

“I know. She doesn’t either. Which is why she’s going away for a bit. Visiting family, perhaps, and you would be too jaysome for them.”

“I guess I would.” Jay moves beside me, not looking toward me at all. “Honcho?”

“Yes?” I say, bracing myself.

“I’m really bad at being Jaysome sometimes too.” He gulps. “Because – cuz I really missed you and travelling with you and that’s all kinds of hurting too!”

“Charlie knows your bindings with me are deeper than those with her.” And this time I draw up on my magic, and the bindings I have with Jay. “And that is not why she went,” I say, and Jay lets out a gasp as the truth of the words hammers on the air between us.

He lets out another small gasp, and a sobbed breath, and then slams his body hard against my side and shudders all over. I hold him until he stop, and for a few minutes after that.

“Now,” I say, “we deal with the fact that you terrified the owner of his motel, you work on customers actually coming back and then we do other things.”

“We could see a movie?” he says, as if he’s scared to make the offer.

I know he has a tumblr on the Internet; I’m starting to wish I’d taken the time to read it and not come here the moment I picked up Charlie’s message. “What movie?”

“Jurassic World. It has dinosaurs,” Jay says.

“I know that much. I haven’t seen it. Or the other movies in the series.”

“We could watch them?” And Jay sounds scared I’ll say no.

I wonder how he saw them since he can’t see. “Do you go to some special theatre for blind people?”

“Oh, sometimes. But mostly I listen to it anywhere,” he says, and is off the bed a moment later, tugging me toward the door, checking the hallway in a blur of movement.

I don’t point out I know how much he’s hurting, or that I know this is mostly an act. I just stand, and head into the hallway. And Jay is back beside me fast, even for him, terrified I’d leave him behind. And I have nothing in me for how much it hurts that he’s hurting so much, not when I’m the cause of too much of this pain. I reach over to ruffle his hair; he pulls away. I’m not sure which of us is more surprised.

Silence detonates; I fill it by asking what the movie is about, and Jay happily tells me the entire plot in the kind of detail that suggest he and Charlie have seen it many times before. And I keep silent and begin the long work of trying to fix our friendship without using bindings at all.

Monday, June 22, 2015


I’m late for supper. Somehow that seems important, even if I’m not hungry. Even if I’m carrying home some small fire-creature that was used to heat city hall for years. The boiler under it is old; it broke, and rather than repair it someone trapped a red-skinned creature with horns and tail, chained it to walls and the boiler. And poured water on it every time it tried to get away. I have no idea how long they kept it in that basement, even if I do understand why no one let it out: you don’t torture something for year and expect it to be kind if you let it go.

But even then, the custodian let me leave with it. I wonder how Mr. Desrocher felt about that being part of his job, wonder how much else in his job wasn’t normal at all. I didn’t ask; I’m not sure I ever will. Like Ronald Donald in the corner’s office, there seem to be people who collide into weird things and manage to tread water. Then there’s people like me who become weird things. Luxenford hasn’t had a magician in decades. I don’t know if that’s because the town didn’t need one, or someone just didn’t become one.

But it has me now, even if I’m not like other magicians. I don’t have a voice that people have to obey, but I can stand in fire and not be hurt. Balances, bargains. Different ways of shaping the magic that I am. Thoughts like that sneak up to me, like they’re entirely normal. Like they’re wholly mine. I have no idea where I end and the magic begins, or if there is even a distinction. And I’m scared, of all sorts of things, so I go home.

Because home isn’t as scary as some of those things now. Because I’m no longer the same. Because when Dad opens the door and glares down at me, something in my face causes him to step back. “You’re late,” he says, the anger tight under the words as alcohol is thick on his breath.

“I know. We need to talk. Please.”

Dad blinks at the please, and goes inside, sitting on his chair by the TV. There are less beer bottles than there usually are around it. Mom leaving for a younger man hurt him in ways I still don’t understand; I think he was floundering at work, and that was the final straw. The golden handshake goodbye from management consulting meant he hasn’t had to work in 3 years. Just sit, eat food, drink. Sometimes at home, othertimes at bars. I can fix boilers just by touching them; I have no idea if I can fix my own father. I wouldn’t know where to begin. I’d like to think people can’t be fixed like boilers, but I don’t think the magic in me would make any distinction.

I sit down on the couch, and set the fire creature down beside me. The couch smokes a little. “It started three weeks ago, Dad. A jog home that turned into anther place, a stranger with a voice that was wonderful and terrible both. He saved my life, and I think marked me, or allowed me to delay –.” I shake my head. “Delay this, becoming not normal. Magicians are many things, normal isn’t part of that.”

“What?” Dad says.

I poke the fire-creature gently and it wakens, sits up. It’s barely two feet tall right now, having burned out a lot of its strength fixing the boiler under city hall. “Can you let my dad see you?”

The creature blinks yellow eyes at that, tail twitching nervously behind it before it turns and looks at my dad.

The scream he lets out is so operatic it’s almost epic and Dad is on his feet moments later. And making the sign of the cross. It occurs to me, too late, that the fire-creature is red, and smoking with heat, has ridges along its back and the small horns. I bury my face in my hands.

“This isn’t a demon, Dad,” I begin.

And my father shocks me then. Dad, who has spent three years developing a belly for beers, who has been falling into the bottle so far I was always terrified he’d drink and never stop if I wasn’t around – and that’s too much for most kids to know or bear, that truth – Dad ignores me and advances toward the couch. “Leave my daughter alone! I cast you out!”

The fire-creature on the couch cringes closer to me, but at least doesn’t set the couch on fire. “It’s okay,” I say softly as smoke rises from it. “He’s just confused.”

“The power of Christ compels you,” Dad bellows.

And the fire-creature quivers against me and whispers in its soft voice like ashes on the wind: “Is that Mr. Desrocher’s real name?”

“No, no it’s not,” I manage, keeping from shocked laughter with an effort. “Dad, this isn’t a demon. The only thing its scared of is the custodian of city hall, and – and you were quoting The Exorcist, weren’t you?”

Dad stops, lowering his hands. “Kate?”

“I’m still me, Dad. This isn’t a demon. I’m not possessed. I’m – I don’t really know all of what a magician is, but I am one. I had to become one to save some people. The party at Bethany’s place.”

“Six students died at that,” he says reflexively. Dad reads the paper every morning, cover to cover. I think it’s one reason why he drinks as much as he does.

“It would have been a lot worse than that.” I get up off the couch, thinking, move behind it to the wall. “Magic is about balances, about – about being the singer and the song, the dancer and the dance. Like that, a little bit. Only probably not at all. But I can talk to things, listen to them, ask things.” I reach out with my hands, and touch the old wallpaper, and it binds itself back into the wall, no longer peeling at all.

I turn back to Dad. He is staring at me without moving at all. “Kate?” he asks, as if not sure who I am.

“I’m still me mostly, I think. Just – more. I don’t know about what all this means, other than that I think I’m bound to the town to protect it. And that I figured it was way too big and important for me to try and hide from you.”

Dad walks over, giving the creature on the couch a wide berth, runs his fingers over the healed wallpaper, looks down at me. He is scared, not even trying to hide that at all, but under that, from somewhere, he pulls up a weak smile. “The siding on the house needs fixing.”

“Dad?” I say, unable to believe that.

“It does. Also the gutters need to be cleaned. Whatever this magic is, it can do that I think?”

“Probably not without people noticing, and definitely not without comments.”

Dad nods to that; there have to be questions, but he’s not up for asking them yet.

I move away from the wall and realize the fire-creature has left the couch. For a moment I almost panic, then I see the basement door is open and head down to find it studying the boiler in our basement. “Our boiler runs all right,” I offer. “It would probably have told me if it didn’t.”

The fire-creature looks back, and smiles shyly at that. It isn’t smoking at all right now.

“You’re used to being bigger; you could stay down here if you want to, rest and recover?” I offer. That wins a hesitant nod; no one human would want to spend time in a basement with boilers after being chained to one, but this creature isn’t human. We all find comforts where we can, often in familiar things, no matter how terrible those things might be to others.

I ask if it needs anyway, and it just shakes its head and sits on the ground near the boiler. Dad is nuking leftovers in the microwave as I head upstairs and eat supper. Dad and I talk about meaninglessly things during the meal, and afterwards he washes the dishes and I dry them before heading to my room for schoolwork and sleep. I am pretty sure I sense Dylan outside at one point, but the forest spirit doesn’t bother me so I spend the rest of my evening doing normal things and trying, as hard as I can, to take comfort in the rituals of familiar things for as long as I am able to.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Unmaking War (My notes)

My notes for the prompt-stories I did that will become an actual novel at some point. 

Setting: It is sometime in the future. There are several nation-states. Some at war, some at peace, some protected, some almost obliterated. Two nations have been battling for some years for supremacy of ideals over the other, each using differing takes on eugenics while convinced the other side is a complete monster. The core of it can be how each side is forced to adopt the principles of ‘the enemy’ in order to survive and both become seriously fucked up places to live.

The tuskegee syphilis experiment is the starting point, the cold war much of the rest. It’s about the monstrous things a society does to itself in order to ‘win’ a war, bracketed by Russell’s famous arguments against the first world war, that the sacrifice isn’t dying for ones country but the act of killing for it. That being killed isn’t a choice, but deciding to kill is, and how it changes everything. That the war possibly can’t end now because both sides have produced killing machines in human skin that aren’t good for anything else. The characters respective beliefs about their homelands boil down to a quote I read once by an actor (Anthony Sher) that ‘It's sociologically interesting, though scary, that you can be inside an evil system and be somehow unaware of it.’


Unification: Slavic areas (centred on Russia, extending into northern china)
Vesperia: North america (southern canada, northern USA)

Europe: War zone.
Northern Canada/arctic circle: War zone (no longer considered safe.)

Southern USA: Dead zone, due to previous wars. (This will be referenced to as the Nahuatl War, which saw north and south america engage in brutual wars that ended in a stalemate some time ago.)

Green’s Stone: New Zealand. The only true nanotech society to survive the Age of Hubris unscathed. They keep to themselves, shielded and protected by nanotechnology and survive by trying to ignore as much as the outside world as they can.

Land of Seres – China, southern Asia, middle east. Where, in an effort to put aside all issues of sex, gender and race, everyone is a sentient gas inside pressure suits. No, really. They walled themselves off; no one bothers them, they bother no one else.

Koena - Africa. A hive mind engaged in a brutal civil war caused (and engineered) by outside forces (aka Uluru and those who are aware of the Night Train and its purpose).

Australia – Known as Uluru [Ayres Rock]; this is where mankind emerged from various arcs after the end of the nanotech wars (aka the age of hubris); considered wasteland, avoided by all. Nareau is based out of it.

The Unification

Consists of the lands that were the USSR, northern china, some of europe. Slavic areas, essentially, and the home of Sasha. The protagonists of the series, at least initially. Their technological evolution has been via the physical sciences. Weapons. Giant mecha. War machines. Dirigibles. They build weapons that can level cities, and often have done so, and pilot their technologies via the ‘select’. Everyone who is select is physically limited in some way, considered unable to work properly in the various factories etc. that build the technologies that the Union needs.

The select are taken to The Chamber and experimented on. Those who cannot walk placed in mecha that can walk and so forth. The philosophy is that the least among them are made into the most, and defend the Union from its many and terrible enemies.

Note: those with mental ‘aberrations’ are removed, fearing that they might defect to Vesperia or be controlled from a distance through arcane psychic means. Or, more pragmatically, that they do not fit into the aesthetic of the Unification and would be unduly disruptive. This is their means of eugenics/selection, though they also secretly use nanotechnology to guard their minds from espers and the like, which leads to some natural defenses.

The Chamber: a vast complex where Sasha is taken for experimentation. Every city in the Unification has one.

Governance: The Capital is ruled via selected public servants, the government-only Internet allowing for real-time voting on all events by them. Locally, votes are done by hand for candidates for various districts in a city and town, and from there one becomes eligible to apply for work at the Capital (or in higher ruling bodies in the city one is in etc.). Some positions are entirely drop in/out and random so regular citizens often do political duty from time to time, akin to jury duty. (This is intended to echo a kind of workable communism.)
The aristocracy are basically the non-elected functionaries who really run things: politicos come and go, but they are the bedrock and have leveraged that into social standing and order through the centuries. It also gives citizens another goal to aspire for beyond the political, a way ‘out’ from the default social strata.

Clothing denotes status, various hues within each colour being Important. Doctors/The Chamber: Black. Engineers: blue. Orderlies: White. Average citizen: Brown. Aristocracy: Red.


The Unification is based on tried and true technology, though in odd ways. There is radio, but no Internet as that was abolished some time ago. (The official reason is an AI War, the reality is the control of information.) Their tech is based on physicality: bodies, armour, shields and so forth, their domed cities covered in protective metals and energy fields. Basically, they make mecha (Defenders, and then Protectors as well), pilot them with the ‘unfit’ and sic them on their enemies. Due to the high cost of training they have been working on hypnotraining shortcuts and so forth for some time. Also trying to cram more technology into the mecha and less, well, pilot. Attempts at brain-only interfaces have failed and been deemed too easy for Vesperia to compromise.

Everyone in the Union receives mental training in keeping their minds together, shielding and so forth. This is bolstered by secret nanotech injections to help protect the brain against unwanted interference. It also leads to less psychiatric disorders and is seen as proof the Union is superior in all respects.

Note: The core of the Union is technology that eliminates physical ‘defects’. Instead of using this to heal broken backs or restore sight, they use it to do that and augment people into war machines. Basically, it’s a utopia that has turned dystopic due to war. Vesperia counts as this as well.

Note 2: The Unification specializes in physical ailments (curing/improving etc.) while Vesperia does the same for mental. Both nations, combined, would basically be the ideal utopia but neither can see the other as more than just ‘the enemy’ at present.

Vesperia – "land of the evening star"

This compasses a good chunk of North America (southern canada, northern USA) and is the ‘Main Enemy’ in the stories. Vesperia looks rather utopic, protected by energy fields and psychic shields against harm and their aesthetic is definitely inspired by beauty (physical and otherwise). The population is protected by Espers, humans with psychic powers who can do some really, really scary shit. All espers are drawn from the depressive, suicidal, etc. and given drugs that ‘cure’ them but also turn them into psychic killing machines. In their defence, this did begin wholly as a way to help fix mental illness, but the end result of trials and drugs was something far, far beyond anything they’d expected or bargained for. Most of their technology is based around biology: they don’t get as sick as others, they live longer and those with purely physical defects are healed (if they can be) or removed; those with mental ones are given various drugs and treatments that turn them into Espers. Gray is the result of new drugs/tests to make even more impressive espers. 

Espers have a short lifespan since they burn out their minds in a matter of years. That is the official word. The unofficial one is that the state of being an esper bends the mind, leading to schizoids who must then be eliminated for reasons of public safety. Those with paranoid schizophrenia do enter the program, but do not emerge from it as actual espers.

While the Unification shuns glitz and glamour [due to not wanting to waste the resources on beautification and such; they need resources to build Defenders], Vesperia revels in being the garden capital of the world and other such titles. Their focus is not on physical weapons/armour, so they can afford to ‘waste’ resources to an extent and see this as a moral victory over the Unification. ‘See how free we are, that we have choice in buildings!’ and so forth.

Governance: A ruling council drafted from private citizens and those who work in various Ministries (aka government departments). Presidents were deposed some time ago and the use of espers as a psychic police force means that Vesperia has less crime than other nations and is, generally, far more stable. Conversely, it also means they don’t have a generic military and a direct invasion by the Unification would screw them over very, very badly.

As Ministries have to hide actions from espers, the government is run very secretively and the actual mechanics not well understood by the average citizen at all. Amusingly, the Unification is far more open and transparent in that respect. The irony is entirely lost on the citizens of Vesperia.

The Institute: Where Gray is trained to be an esper. Basically a giant garden with buildings, all calm and serene until one prods at the Network of minds located within it...

Technology: biological based (though rooted in drugs/mental balance). They can ‘fix’ most any mental ailment, though the drugs are seldom a) cheap or b) devoid of side effects. Said drugs are often tested on those deemed physically unfit and curing mental infirmities is very, very important in the society. Vesperia has always had a very dim view of such things, and as such the Unification turning the disabled into ‘monsters’ (rather than ethically killing them) is seem as a sign of pure barbarism to them.

Note: Given what the Unification does to Sasha, it is not intended to come out well during the first part of the story. Vesperia comes out better until one realizes they basically mind-screw their own citizens to insane levels. Gray coming to terms with this is a big chunk of the latter part of the story. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Friendship Meetings

Sometimes street corners are full of people who don't cross the streets at all and it's almost time for lunch so I find someone and make friends with a, “Hi!”

“Ah. Hello?” The woman says. Someone is snickering on another street corner but they're probably all kinds of jealous.

“My name is Jay. What's yours?” I ask with a huge grin.

“This isn't exactly a safe part of the city for a boy to be alone in, especially one who is blind?”

“Oh! I'm not trying to have an adventure, just to make new friends. Do you want to be friends? We could be princesses!”

“Princesses.” There is another pause. “This isn't some kind of hidden camera gag, is it?”

“Nope,” I say, since I don't show up on cameras at all.

“And you want to be friends.”

“Yup! Making friends is tons of fun! and I'm pretty good at it.”

The next pause is close to a Charlie-pause. “Maybe you might wan to find someone your own age?”

“I would but kids tend to be kind of meany at times and you smell really nice!"

The snickering turns into laughter at that; two other women and a man, probably realizing I'm Jaysome. “My name is Sara,” she says finally. “And you're a little too young to be friends with me, kid.”

“I am? But you sound nice and I bet your a princess too!”

“What makes you say that?” Sara asks, and there is a kind of power under the words but it's not enough to reach me at all.

“Because princesses are about towers and are traps?” I say, cuz it’s what the bindings feel like on the surface. “But everyone is a tower and we all trap ourselves a lot.”

Sara lets out a hiss, like a surprised dragon. “And how do you trap yourself, Jay?”

“I’m really good at hiding so I hide from myself and sometimes I’m way too good at that,” I say, which is all kinds of true. “But! I almost like making friends and that’s a good kind of trap since people who don’t want to be friends often need friends a lot and I think you’re probably really nice and have lots of friends.”

“Most people wouldn’t see it like – ah, think of it like that.” She pauses. “Jay, do you know what a prostitute is?”

“Uh huh! My phone is connected to the Internet, so I know lots of things.”

“Well, I am one. Most people would say what I do doesn’t involve making friends,” she says. “And it definitely doesn’t involve lunch with little kids.”

“But but but now I’m all kinds of confused because sharing love is friendship and some people aren’t good at that at all,” I say.

She laughs at that. “No, no they aren’t. Sometimes people need someone who won’t judge them more than they need anything else at all.”

“And I can do that back,” I say proudly, because I’m really good at not judging humans like they judge each other.

“So I see.” She ruffles my hair gently with a hand. “You’re an odd little kid, but I think it’s an odd more of the world needs. Tell you what: how about we find a hot dog stand on your way home, because this isn’t a safe part of the city and I don’t want you getting hurt.”

“But I don’t want friends being hurt either.”

“I can take care of myself,” she says, and there is that power again.

“But not letting yourself be hurt isn’t being not-hurt,” I say firmly. “You can’t be nice to other people and not want them to be nice back. It’s like being a soldier right? Because there’s bad stuff to being a sex worker, but there’s bad stuff to any job and sometimes people only think about the bad and get really confusled about stuff.”


“Not Jaysome.”

“Uh huh.” She reaches out, and pokes my left shoulder. “If you want to turn around, you came from the south so we can head back that way?”

“But you’re working?” I ask, because I’m finally getting some of the other bindings and I’ve maybe screwed up her day.

“I was. I think I’m doing a different kind of work right now.”

“Like lunch?” I ask, because my stomach is kinda wanting lunch, and eating alone is really boring.

“Like wondering if rather happy kids who can’t see and wander blithely into the nastiest part of the city let themselves get hurt?” Sara asks.

And I’m across the road with her and stop at that in surprise. “Uhm! I kind of try not to because I’m scared my friends will leave me if I’m not Jaysome sometimes? Like I can be a little goofy, but I’ve been told sometimes I’m too goofy and I shouldn’t be doing that and it’s really tough to see where I end and I begin?”

“That almost made sense,” Sara says as we begin walking again.

And I grin at that because sometimes I’m am pretty Jay and the people who were snickering aren’t at all since they’re pretty confused now and I’ve made a new friend so the day was awesome without needing any adventures at all. Plus I manage to kind of adventure by eating two hot dogs at once and Sara is really impressed by that and is refusing to go away until we find Charlie because she’s worried about me and that’s a big friendship-thing too!


“Hi,” I call out to Charlie from across the street in a friendshipping hello.

“Please tell me we’re not stopping so you can make another friend?” Sara says, which is a really sad and human thing to say.

“That’s Charlie. We’re hugey friends,” I explain like a Jayboss.

“And you can tell it’s her from across the road?”


Charlie crosses the road. “Jay? You left your phone in the motel room and I was starting to get worried – ah. Hello?”

“Hello,” Sara says.

“I made a new friend,” I say, because sometimes Charlie can be slow about stuff.

“You made a new friend? Of course you did,” Charlie says. “You brought him here, then?”

“It wasn’t a safe part of town,” Sara says. “Especially not for a kid who can’t see.”

“I doubt it would be,” Charlie says, and there’s some not-nice bindings under those words. “But it was entirely safe for you, then?”

“I can take care of myself,” Sara says, and her voice is flat and very soft.

“So can Jay,” Charlie says without a pause.

“You think being a prostitute is the same as being blind?” Sara asks, and there’s questions people ask where no answers are good ones; I know because I get asked them a lot!

“Say rather that it’s a wilful kind of not-seeing,” Charlie says, and it’s almost like Honcho-words as if she was a magician with their kinds of knowing.

“I came with this kid to keep him safe,” Sara says, her calm a lie. “I didn’t come to have someone condescend to me.”

“I imagine you don’t have kids then,” Charlie says.

“And if I do?” Sara asks, and she’s not sounding very Jaysome at all.

“I know! If you do, I could meet them and we could play,” I say, trying to sound as much like a Jay as I can, because the bindings between them are getting all kinds of nasty. “And playing is fun, and people play in lots of ways and I might be running out of stuff to say because people do weird kind of plays with love-stuff that I kinda don’t get at all because there’s lot of really funny bindings!”

“Bindings?” Sara asks, distracted.

“He means vibrators,” Charlie says.

“You mean the dinosaurs in the Jurrassic Park movies?” I ask, because I’m wanting to listen to movies with dinosaurs that can roar like a Jaysaurus.

There is a pause at that, and then Charlie and Sara start laughing. I turn from one to the other, not sure why the bindings changed at all.

“I’m sorry,” Charlie says. “Jay is – innocent. I was scared you’d taken some of that away from him.”

“I am not,” I say, and I can do flat and indignant tones too. “Because you never believe me when I say I don’t do stuff!”

“That’s not quite what I meant,” Charlie says, and Sara is definitely laughing, but I don’t think it’s at me and it’s not mean. She pushes some money into my free hand. “Coffee shop is across the road. Use the crosswalk, please.”

I do, and leave them to talking and being friends and the crosswalk isn’t cross at all, which is all kinds of good and I have one hot chocolate all to myself and make some new friends!

Friday, June 12, 2015

flash fiction fun

“I am sorry,” he said roughly, pulling the book from the boy’s hands. “You can’t hide behind words. You can’t hide anywhere.”

The boy blinked, confused, since to him words were everywhere. His gaze skittered across the casket and away. “Not ready,” he whispered.

“You think anyone ever is?” The man asked almost gently.

The boy stood up from the floor and made his way through the crowd. Eulogies blended into each other to form a kind of white noise. He stopped beside the casket, stared inside at his own face.

“I look peaceful.”

“Yes,” the man said, coming up to lay a hand on his shoulder.

“Do I have to haunt somewhere, grandfather?”

“It is a tradition. If you desire.”

The boy nodded and left his funeral, beginning the walk to the nearest library. No one ever knew he haunted it and not a single seance reached him through all the books he read.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Prompt: it blew in with the wind

“Jay. You don’t need to make friends with everything you find,” I say as patiently as I can.

“But Charlie, it blew in with the wind. See? See?” He pokes his white cane into the air toward a seething mass of teeth-encrusted shadows floating in the air. It is roughly the size of my head.

“It is floating in the air, yes.” I count to twenty. “Do you know what it is?”

“Nope,” Jay says with a huge, beaming grin. “But it likes to hug a lot and! is really sad people keep running away from it.”

“And you don’t think they might have very good reasons for doing that?”

Jay scratches his head at that. “I don’t think humans have good reasons for loads of things they do, though.”

Unfortunately, that’s not really something I can argue with. “All right. We are leaving town, so we need to find a home for it and –.” I pause. “No.”

“I haven’t even asked yet! It really likes to do a sleeping in glove compartments, and our truck has one.”

“Jay. We travel too much to bring along pets.”

“But it isn a pet. It’s a friend,” he protests.

There are some times when all I can do is admit I’ve lost. “All right. It will need a name. And you’ll need to bind it to be safe and make sure it doesn’t scare humans.”

Jay scowls at that but nods, turning to the small floating cloud. “Okay. It wants to be a Carl. With a c, because it likes the sea.”

“Of course.” I head to the door, with Jay and Carl following. To my eyes Carl is now a red balloon floating from Jay’s hand. The balloon has a smiley face with sharp teeth. I don’t say a word.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

the geraniums will be lovely next year

“I know you get the feeling I’m patronizing you dear – it means talking down to someone, if you didn’t know that already, but as I was saying …”

And here, gentle reader, the story ended as I punched him in the throat and then buried him in the garden.

Thursday, June 04, 2015


There are things magicians don’t involve themselves in, for all sorts of very good reasons. Magic is a poem responding to the world, wishes and desires calling, answers being answered – and the dead have needs that magicians know to leave well enough alone. You learn not to see ghosts quickly, or at the least to ward yourself against their desires – and a ghost is nothing but desire, a selfish scream against the ending of their own life. And often their desires are ugly things twisted by death.

Dying concentrates the mind wonderfully. Someone famous said that: they never said in what directions, or to what ends.

But there are exceptions, bendings to every rule I have. I wouldn’t be a magician if I didn’t get around rules even I impose on myself. I’m ambling down a street while Dana is doing fae things – mostly the fae version of a census of monsters they put glamours on, though it’s generally more violent – and I’m letting the magic out in soft whispers. Fixing tires, easing strain between family members in buildings I pass. Helping in small ways to make suburbia become what it always tries to be.

The house in question doesn’t have a white picket fence. It does have siding that was spray-painted black and a disused hearse in the driveway whose hood is covered in a red and silver glitter sign announcing it is the home of Mama Fortune, Soothsayer and Truthspeaker. There aren’t many psychics in the world: almost all of them learn, very quickly, to hide themselves. I have made some able to actually speak with the dead in moments of pique before; this time I’m just walking by when the needs of the building reach out, whispering and begging.

Everything has a voice, if you know how to listen for it. I slow, then stop and turn to face the house, staring into the present and the past in the same moment, letting the feel of its future wash over me. Séances. At least one a day to call up the dead; almost none work, since ‘Mama Fortune’ is only good at cold reading people, but sometimes her need to make money off a mark and their desire to speak to the dead is strong enough to half-open ways into the Grey Lands, to pull ghosts through for a moment. Ghosts who speak words none of them hear.

Ghost after ghost, at least one a weak, slowly drowning the voice of the house under their weight like rivers flowing over a bank back into the ocean. There are ways to kill the voice of a place, sometimes for very good reasons, but to smother it under madness, to drown it slowly entirely unknowing: that is something else altogether. I reach out, making a ward from power lines and children’s playsets, things grounded in the normal world, and walk across the lawn to the wall, running a hand over the siding.

Mama Fortune is inside with a customer; an old man who is too deep in grief to want a way out of it. I ignore them, pressing my fingers to the side of the house, drawing its voice up, pulling echoes of ghost voices out, undoing their smothering with an act of will that leaves me trembling a little – magic works best on things of the universe, and the Grey Lands are harder to reach than the normal world I grew up in – but I am not without resources. I whisper the name of a ghost I know, and the ghost who is a ghost-eater reaches out from the Grey Lands and pulls the voices away between one moment and the next.

I whisper a mental thanks to Dyer for his aid, consider the house and what Mama Fortune is doing. And then I smile softly, and weave magic into the house. Giving it strength to exert its own will, power enough to haunt Mama Fortune and drive her from it if the house so desires. To smother her in the lies she lives, if she pushes the house that far. I weave wards and protections into the making and then walk away, whistling softly to myself.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Facebook status updates part XXXV (May 2015)

My chakras are blocked. I can get one across but not four down.

Jesus fanfic where the resurrection is Jesus trying to get out of paying child support to Mary Magdalene.

It’s not the tunnels under closed WalMart stores you need to worry about, but the ones under the open ones. The ones connected to all other hypercentres and big-box stores. Because of what will happen when the pattern is completed. Oh, you think there is no pattern, do you? Compile a list of products these stores won’t sell, the ones they’d rather didn’t exist at all. Then you’ll be closer to understanding what the glyph they are making is for.”

They say that if you live in a glass house you should not throw stones. It may be more prudent to ask some piercing questions of the real estate agent who sold it to you.

Everyone told him to slow down, that the race wasn’t always to the fastest, that life itself wasn’t a race. But each hurried step and cardio workout told another story, wove another tale. The lazy, he’d say, don’t get promoted, and he would smile and everyone would shake their heads and believe him and almost no one knew he moved so fast because he thought Death was always behind him and that, when the time came, he would run even from that.

“I was scared. That’s why I fell in love with you, why I couldn’t stop myself. Because love is wonderful and stupefying and beautiful in all the ways and shapes of the world. But it shifts and changes as we change, as the world changes. It isn’t constant. It’s not forever. But to not have it at all, to be so brave I wouldn’t subject you to such a shifting wildness of my heart? I couldn’t do that. I wasn’t that brave. The world wouldn’t let me be that brave.
“I guess what I’m saying is that you don’t need to get me flowers for mother’s day.”

This post is gluten-free.

“I am sorry,” he said, as though words could answer tears. “I am sorry you had to find out this way. But there is a reason I never show up in lists of recommended blogs, mother.”

“I used to be scared of you. Of every lie I had to tell in order to bring a smile to your face.”

“We used to be so much more than this. Before we became gods. Now everything is larger – feelings, desires, wishes. We are so much more than human and yet. And yet I feel less without all those petty fears driving me onward to my own destruction. A curious thing, is it not? Hardly enough to make me set aside my power, but it is very curious that a part of me wants to be so small again and mistakes a that for strength.”

This is not the sext you are looking for.

I curse you,” the witch had said, “to never speak another cliche at all.”
The next day, you asked me if I loved you.

If we treated each other as if there were no gods to fall back on and nothing after this life at all then we could live in the best of all possible worlds.

If you really loved me, you’d make me into a #hashtag.”

I don’t want to hurt you.”
Then you should never have said hello.”

The scars you did not leave me ache only under moonlight.

The doctor claims they are stitches, but you know the truth: with each stitch removed, a new demon of pain would be born in the world. And you cannot bear to let this happen. Better by far the stitches melt into your skin than some new pain be born.The doctor claims they are stitches, but you know the truth: with each stitch removed, a new demon of pain would be born in the world. And you cannot bear to let this happen. Better by far the stitches melt into your skin than some new pain be born.

Love may make the world go round, but hate is the glue that holds it together.

They said: take our words and write them down, that mankind might know the sacred truth. And, Oh, I did, and gave them away that the whole world might understand – but you turned them into memes. You turned the salvation the aliens offered into memes. I do not know what they will do now. I just do not know.

I didn’t mean what happened. I think, as it stands, I get drunk on your anger.

"You're making too much noise! It's seven a.m. and --."
"We're moving. So you can kiss my strata fees."

Everything a magician learns is a teaching of themselves.

“Oh, my back! My back! I can’t get up!”
“Revered Teacher, is this a meditation on the futility of belonging to material things?”
“No it damn well isn’t! Get me some drugs now!”

There is a secret page on Wikipedia that lists the death dates for every living person. It has never been wrong yet. The only protection is to never be famous enough to have your own Wikipedia page.

We’re not going through getting a dog again, not after last time. I’d rather one of our kids died instead.”

I used to be terrified of your words. Now all that scares me is your silences.”

I keep forgetting there is a price tag attached to every compliment you give out.

Everything was hard. The conversations at work his mother and father had never prepared him for turned out to be the worse. There would be discussions of dentists, and chiropractors, and family doctors. Kids with colds, flues, hay fever. And he listened, but could not participate. Did not understand. He would tell people his home was cold, if they asked why he didn’t shiver, and no one knew he meant his fortress in the arctic. He made up stories about his diet to explain why he never took a sick day.
And he took to flying longer. To be noticed. To not dodging the missiles the military fired at him so quickly. But at best there was pressure, or bruises that didn’t hurt at all. Pain was for those who could feel pain, for those who were not invulnerable. He looked human, but he knew he was alien. That he’d arrived by rocket in Kansas. And he never felt more alien than when Lois cut her finger on paper and he realized he had no idea what his own blood even looked like.

It’s your fault. If you hadn’t raised me, I would be like this. I wouldn’t do things like this. The ropes are so tight because you made me join the Boy Scouts. It’s all your fault.”

Is this ethical?”
I don’t see why not: we need to know how effectively the prisoners are being tortured.”
But a Fitbit on each of them?”

Sometimes it feels as though the whole world is a corrupted user interface.

I don’t care if your father invented the time machine, a dinosaur is NOT an acceptable aid animal.”

Don’t you ever stop to wonder at what passes for sanity within the confines of your own head?”

We decided that seceding from the country was a foolish endeavour. Instead, we’re becoming an Islamic caliphate.”