Anniversaries are strange things. They shouldn't matter, but they do. A friend recently asked why a specific date should carry more weight, more hurt or sadness or joy than the day before it, or the day that follows. I couldn't explain it to her then, and I cannot now. All I know is that this morning I woke up and it was as if I were sitting beside that bed in the Hospice, wanting to scream and just pouring out the loss and the realisation that nothing would ever be the same ever again. I had already collapsed in the car park where my Uncle had met me and told me the news and later I would be walking the dog after we had come home and she knew somehow, even her little doggie head had understood that things had changed.
That was two years ago, and it is as if only yesterday. Fourteen months. But its only just happened.
Thats the anniversary. Its the date that in your head takes you back to that place, removing the time inbetween. The hurt isnt suddenly more powerful, its not a case of having been aware of it less over the intervening days. Its the reminder that there will be no more newspapers with the spelling mistakes corrected in red pen, no more Sodding-Uko or crosswords on the kitchen table. You wont be waking up to hear the radio in the same way again, that smile you remember is all you have, you wont see it again. Every time from now on when you think of the good things, her laugh or the way she rolled her eyes when you did something extra daft, the way she would phone her brother to tell him that the "nights are fair drawing in"...there'll be the spectre of the person in the bed, still cheery when you visited, but knowing that she wont make it to the Scottish Six Days Orienteering this time round.
It was raining today, when I took Rowan to the woods. I didn't mind, because it meant I could let it all out and no one would see.
I miss you, Mum.
Bwahaha, back again. Been a bit of a lull as I was busy doing other stuff, like having a good friend visit and then turning into a slightly older fart than I was before.
The idea for this story has been sitting in my head for a few years now, I just needed a spark for it (thank you First Line Generator thingy). I'm afraid its a bit fanboyish and probably wont make much sense to people who havent watched a certain series of movies, because it drops in a few references and such. I'll state for the record that I also took some liberties with the character of the boy, because I didn't feel particulary comfortable portraying him as he is/was in the movies.
The water looked deep and inviting. It was a brilliant blue-green, sparking in the sunlight and disturbed only by placid ripples in the breeze. It looked warm and pleasant, and Amy wanted to reach out and play her fingers through it. But something was wrong.
She realised she was standing on a wooden platform, a long jetty that stretched out into the lake. The surface was firm and smooth under her bare feet, not rough or splintered. Her white dress fluttered as she turned to look out across the lake. It was beautiful and quiet, ringed with dappled trees and somewhere birds were singing. Amy wanted to smile, to throw her arms out and bask in the sun by the water’s edge, but something didn’t feel right.
“Who are you?”
Amy jumped, surprised by the voice. A little boy was sitting right down at the edge of the jetty, dangling his legs over the edge and splashing his feet in the water. He was wearing baggy swimming shorts that seemed oddly dated, like something out of the old Government Information broadcasts.
“Uh, hello.” She started walking towards him, but he flinched as if afraid somehow and she stopped after only a few steps, “My names Amy. What’s yours?”
He looked at her sidelong, not fully turning his face. It gave Amy the impression that he didn’t want her to see him. He’d seemed to shrink away from her.
“Why are you here?” He spoke oddly, oddly sing-song and all in a rush. Amy sat on the jetty a few feet from him, dipping her toes into the shimmering water. It seemed to calm the boy a little.
“I don’t know, really.” Amy struggled to remember, “This is all strange. I was here before, I think, but it was cold, winter, there was snow everywhere. Not like this. I…I don’t remember how I got here.”
The boy was quiet for a long time, and Amy eyed him carefully. His earlier discomfort seemed to have faded, but now he seemed almost sad. He still hadn’t turned towards her but his head was bowed and he reached to brush back his straggly blond hair. He let out a sigh, briefly old and careworn for a child so young.
“I know why you are here but it is better if you remember yourself because then it will be easier for you to accept it.” That lilting rushed speech again. Amy closed her eyes, trying to focus.
“I was…I came to Forest Green County to see where my mother grew up. She’d said she’d lived near a lake here. I wanted to see it.”
“Your mother’s name was Tina she made me sleep once.”
Amy opened her eyes and stared at him, shocked. There was no way the boy could have known that. She didn’t take much after her mother, dark haired where she was blonde and a thin face compared to her mother’s wide, open smile. This boy couldn’t be more than six or seven, yet Amy’s mother Tina had passed on when Tina had been a child herself. It made no sense.
The boy turned his head to her, staring straight at her. It was strangely unsettling, for his face was perfectly symmetrical, making him seem almost doll-like, and his eyes…his eyes were so old compared to the rest.
“You are special just like your mother. Your mind is not fixed in your head.” He nodded, smiling at Amy, “That is part of why you are here but you must remember the rest.”
Amy nodded, knowing it was true. She’d been by a lakeside in winter, wrapped up warm against the cold, so why was she here now in the summer sun, with this strange little boy on the jetty? She looked out across the lake again, watching the trees on the other side as their branches swayed. She thought she could see some of those branches brushing the tops of a few, dilapidated cabins tucked away in the woods, rustic and almost hidden among the trees.
“I found the lake…and I came to look at it. I wanted to see if the old house was still there. I heard voices, shouting. There were people there, they’d come on motorbikes, I think…”
“Bad people come to the lake sometimes.” He interrupted, sounding sad again, but Amy barely heard him. She was struggling so hard to remember what had happened.
“They saw me I think. They thought I was watching them.” She gasped, “They chased me…and…one of them had a knife…” She felt sudden pain, sharp insistent agony in her chest and back and she clutched the sore places, looking down and seeing nothing but the white dress. “What…what happened to me?” She felt tears on her face, and huddled in on herself in the pain.
Small fingers reached into her own, comforting and warm, the little boy sitting down beside her, though she hadn’t seen him approach. With a careful, gentle touch, he lifted her chin and turned her face to look at the shore. Amy wailed in shock. She saw the body. Her body, lying in a patch of red-stained snow, so out of place in the summer setting.
“Bad people come here sometimes.” He whispered again as Amy wept. She felt his arms reaching out to encircle her, holding her close, so gentle and kind. The little boy just held her for a long, long time as she cried.
“Why?...I didn’t do anything…why did they do it?” Amy forced out the words between sobs, wanting to scream, the terrible truth hitting her even as she did it. Because they could.
“They will not get away with it.” Said the boy. His voice was firm and hard, older now than before, the sing-song quality fading with each word, “They do not know where they are. The name was changed. Bad people come to my lake, but I do not let them leave.”
He stroked her hair as he spoke. The birdsong became distant and unsettling, out of tune and discordant, the breeze across the water colder and stronger. Amy shuddered as the sun darkened on the lake, the shimmering going the colour of the snow patch she couldn’t bear to look at again.
“They changed the name so they could forget. They wanted to pretend this was somewhere else and that I never existed. But I am always here. This place wasn’t always called Forest Green,” His tone was oddly muffled, and dark and hard. Amy looked up at him and gasped. His face was gone, covered. His old, old eyes glaring out in hate at what had been done to her, from the eyeholes of a white hockey mask.
“They used to call it Crystal Lake.” Said Jason.
Another First Line Friday. Sort of. This is a bit of a cheat, as its not the story I wrote. The one I flash wrote sucked and I didn't like it at all, so I've gone back and rewritten it. This took much longer than the original draft and of course also breaks my other self-imposed rule of not rewritting or heavily editing. However I like this version much more and am happier to post it.
All that was left to him was duty. The King’s bloodied fingers slipped from his own and Marrick shook with sorrow as he laid his friend down. A stone floor was no fitting resting place for a King, not even one of polished marble inlaid with shining gold, but Marrick had his duty and there was no-where else. The King’s eyes were closing, already seeing beyond to somewhere other than that decorated hall, though his lips moved still, and Marrick had to lean close to hear his final whisper.
And then the King breathed his last.
Marrick wanted to stay and weep. His chest was heaving as though his heart would tear within, the metal of his breastplate seeming suddenly restrictive and unyielding. He wanted to mourn his king, but that was now a grim luxury that he couldn’t afford. Oaths of fealty and bonds of friendship called on him now, forming chains that Marrick would not see broken. From the moment of those last whispered words, every action he took and movement he made would not be his own, they would be his King’s. A lesser man might have railed against such stern duty, but Marrick understood and accepted it willingly. A Knight must see his Lord’s will done.
With careful, reverent motions, Marrick lifted the ancient Kingsword from his Lord’s hand and limped towards the Brass Portal. He almost staggered, caught by surprise. It was already getting heavier. The ornate sword was only slightly longer than Marrick’s own, thought forged from an unknown metal much lighter of hue and decorated by far more intricate designs that were strangely inhuman in nature. He could almost feel it becoming more leaden, as if his arm was weakening. Marrick strained and lifted it higher, not wanting to sully it by dragging it along the floor. After all that had been done with it, all those who had fought for it and over it, he felt he should show some respect.
The Brass Portal took up the whole far wall, it myriad cogs and ornate crystal rods shining in the guttering light from the braziers. It began to open as Marrick approached, runes flaring along its rim and intricate wheels turning inside its mechanism, arcane in part yet also a device more complex than any other he’d ever seen. It was a huge metallic rose unfurling in response to his presence. That was always unnerving, the eerie way the Portal seemed to recognise him and somehow know if he wished passage. Even as he removed one gauntlet and placed a hand on the oddly warm golden panel, Marrick wondered yet again if it was truly necessary, or if the panel was really just there to give Portal travellers some illusion of being in control. He wondered if even the Arcanists who constructed it would have been able to say for sure.
Light flared out from between the burnished metal ring. It made the flickering fires in the braziers seem almost black and reflected off the marble floor and pillars in incandescent, dancing echoes. The Light hardened and stretched like cloth inside the Portal and images formed on its surface. Marrick saw his own features look back at him, writhing among other less defined shapes. The phantom seemed to be reaching out to him, or pushing him away, he couldn’t tell.
The Kingsword thrummed in his hands. Its warning startled his senses and Marrick realised he could hear the fighting coming closer, so close now the Traitor’s men could be right outside the door. Both he and the King would have left a bloody trail that they could have followed with ease. A second later something heavy thudded against the heavy wood; they were trying to break in. Marrick rested the Kingsword onto his shoulder to make it easier to carry and gave one last, painful glance to his dead Liege, then turned and stepped into the Portal’s twisting light while he still had the chance.
The pack swarmed around him, staying just out of striking distance. They’d been dogging Marrick’s steps almost since the moment he arrived through the Portal, clawing up through hidden gaps in the ground or dragging themselves from the shadows between the trees. The creatures were very much like the forest that covered the Other Realm, maddening and alien. Much like the trees and undergrowth, they were oddly beautiful when looked on directly, yet would twist and deform into gnarled, mocking shapes as a person’s gaze moved on. Marrick didn’t know how many there were. He knew better than to try to count them.
A hunched beast with too many limbs and an ugly, scaly hide loped in front of him, becoming somehow beguiling and smooth once in his sight. Its eerie song became a discordant bark as Marrick turned away from it and kept walking.
Marrick had walked between those inconstant trees many times, yet he still had to fight the urge to rush at the creatures. Their constant buzzing and hooting and scrabbling picked away at his already frayed composure. More than once he found his hand tightening on the grip of the Kingsword, about to bring it forward in a sweeping arc only his sense of duty held him back. He knew as well that it was pointless to try to kill the things. When the King had first led Marrick and Knights to the Other Realm, many of them had acted as they were trained and tried to fight the creatures that capered round them. Their numbers never seemed to diminish…and the Knights that made kills were never quite the same again. It was as if something inside them was broken.
The only evil in this place is that which we bring with us, the King had told them, advising them to stop trying to fight. That had been enough for Marrick, although it was hard all the same. The creatures came when the Knights stepped through the Portal, Marrick assumed they left again when the Knights did.
Marrick stumbled as a patch of undergrowth tangled his foot. He tugged himself free with a grimace and gave the Kingsword a worried look. The sheen was gone from it, the previously burnished metal almost black as if with age. It was so heavy. He had to grasp the hilt with both hands just to keep it steady. He looked up seeking his way forward through the trees. He could just make out a change in the light up ahead, a shimmering between the branches like sunlight on water. The Silver Lake was just ahead.
A noise like tearing cloth echoed through the forest behind him. The beasts swarming around him went quiet for a few seconds, their sudden silence nearly as unnerving as their jabbering. Then Marrick heard the sounds. More things, more creatures, louder and darker and more vile. Whoever had just followed through the Portal carried a lot of evil with them.
Marrick growled. He had no intention of failing his duty when he was so close. He lengthened his stride, steadying the Kingsword on his shoulder, and pushed on.
He would reach the Silver Lake first. His duty demanded it.
Marrick fell to his knees, right at the edge of the Lake. His armour weighed him down. He was struggling to keep from collapsing completely and he very nearly let the Kingsword fall into the Lake. Only by strength of will did he manage not to. He had to hand the sword back, he couldn’t just drop it. It felt like he was trying to carry the entire Kingdom, the whole of the King’s honour distilled into that length of unnatural metal.
He didn’t know how long he stared at the Lake. There were no ripples to indicate the passing of any sort of time. The surface was flat and reflective, a silver mirror in a dappled glade. Marrick wasn’t even sure it was water. He noted with some satisfaction that his pack of attendant evils had stayed back, lurking sullenly at the treeline rather than coming closer. Their distorted faces glowered at him, reflected in the Lake like gargoyles.
“Why have you come?”
Marrick blinked and forced his tired head up. He hadn’t heard Her approach. Nor had he seen Her image in the silver. Her voice was like liquid gold and seemed to come from many places at once. She was standing on the Lake in front of him as if She’d risen from beneath it and yet was part of it. Her body and flowing robes seemed to extrude from the Lake and glistened with the same reflective shine. He could barely focus on Her.
“I…The King is dead…” Marrick forced himself to speak, though the saying hurt nearly as much as the words, “His promise was to return the sword…since he cannot…I bring it in his stead…”
She nodded, or seemed to. She had no easily defined features. It was only the vague feminine shape of Her body that made him think of Her as female. She flowed towards him over the Lake, the motion sending glittering echoes of distant chimes through the glade.
“The King is dead, yet he lives still. His word is broken, yet you are his bond. His Kingdom is gone, yet will rise again when needed. All shall be as has been before and will be again.”
She reached forwards, though it seemed more as if Her arm was simply there rather than at Her side. Gentle fingers that seemed both cold and warm, like liquid light, took the hilt and lifted the Kingsword from Marrick’s weary grip as if the blade was a light as air. The blackness seemed to melt from its length and the sword shined until it was the same silver as She was, and the Lake was, and then it was part of her, then gone. Absorbed back to the place of its forging.
“Duty is done. Honour is done.”
Somewhere in the trees branches broke as they were pushed aside and the snarling of the pack grew louder and closer. The Traitor Knights were nearly upon them. Marrick managed to push himself to his feet and turned with some reluctance towards the sounds. He drew forth his own sword from its scabbard, though it was leaden in his hands and he knew he was in no shape to wield it, yet he felt some duty remained to defend the Lake and its legacy. He did not see Her shake Her head, or Her shimmering hand reach towards him. He merely heard her voice, as his armour began to shine silver at her touch. When the Traitor Knights finally pushed through into the glade, all they saw was an immense clearing of bare rock.
“The King and his Knights will serve their duty again, when the need is great.”
It was as if the Silver Lake, the Lady and the Kingsword, had never existed.
So...several days late, heres another First Line story. Pretty much the same rules applied as before, however I did have another agenda too. Mr P laid down a sort of challenge in response to the last one, namely that he'd like to see me write something where the main driving force of the story wasn't fear. The last two stories I've done this way have both had elements of fear to them, so I felt it was time to try to branch out and do something a little different. This one is the result.
Whats most interesting for me here is the way this story developed in my head. It started out as a ballroom scene, believe it or not. Also the ending was not quite as I thought it would be, and the motive behind those last lines were literaly created as I wrote them.
It was almost painful to look at her. It wasn’t that she was clumsy exactly, but neither was she graceful. Where the warriors around her fought with precision and the confidence of tightly drilled comrades, she soldiered on with more heart than skill. She’d carved out a small patch that was her own among the melee, her style of fighting unsuited to the shield wall tactics that her fellows were using. It was clear that she’d been part of that wall, but if she’d been separated by ill luck or by something she herself lacked, Arvin wasn’t able to say. Either way, his heart ached. He didn’t think she would last much longer.
That came as a surprise. The battle was desperate enough that he had his own problems. His shield and armour were dented and scarred and his arms were growing weary. The enemy were tenacious and skilled. The only edge Arvin could see was their lack of discipline compared to his own and those beside him. They surged forwards in ones or twos, not really coordinating their efforts and seeming more concerned with personal glory than the overall battle. That, more than anything else, was probably the reason she was still alive.
He was doing it again. His mind wandering. He caught his gaze seeking her out amongst the chaos, neglecting his own situation. She was still there, hunched behind her heavy shield and stabbing out from behind it, short, brave thrusts. At least she was holding her own. For some reason that made Arvin smile.
A heavy sword clattered off his shoulder and he stumbled back, swearing. He saw the eyes of his enemy glaring at him from beneath a heavy helm with a long nose-guard and hanging cheek plates. The two warriors exchanged blows, testing each other’s defences. Arvin felt almost saddened when he realised that his opponent couldn’t best him. He was brave enough, but his combat style was to individualistic. He was more or less on his own, while Arvin was flanked by his shield brothers. A flurry of efficient thrusts proved the enemy warrior had nowhere to go and he fell screaming.
She’ll go the same way. The thought was unbidden, and Arvin growled in irritation. He couldn’t work out why she was drawing his attention so. There were other shield-maidens with more ability and smoother grace fighting with him, women who seemed to dance through the melee as if it were a ballroom, forms and figures to take the breath away. He was hardly noticing them. Time and again his eyes were drawn back to that one lone fighter. He couldn’t work out why.
As he watched, her shield shattered under a brutal axe blow. She half-stepped, half-stumbled back, tossing the useless wooden fragments aside. At some point she must have lost her own helm, she shook her head defiantly and Arvin’s breath caught in his throat as her auburn hair glowed in the sun. She lunged under that swinging axe to bury her blade in the man’s gut. She was brave, there was no doubting that. She scooped up the fallen warriors own shield and called something to his companions. Damn, but she was brave.
It was all so pointless. That was the problem. That was the thing that Arvin couldn’t shift from his mind. He wasn’t even sure why they were fighting. As the day wore on, the battle ebbing and flowing, he became convinced that there was no need for it. They were struggling across this bloody field, fighting and dying for some reason so obscure that the Captains and Heralds all seemed dispirited by it. Most likely it was over some slight, imagined or otherwise. Arvin had seen his Lord sent out warbands and armies over matters that seemed nothing short of trivial. It was such a waste.
The enemy weren’t that much different, really. At least this time they were men and women, rather than the bestial things from the North. They fought with the same grim determination that Arvin saw on the faces of his comrades. No doubt they had the same issues with that stupid battle that he did. Did they know why they had been sent to fight? Had they been told? What honour was there then, in that?
Arvin’s sword arm ached and his shield arm was almost numb. His unit had broken another charge, the enemy soldiers crashing against the shields and stabbing swords like water against a reef. At some point they’d drawn back and called up their archers and things had gotten bad. Arvin’s shield wall had broken and the fight had devolved into a maddening throng where nearly everyone was a threat. He struggled to reach his friends, cutting down soldiers from the other side who were trying to do the same.
A spear tip crashed through his shield. A few inches lower and it would have impaled his arm. He struggled to pull away and was struck by the absurdity of it. He could see his assailant yanking on the spear haft, trying to get his weapon back into play. He felt like laughing. A sudden blade fell from his left, for a brief second he thought it was over and then the spear was broken, the blade chopping through it, and then the enemy soldier’s neck, and Arvin looked into her eyes as she nodded a wordless greeting. Her eyes were wide and deep brown.
Up close, she wasn’t that pretty. Arvin didn’t care. She glowed in his eyes. He could see grace in her that better soldiers had lost. Her movements as they fought side by side were not skilled, but they captivated him all the same. At some point she threw him a smile, during a lull in the battle, and Arvin was lost.
From that point on when he raised his sword, it wasn’t for his Lord, or for his comrades, or for his honour.
It was for her.
So, another first line friday. Same deal again, randomly generated first line, 30 minute time limit. Though in this case I went over that limit I think, I kept getting interrupted. My only agenda with this story was to try to write something positive and with a sense of wonder to it, rather than the grim, survival horror style that I did last week. Hope you like it.
The Birds Swooped Low
The birds swooped low. We saw them plunge out of the cloud layer, trailing wisps of yellowish vapour with them and drop like daggers towards the distant meadow before spreading their wings. They unfurled and glided towards us, straight towards us, so low down and so fast that Samson and I could make out the ripples in the grass stalks as they flew over.
My first thought was that the Xenobiologists were going to explode with excitement, for those two birds were the biggest life we’d seen by far. The largest, most complex things we’d discovered up till then had been a type of mosquito. My second thought was that they were really, really big. Much bigger than any avian life ever discovered anywhere. They must have been over a kilometre distant, yet we could clearly make out their general shape. And they were moving fast.
Samson raised his Tri-Nocs, interfacing them with his visor HUD. He stood like that for several seconds, holding them up to his face. He looked bulky and ungainly in his suit, so did I, but his fingers found the controls and danced over them easily. I’d always admired him for that.
“Can you see what they are?” I asked. I tried to keep a tone of detachment, though I’m not sure if it worked. Hanging onto my excitement has never been one of my strong points. His reply crackled back to me over the suit radio. He sounded irritated.
“Can’t make out a damned thing.” He said. “They’re going way to fast, I can’t keep my focus on them. They’ve got wings though.”
That startled me a bit. At those speeds, if they’d only been a kilometre or so away, they would have flown overhead by now. They could only have been farther away than we’d thought…but that meant they had to be even bigger than I’d estimated. I told Samson so.
“Yeah…thought so too,” He muttered, and I had to strain to hear him, “You know…I’m not sure they ARE birds.”
Something in his voice made me tense up. Either way those two winged shapes were getting closer, fast. Very fast. I queried his statement even as I began to back away, though looking back, I’ve no idea why I thought that would help.
“They haven’t moved those wings once since they dropped…nothing glides that fast.”
We were both running before he’d finished speaking. Foolish really. Those things were so much faster than we were and in our clumsy suits we couldn’t move that quickly anyway. I guess we were hoping to get back to our buggy. Like I said, foolish.
Our first view of the planet, our first proper view that wasn’t just this Earth-like orb in space, with yellow clouds instead of white, was when we broke atmosphere. The landing capsule had a clean detach from the Second Stage assembly and we were coming in on our final approach. We broke through the cloud layer and began skimming down, retros flaring and drag chutes slowing our descent. Nice and textbook, all things considered.
What we saw was breathtaking. It was so like Earth in some ways that it was almost eerie. We were coming down over great rolling meadows, hundreds of acres of what looked almost like corn stalks waving in the breeze. As we got closer we realised they were very different, those sheafs at their tips flickered and moved of their own accord. We’d later discovered they were sticky and used to catch insects.
In the distance, we saw mountains rising, sharp, jagged peaks and closer than that were forests of things that looked like trees, or giant fronds of oddly delicate fungi. There was no sign of animal life where we touched down, nothing to suggest intelligent life either, though we soon encountered the first insects. That was exciting enough, though. We’d made planetfall on a rich and beatiful ecosystem, more alien yet more familiar than we’d ever thought possible. Our first footsteps on that world, even in our bulky suits, were the amongst the finest moments of my life.
We ran. We didn’t get very far. Like I said, our suits got in the way too much, and those bird-things were so much faster. Samson and I had barely made it halfway to our buggy when we were both knocked sprawling. I went end over end, tumbling painfully. I thought one of them had struck me, though the way were send flying like that it had to have been the downdraft as they flew over us. I heard the roaring as they went overhead, the sky above us darkened by their sheer size. Both of them had to be larger than our landing capsule…and that had been designed to hold all three of our survey teams and our equipment.
Then they slowed. I remember being stunned by how fast they did it. Nothing alive could stop like that, but they did. And they hovered. That was the first good look we got of them both. I could hear Samson’s breath sprinting over the comms, and I knew exactly how he felt. It was terrifying. The implications were mind-numbing. I lay there on the alien grass and stared. I literally couldn’t think. I think I might have screamed.
They were both massive, and vaguely birdlike, at least at first. We were seeing them sort of from behind, as they had to furl their wings and turn round. What struck me first though, was that those wings were artificial. That’s right. Non-biological. They had feathers, of a sort, though stylised almost, but they were made from some kind of lightweight material that resembled metal but didn’t act like it. Its colour was black at first, but as the heat haze from the hidden engines died and the sun hit them, I saw shimmering blues and reds that seemed to flow and dance in front of me.
Samson was trying to crawl away. I rolled and tried to get to him. The two things folded up their wings and landed beside us. They were oddly silent despite their size. They landed on legs that stretched from where they’d been curled against their bodies. I could see then that not all of these things were artificial. There was animal there too, grown or grafted to the machine somehow. I saw a long, powerful beak, like an eagle and compound eyes set in an irregular fashion. I saw too many arms with too many joints reach out and hands with long, oddly delicate fingers, even though each one was as long as I was tall.
Samson had curled into a ball. These giant half-machine things were so beyond anything we’d expected that I wanted to join him.
One of them reached out to me, hand out in a gesture that seemed perversely human. Then it did something that changed my life, all our lives. It opened doors we thought would never open and showed us we were dealing with things that knew far more about us than we could have thought possible. It blew my mind, that’s for sure.
It said, “Hello.”
Am totally stealing this idea from a friends blog. The idea being to take the first line of a story idea from an online generator and "flash" write whatever comes to mind. She's been doing ten minute posts, but since I'm a slower writer I decided to make it 30 minutes for me. I'm not used to sprint writing. The other excuse I have is a collie who wants to play. Either way this is the what I came up with this time. Its unedited, except for spelling, and I stuck to my time limit.
First Line Friday: The Sound Of Breaking Glass Stopped Her
The sound of breaking glass stopped her. It meant they were coming.
She skidded and stumbled, kicking up dust on the road, almost going down on her hands and knees as she moved, scrambling into the shade beside an upturned truck. It was too open and she knew she’d have to move. Get to cover. Hide.
The sound came again. It was a painful, cracking, tearing, clinking noise. The sound of splintered glass, like a fist through a window. She flinched, peering out round the ruined cab of the truck. They could be anywhere. She couldn’t tell how close they were, all she knew was that they were coming, because she could hear the glass.
She pulled herself up and ran towards a building, dodging past the corpse of a car and trying not to look at the remains inside. Her footsteps seemed so loud, echoing round the street. She vaulted the the hole in the wall were the window had been and hunkered down. She needed to think and there wasn’t much time to do so.
None of the buildings had windows anymore. There wasn’t a scrap of glass left untouched in the whole city, as far as she knew. They liked the glass, it was all angles and reflections, somehow perfect in their strange, unknowable minds. She’d seen what they left once they were done with it, just grains, glass rendered to sand or dust. They used it until it was too broken and ground up to still have whatever they considered as value, then they’d leave it and go seeking some other source. That was the only chance she had. She had to keep moving and avoiding them until they had to leave their glass bodies. Not much chance, but enough.
The noises were coming closer, she could hear them over the wind that moaned through the skeletons of the buildings. She stayed low, and crawled further into the building, away from the street.
No one knew where the hounds had come from. None of the survivors she’d met had any idea what had really happened, and as their numbers dwindled the chances of anyone realising got smaller and smaller. She was glad of that, in some way. Bad enough to know the truth and be the only one who knew, but it would have been worse for others to know when they looked at her. Bad enough to know..bad enough to be responsible.
She should have smashed the crystal when she’d had the chance. The Shining Trapezahedron. She’d been so stupid, so convinced of what she thought she knew that by the time she learned the final, awful truth it was too late. She knew nothing, understood less. Some doors should not be opened, some windows should not be looked beyond. When your reflection looks back at you from the time yet to come, its already too late.
For a long time she’d wondered why they hadn’t just killed her or dragged her back to whatever far flung epoch that they hunted from. Their first steps into the world had been shocking and brutal and intensely violent. Humankind did so like to use glass. Windows, roofs, ornaments, mirrors. The hounds liked to use it even more, and had shown their victims what they liked to do with it.
Even then, the hounds hadn’t touched her. At first it had seemed like chance, simple dumb luck. Then, as the dying continued and the stragglers of humanity had dwindled, picked off one by one, she realised what they were actually doing. Playing.
The hounds were going to take her only when there was no-one else left.
She scrambled up the stairwell. Running almost on all fours, she moved fast and hard. For a brief, horrible moment she was reminded of how the hounds moved, but she was also reminded of when she’d been a girl, so desperate to get up the stairs in her parent’s house that she’d used her hands as well as her feet. Just walking up, like everyone else, had seemed to take too long. Now she didn’t have time to walk. The hounds weren’t slowed by stairs, when they bothered to use them. Sometimes they just used the walls.
The screech of tortured glass echoed somewhere below her, which meant they were following her up. She quickened her pace, panting in fear. Her hands were slicked with sweat and she slipped on the dirt streaked floor. They barked and howled below her, brittle noises like shattering windows.
She got to the top floor and kept going, heading to the roof. She clambered past the shreds of a person, gagging at the smell and the way they’d been…spread. Whoever they’d been, they must have been trying to get to the roof too. A hand was still attached to the handle of the access door. She kicked the door open rather than touch it, and as she moved past she thought she eyes of that skull followed her. You did this, they accused. She got out onto the roof, wind tugging at what remained of her clothes. It was then she realised her mistake. They weren’t just following her.
They were waiting for her.
I'm seeing a ton of stuff I'd like to change here. Foremost being theres a lack of description. I'd like to put in more visual stuff to let the reader get the scene in their minds eye. It also seems unfinished to me, but there WAS a time limit and I stuck to it. I would love to describe what one of these hounds looks like. All in all, im happy with the idea as it developed though.
...shower gels keep on getting weirder. The one im using at the moment is "chocolate and mint"....I smell a bit like an After Eight. Bizarre. And while I had NO REASON to share that, I will go on to point out that I dont even like the combination of choc and mint, as something to eat. Even more bizarre.
And moving on...imma gonna share some other stuff thats hopefully not so TMI.
Writing wise im being adventurous. Im idly editing a story that a wrote ages ago, that I intend to post on Smashwords once its ready. I'm also merrily being all fanboy-ish and writing a Warhammer 40k short story that I'm going to punt off to Black Library since their submissions window is open. I figure its worth a try, and since im writing the story regardless, I have no reason not too. "Pawprints" isnt going anywhere particulary fast, but thats because I want to do it right rather than just battering it onto the page. Its a larger project than I'm used to writing, so I'd like to take my time.
I've also started dieting. Sort of. I don't eat much at the best if times these days, but when I do its generally not good, so I'm trying to sort that. Wooo.
...Library. A whole world made into a a place where pages gently rustle, where "Quiet Please" signs dominate...theres the smell of wood and paper and furniture polish. A library for every book ever written. Presumably it has a whole wing dedicated to Mills & Boon (preferably locked). It has inadequate lighting...like all Librarys the world over, how else could the shadows stalk the Doctor so easily, hmm?
I wonder if it has a section for things that haven't been written yet? Perhaps even blog posts?
I wonder this, because what you're reading (assuming anyone is reading this except phishing bots, so if you ARE a bot, HI!) is not the post I started writing, nor even the one I intended to write. In the end, the whole referance to that Doctor Who episode is fairly tangential. The problem being that the post I started became one I could never actually force my hand to glide the mouse over to the "publish" button for. It contained too much that I keep hidden. I'm a private person...guarded, you might say. There are things going on in my head that I can barely talk to anyone about, and some of those things I have only revealed to a tiny number of people who I can trust implicitly.
Don't worry, I'm not a serial killer. (I am in fact one of your Lizard Overlords, come from the fourth dimension to rule your pitiful planet and eat your pizza...oh, wait...that statement was for the meeting down at the docks).
What I'm saying is that I very rarely open up enough to really let people know what I'm thinking or feeling. And thats why I think I've never been much for blogging, and I don't like Facebook (one reason, anyway) and so on. I'm not good with just blurting stuff out, so when I sit to write its usually about something I want to say. Only sometimes theres things I want to say but can't, parts of me that I've become afraid to reveal.
And thats it. Fear. Fear of being judged, or laughed at, or generally hurt. As Captain Sheriden once said "if you stumble a lot, you tend to look at your feet". I look at my feet a LOT, if you get my meaning. And wanting to open up holds its own special fears. Fear of being seen as whiny, or self-pitying. Even looking back at what I've written here, I'm getting twinges of worry that you've already switched off, thought "oh, boo-hoo" and decided to go look for videos of dancing ninja hampsters on Youtube. Yeah, I'm having another whine, deal with it.
In the end, this is not the post I wanted to write. Because I can't write that one. The hands freeze, the fingers recoil from the keys, and the mouth is silent. The cork is back on the bottle.
On the bright side, somewhere out there a man is saving the universe in a blue box. Maybe not in this reality (although you never know...), but somewhere...
Warning:- this post is a whine. Im not happy, and im venting. You dont need to read it if you dont want to.
So, long story short, a few months ago "stuff" happened. I wont go into details.
Anyway. I thought I was handling it. Id gone through the period of wanting to hide, and wanting to scream, and generally feeling like the world was crashing in around me. I thought I was past all that now. Slowly moving on, so to speak. I'd taken a long-ish break from WoW to get some distance, and felt I was ready to start easing myself back in. It was that or quit, and I care too much about my friends in the Guild to just do that.
Thing is, its getting clear that im not actually handling it as well as I thought. I'm finding I spend a lot of time being uncomfortable or downright miserable. A lot of guild stuff is stirring things up in my head. And I dont know what to do about it.
Then theres my Nan. Lovely person though she is, she doesnt take a hint too well. And someone told her what had happened. So shes been phoning me up "offering" advice, and not listening to what im saying, which isnt helping either. Trying to explain to her what happened, and be polite about trying to get her to back off, isnt much fun. Shes nearly 90...
So all this is stirring up all those little paranoid things that I hate about myself, and im feeling kinda crappy about it. So um sort of up and down like a yo-yo at the moment.
Having just watched this weeks edition of Question Time....and managed, barely, to NOT shout at the tv (it was a close thing a few times)...I'm going to vent for a bit.
Rant Mode Activated.
I am very very tired of the childish arguments being used concerning Libya. I really feel that its a classic example of Britain's ability to have the right debate at the totally wrong time. We whine about our government having sold weapons to Gaddafi, as if thats a reason to not get involved. We whine about how Libya has oil and it looks hypocritical, as if thats a reason to not get involved. We whine about "Why aren't we also going into [insert name of country here] as if thats a reason to not get involved. These may all be good points, but this is not the time to be bringing them up, and to use them as some sort of smug, armchair quarterback argument for not getting involved in Libya is just pathetic, in my mind.
The weapons thing...It does not matter right now if Gaddafi got weapons from our Government. The issue right now is that he has weapons, not where he got them. We can worry about that part later, right now the fact is that he has them and he is using them against his own people, civilians as well as rebels. I'm sure the rebels don't care too much about where he got them right now. If a man is pointing a gun at you, are you going to be worrying about who he bought it from, or whether or not he's going to fire it? If we really want to make an issue about not getting involved because we sold arms to Gaddafi, look at it like this...hes using weapons WE sold him to kill his own people. We are ALREADY involved. The question is what we're going to do about it.
The oil thing...Indeed, the fact that Libya lots of oil is probably a factor. It was certainly a factor when Blair and Brown were snuggling up to Mad Dog Gaddafi in recent years. My question is...so what? Should we instead be standing back and waggling our fingers and saying "Sorry Libyan's, we can't get involved and stop Gaddafi from killing his own people, because it might look like we're just in it for the oil. you'll just have to die, our image is more important?" ...Of course not. In this case, we CAN get involved, the Arab League is behind it, the positioning allows it...so sod how it looks...people are dying and this time we can do something about it.
Which leads onto The Why aren't We Also In X thing...this is the one that realy sticks in my craw. Ive watched four editions of Question Time, in a row, where this has been brought up, and each time the person has sat back looking all smug, as if they've made a stunning argument. Its just...pathetic. Childish. Are these people seriously suggesting that because we haven't also intervened in a whole bunch of other conflicts, then we shouldn't do so in this one? If we followed that reasoning we wouldn't get involved in any at all, even when we should. The fact is we're a small nation and we can't be everywhere at once. Sometimes the political situations are vastly differant too, one of the reasons that makes this one viable is the local Governments, the Arab League, support it. In others, they don't, so intervention would be harder without that support. Its too simplistic to compare all these differant countries and situations on a like-for-like basis. We can't use a failure to act in some cases as a reason NOT to act in this case. On a basic level, you have to start somewhere. On a more complex level, you have to pick your battles. One panelist on Question Time (think it was 2 weeks ago) made it very clear, repeatedly, that in this instance not only is it RIGHT that we get involved, but that almost all the components are in place that allow us to. In that case, not to act would be far far worse. A situation were we SHOULD act, and CAN....and then to NOT? That would practicaly be a crime against humanity. It would certainly be loathsome and selfish.
And while I'm in rant mode...can people please stop bumping their gums about the Megrahi release, at least until they've thought about it for five seconds? First of all, I beleive that the Scottish Justice Minister made his decision in good faith on the basis of the information he had at the time. That Megrahi hasn't died yet isn't Kenny Macaskill's fault, yet all and sundry are lining up to vilify him and say how wrong they thought it all was. I'm impressed with Alex Salmond's performance tonight, actually...where he made clear the hypocrisy of the Labour government, who wanted Megrahi released under the prisoner release component of The Deal In The Desert, for reasons of money, and oil, and politics...but those same Labour politicians are now saying that the ??????Scottish Government was wrong in its decision to release him on compassionate grounds, by reason of Scottish Law uninfluenced by the British Government. The two-facedness of that is staggering, and Alex Salmond was right to drag it out and show it for what it is.
Let me continue to be blunt. I've seen what cancer does to someone. Its vile. Its...evil. Its cruel. Im glad that the Scottish Government wants to temper justice with mercy, not vengeance. Before anyone jumps up and down and screams about how Megrahi is getting what he deserves....I suggest you shut your hole and go see what cancer does to someone. Really go look. Then come back and tell me you could wish that on anyone, even someone believed to be a terrorist.
A lot of people have been vehement about how Megrahi should die in jail, because of what hes convicted of having done. However...The ?Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) has stated that it has found no less that SIX points of concern regarding that conviction, and that they believe it to be unsafe. So I will say this. It is absolutely incumbent on us as a society, to ensure that if we are to demand that ANY person die in jail, that weare as sure as we can possibly be that they are actually guilty. Six points of concern says to me that we really don't know if Megrahi is guilty or not. So can we all stop demanding he rot from the inside out, as if thats some kind of perverse justice...and determine if he actually IS responsible in some way for Lockerbie? Because if hes not...then who is? Six points of concern...six...that cannot be allowed to stand. That has to be investigated. Because it creates the very real possibility that the real perpetrator is still at large. The families of the Lockerbie victims deserve to know the truth, once and for all. Megrahi's conviction is so shaky that it indermines the credibility of what those families have been told. In the end, they still dont have the answers they need.
In any case, the idea that he could have done it alone, in a vacuum, without the orders of his Government (that would be Gaddafi, btw...) is ludicrous. He would have to have been issued orders. So locking him up, but not going after the men who gave the orders, is hardly justice.
Rant Move De-Activated.