Monday, December 21, 2015

Searcher

SearcherMalek opened his eyes again and stared at the dust motes playing through the warm ray of morning sunlight, swirling like microscopic leaves in a river current. "Why are we here? I mean seriously, how did we get so far away from home? From things familiar? And you know I'm not just talking about what we've just eaten for breakfast!"

"I think I want to tell you a story," Alani said, sipping her tea with a distant look in her eyes as if she hadn't even heard him.

Malek chuckled. "Yeah okay, sure; as long as it isn't one I've heard a dozen times already!"

"There was a man once," she continued, nearly interrupting him. "I shouldn't mention his name, especially not here. Let's just call him 'Searcher' for now. He was everywhere, in mind, and he always was looking for something... though he didn't quite know what that was. But he ventured to all the faraway places in search of it: Mountains, valleys, cities, fields, islands, rivers...."

Intrigued by this change of mood in his ordinarily blunt and not-so-reflective sister, Malek poured more water into both their cups, kicked his feet up on the wooden table, and sat back to listen.

"As this Searcher traveled, he got better at knowing where to look; he became more and more aware of life. As for why he was searching, all he knew was that the longing came from deep within him. Like a hunger it ate at him, burned him to go on. Any mode of travel would do... and he found that there are lots of them."

Outside the inn, a horse plodded down the muddy lane, its belled harness jingling in lazy rhythm with the occasional shouts of an old woman hawking her wares in an unintelligible dialect.

"Like traveling whilst smashed in-between a couple of crates and the edge of a cart that's been tied way too close to the stinky ass of the ox that's drawing it!"

This comment caused a corner of Alani's mouth to turn slowly upward. "Yes," she shuddered, "Like that. Anyway, as I was saying before you so rudely interrupted--"

"I was just--"

"Shush."

"Fine," he smirked, picking a piece of tea leaf from his teeth.

"So this Searcher traveled the world using every means imaginable. He explored for years, decades even, until his whiskers grew grey and his back bent crooked. Still, in the end he found nothing. Nothing at all."

Malek squinted, waiting for the punch line. His sister lit her pipe and gazed pensively out the window. "And?" he finally asked.

"And what? That's the end of the story."

"Well that's stupid."

"I know you are but what am I."

He let out an exaggerated guffaw. But the story had unnerved Malek, and unbidden thoughts were flooding his mind. Of screams in the dark, of those words their father had forced them to memorize before he would let them flee that final, fateful night....

Malek placed his mug down on the table, nearly knocking it over, and strode abruptly toward the door. He paused before walking out. "You're wrong, you know."

"Am I?" His sister said.

"This is different. We'll find her."

"Am I?" She mocked, a dark look in her eyes.

"Shut up. And yes, you are. I know we'll find her."

"...am I?"

On his way out, Malek slammed the door shut a lot harder than he'd meant to.



Monday, December 14, 2015

Gyreshark

Gyreshark by Gaines PostA muffled series of thumps resounded from the north wall. Heath's pulse quickened. The ship must be entering the gyre already.

Hastily he wrapped his sleeves up to the armpits with nylo wire and then tied it off. Removing the helmet, he squirmed into the jumpers, one layer after another. They felt tight around his muscles. He flexed his elbows until the coils loosened a little, then put on the gloves and helmet and picked up his spear. More thumps were coming from the hull, with increasing frequency. It was now or never. Or at least not until next pass around Littlerock.

No one was around to watch the boy in his ridiculous garb as he went up the access ladder to the broken old ceiling lock, climbed inside, and began cycling open the hatch to the sky.

An alarm sounded. Heath did not hesitate. He had been expecting it, and the adults were all too afraid to do anything about it anyway. Pushing up on the hatch, he stuck his head into the wind and peered around him.

The surface of Littlerock lay several kilom'ers below the ship, appearing a hazy purple through the thick atmosphere. All that solid earth, Heath thought. But even more on Bigrock.

The rush of air against the helmet was deafening. The ship was deep in the gyre already, and the sargaca clouds were all around, whipping along the air currents in blurs of dark green. One ripped past his head close enough to make him flinch. He heard the thumps and scrapes against the hull as the ship plowed into cloud after cloud of the moss-like substance. The plant matter slid across the solar panels spanning the craft's mighty wings, and made a staccato pinging sound where it was getting trapped in the forward food grills.

Gyres were regions of rotating wind currents created by the complex system of coriolises around Littlerock. Most were semi-permanent eddy zones chocked full of snared sargaca, as well as the myriad flora and fauna that used the stuff for food and cover. Long ago, the crew had realized that the only way to sustainably feed themselves was to steer the ship through the gyres and collect what biomass they could scoop up. Once clear, they would retrieve the captured sargaca from the food grills, and then process it in the lab to extract proteins, gases, trace minerals, and so on.

Heath scanned the gyre, on the lookout for sudden movement. Humans were not the only creatures feeding here.... 

(To be continued.)



Thursday, November 19, 2015

Saar'bone

Saar'boneIt took the members of the Vairr'on all the next day to decide what to do. Jannina stayed at home with her parents. They asked her endless questions about the saar'bone, and she did her best to answer truthfully. In the end they were even more confused than they had been that morning, when they had climbed out of bed without having had a wink of sleep. 

Sometime in mid-afternoon, the fog cleared and the sun broke through the low clouds to shine down on the garden. Jannina's grandfather came walking up to the hut. He looked many years older than he had the night before. 

He sat them all down in the family room, and Jannina's mum served hot chiyet. They listened as he told them what had been decided. 

The attack of the Til'chagga had been unnatural, unlike anything that had ever happened throughout the history of Aalmuvai. The consensus was that it had been the forbidden sounds from the saar'bone that had attracted the giant sea creature, and most of the Vairr'on had wanted to condemn Jannina to what they deemed a just punishment: Transport to Chamma'Nyva, along with an apology and a promise that Aalmuvai would be more vigilant in future and thereby prevent anyone from ever making such forbidden sounds again. 

Jannina's grandfather had fought against this, and had even begged the rest of the Vairr'on, he said, for a different outcome. His proposal was that Jannina instead be exiled, in secret. This, he had argued, would remove the threat to the village's wellbeing without condemning the young woman to slavery or death. He had argued that his nephew's family would take her in, faraway in the western reaches of the Yon'naal Forest, and that he would make sure that she never returned to the east coast of Krr'chamma again. 

They had listened to him, and had agreed that if the matter could be kept secret, then Jannina could perhaps start a new life. After much discussion, it had been decided. 

Jannina listened numbly to her grandfather, and to her dad's outraged protestations, and to her mum's terrified weeping. 

She did not say a word the whole time. The events of the past few days played over and over in her mind. She just sat there in stunned silence. 


Exiled. She was going to be exiled. 


Wednesday, October 07, 2015

The Hunt

The HuntOlion watched his men writhe at the greening inside of them that was infecting, growing, lumping long-ways up from their wrists and on past their elbows. The newer recruits were still not used to the treatment, and were shaking their arms or sucking frantically at the wounds in the back of their hands, biting down hard to keep from screaming. This would only speed up the process, Olion knew. So he said nothing. 

It was called Vimbremma, commonly known as blade-edging or simply "greening," and was something the High Lords had invented in the Gardens of Myet'Na more than a century ago. They had perfected it over the decades, and by now not as many men died from it as had once been the case. 

The plant fiber from the initial injection would continue charging up the canals between skin and muscle, breaking through knotted flesh like a vine, feeding on fat as it went. Once begun, its progress was inevitable. It would squirm into the soft armpit flesh and needle its way in every direction from there; deep into organs, brain, heart, through the groin and knees, straight through to the eyes and toes. The fibrous growth acted as an energy sink, reinforcing muscle and bone, and preventing fatigue by taking a beating in their stead. In effect, it made the men's bodies faster and stronger, able to run long distances at speeds that rivaled that of a pa'mat, and which did not slow after sunset. 

Vaardvir had administered it to them when they first set out from the city, three and a half days ago. It had sustained them until that afternoon, when their veins had gone black. Exhaustion followed, as always, so Olion had called for a halt so that they could be given a second dose. Treatment took about an hour. 

He scanned the men with dispassionate eyes. They were well-trained; even the new ones knew better than to groan or whine at the bite of pain. The old plant fiber in their bodies would eventually dissolve and pass, staining their stools and urine black, as well as the veins in their arms and legs and even faces. Olion signaled to Vaardvir, who nodded and barked at the men. It was time to go. The hunt was on. 

Friday, September 04, 2015

Morning Ritual

Morning RitualHe awakens. As always, his eyes open to a view of the small round portal in the gray ceiling overhead, the room's only source of light. Once again he stares mesmerized at the fantastic towers of green cloud, climbing skyward in a dozen different shades. For the hundredth time his mind compares them to the giant trees that loomed just outside his bedroom window when he was a child.

He blinks a few times, rubs the sleep from his eyes, and promptly forces himself to leave the warm oblivion of the blankets. Swinging his feet down to the hard metal floor, he stands and dresses quickly.

A gust of wind batters the outpost so hard that for a moment it feels as though it will be torn from the rocks and hurled down the cliff face to tumble into the volcanic crater below. sing the familiar panic, he limps over to his makeshift sink: A plastic basin gel-taped to a gravity filter recycle bucket.

After brushing his teeth and washing his face, he heats up a cup of coffee-flavored water and settles down to go over a summary of the night's readings. According to the data, nothing out of the ordinary has happened since he checked it the night before; there are no chemical spikes or other burps that might suggest molecular life. Of course not. After nearly a year, why would anything change?

For the thousandth time, he thought about how ironic it was that he was stuck on this godawful hellhole of a planet, completely alone and too far out of the way for anyone to visit even by accident. He, who had championed the right of free scientific assembly for so many years.

Shaking the self-pity from his head, Dr. Saul Togdee resumed his morning ritual -- a routine that mainly consisted of clinging to discipline; of using repetition and habit to form a shield wall against the creeping tendrils of insanity. Imagination might be the mother of discovery, but out here it was a deadly, deceptive bitch that forever lurked behind every waking hour and threatened to rend his soul in two.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Eyes

Eyes"I would give anything to be able to see you," Dahlia whispered.

"I know. Me too." Kaikos pulled her closer, and for a moment Dahlia let herself sink into his firm, confident hold, utterly immersed in his masculine muskiness.

Like any other day, tomorrow had been approaching for years; not even the great Ma'shaa could halt the march of time. She knew this, of course, and had been prepared for the inevitable ever since she was a little girl. Still, that knowledge did nothing to quell the fear and uncertainty that churned through her body and gave her dangerous thoughts of running away and hiding in the mountains.

Everything would change. Everything.

"My mother said this morning that she dreamed I would be approached by the Amethyst," she whispered.

"A bold choice that would be. You'll be known as 'Dahlia the Radiant,' and your kinfolk will happily bask in the purple glow of your majestic presence!" Kaikos teased, a stray finger tickling her ribs.

Dahlia elbowed his hand away and pinched his shoulder hard, eliciting a chuckling wince. "And you'll be known as 'Kaikos the Black,' after the callousness of your wry sense of humor!"

"Black wouldn't be so bad, actually."

"Are you an idiot? Black would be the worst. It can never touch the light! You'd be forced to cross the Sea of Truth, and if that didn't kill you, you'd have to live in exile with the other Black-chosen in a land without color. It would be absolutely dreadful."

"I know, I know, I was just kidding," Kaikos soothed, but there was a faraway tone in his voice. He kissed her gently on the forehead. "Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere, baby girl. Who knows? We might even get the same eyes tomorrow."

Dahlia turned her face to find his lips, and for a time they were lost in a world of taste and scent and touch. As she made love to her man, she imagined him as he had been only a few weeks previously, before the Submission: Gorgeous and strong, with a smile that melted her heart and a pair of deep brown eyes always dancing with life and passion.


Later, while listening with her head on his chest to the gradual slowing of his heart, Dahlia wondered what the world would look like through amethyst eyes. 


Friday, May 08, 2015

Alternate

AlternateThey say there are multiple universes, and that only energy and our own perception keep us locked within this one. That if we just learned to truly see, or created a big enough explosion, then we could break out.

Well, I've tried to see, but no matter how far I go or how many modes of travel I experience, I continue to feel just as blind as I did after Zoƫ died.

Now I'm old, and time is running out. I need to be with her again; it is an absolute imperative. Even if it has to be through the eyes of an alternate me, from another life, in a different time, against a mirror reality.

So, I'll have to settle for option B: A giant explosion. One bigger than anything this universe has known since the Big Bang.

It has taken six years, but the preparations are just about all in place. The hard part has been keeping the nature of the experiment from the many very keen minds that have been involved in the planning. I have succeeded, for the most part.

One small problem has cropped up recently, however. It turns out that Taarsworth, from the theory team, has a six-degrees connection with Zhang, one of the engineers. The chances that they would ever bump into each other and actually talk about this very secret project are slim at best... but still.

I'll have to take one of them out. Tonight, before I change my mind. Too much is at stake not to.