The world ended weeks ago, but it still feels like yesterday.
We used to hear about these “Revelations” these “Doomsday Prophets”, y’know, but we never really believed it. We never thought that shit was for real.
Until it happened.
Don’t get me wrong: I ain’t saying that a heavenly host of angels came down outta the sky. And the question about God… well, that’s still a point of contention between a lotta folks. But I can tell you what did happen, or at least about the things that I saw.
It’s hard to accept that there was a time before this. A time when everything was normal. We didn’t recognise normal at the time, of course. We ranted and raged and we fought each other and most of those things are still happening in one way or another.
There’s plenty of the “old world” left, of course; but most of it doesn’t work anymore. And those that do don’t work the same as they used to.
But there is one thing that I know…
Things still burn.
The old barn overlooked the old house, half-sunk now into the mud, prickle stem and stinging nettle and marsh grass all clambering for supremacy in the space between. The barn, at least, maintained some semblance of its original shape and thus, amid its creaking wooden beams and walls of faded paint, preserved a certain dignity.
The house, however, held not even the semblance of dignity. It leaned and groaned and was held together only by repairs carried out with rotten planks of wood and bits of rusted metal.
The owl that roosted in the barn was aware of the house. Every night at around the same time there came the sound of a cord being pulled and a generator spluttering into life. A few moments later, light bloomed in the dirty window that faced out at the barn, and that same dirty light flashed in the eyes of owl as it awoke to the hunt.
I look across the man at the table and he looks back at me. I can see the tiny reflection of myself mirrored in the round lenses of his glasses.
He sighs and pushes those glasses back up his nose and he inspects the complex apparatus that rests on the table; needles scribble and click as they so readily discern truth from lies.
“Let me ask you again,” the man says. “Are you the Greatest of All Time?”
There is also a cassette recorder and I can hear the tape running.
“No,” I answer, for it is a ridiculous question.
I am certain now that there is nothing left beyond the walls of this room. Or if there is anything, it’s so far away that it might as well not exist.
The man adjusts his position and glances at the scribbles created by the polygraph machine. The lines on the paper jump up and down like an irregular heartbeat.
He sighs and then he asks me again: “Are you the Greatest of All Time?”
“No,” I say. The machine whirrs and scratches at the paper. The cassette tape records.
And beyond these four walls there is only the inexpressible, endless void.
Nigel worked in the appliances store on Main. The store, Empardo Appliances, was an institution in Avalon. It was where everyone went to buy appliances, or at least, everyone who didn’t realise they could get a better deal elsewhere.
After work it was only a short drive (three blocks) across ice-slick roads, past O’Halloran’s pub where some of his workmates (Joe and David) would be spending half their pay checks on beer, until he pulled up somewhere in the vicinity of the ailing apartment building where he lived and hoped that he wouldn’t have to walk too far.
Nigel had debts. These came to him in three separate envelopes each month. He was a diligent man and so he paid these debts before everything else, which left him exactly enough money to rent his apartment and feed himself, as well as putting a little something away for a rainy day; though plenty of rainy days had come and gone without Nigel touching his little nest egg. Occasionally, he’d treat himself to a gourmet sausage.
Nigel wore a musty jacket and musty pants and these were qualities that seemed to have absorbed into the very being of the suit itself, because it remained musty no matter how many times he had the suit dry-cleaned. The dry cleaners down on Promenade wouldn’t even clean his suit any more. They said if he bought a new suit that they’d be more than happy to help him. But Nigel didn’t want to buy a new suit; he thought this suit was just fine (although it did smell a little musty).
So it was that on this wintry night he pulled into a park on the side of the road not too far from his usual spot and shut off the engine. He opened the door and stepped onto the sidewalk and right at that moment a car careened past: horn blaring, tires screaming as they struggled to maintain their grip on the icy road. For a moment Nigel thought he was witnessing his death, but then the car was red taillights fading into the distance and there was only the sound of the wind and his own panting breath.Continue reading “The 7th Floor”
Sphere Facility booting into existence…
Status Log: Event-X has occured.
Monoliths Compromised: 5,486
Automated Actions: Containment Zone Established
Area isolated, all contingencies in place.
Overall Sphere Status: 11% Dissonance
That night I had nightmare about Old Pete and his leg and Papa saying “he’s a damn fool” and being served Old Pete’s steaming hot guts on a plate and Papa standing in the doorway lighting a cigarette, fire blazing white, and Papa saying “he’s a damn fool” and the fading of my yellow and Luce standing on the rocks and the waves crashing against the rocks and the wood breaking against the rocks and the broken bodies of the Raftmakers all strung up along the shore and the sound of the screams of the man stuck by the brambles and Luce sayin’ we’re going in and Papa standing in the doorway turning to me and saying “damn fool” and lighting a cigarette, fire blazing white.
Sometimes she sees me,
Staring into space,
“Where are you?” she asks.
I blink and I’m back. The TV is on. Some jingle is playing.
Her question makes me wonder and so my thoughts rush back along those neural paths, following the intangible threads of electricity that comprise my consciousness; where was I?
I know the simple answer, of course: I was in the Ulterkaad.Continue reading “Sometimes I Go There”
It has become vogue in this day and age that before telling certain types of story you should first tell the origin story of each character who takes place in the narrative.
Starting in this way it becomes possible, perhaps, or easier—at least—to comprehend how a character “came to be a way”.
With this intention in mind, the characters begin somehow deconstructed into unformed lumps of clay or plasticine; lumpish babes in swaddling cloth.
And from these humble origins the characters become either great heroes, or villains, or sometimes neither, or sometimes both and rise up against adversity or break against it like a boat against rocks.
The story, in a way, becomes not a story about a thing but a story about a character. And we, the readers, are granted some insight into how that character was formed… how they became.
This is certainly a valid and sometimes necessary way to tell a story.
And yet… I wonder, what if we were to do away with that mode and instead chose to begin our story somewhere else. Perhaps right in its very centre, perhaps right at the critical moment at which their decisions begin to become relevant.
At such a moment of crisis—at that point of that critical mass—might we learn what we need to know about a character in a matter of moments, or seconds, or sentences?
This too would be an origin story, perhaps, but of a different nature than those which came before. No longer need we know from where exactly our characters came, or how they came to be; we are merely with them.
And in being with them, might we not come to a more immediate understanding of who that character is, not from the beginning, but a beginning.
The answer is of course we might start a story this way.Continue reading “A New Adventure”
Here he is again, you can hear him coming. Not me–no, no–I am your fearless narrator, I am your friend. But he, well… you’re going to have to make up your own mind.
Jingle-jangle, that’s the sound he makes and a whoosh as the runners of his sled carve through the snow and there is another sound, like muffled thunder, the sound of hoof beats.
“Ho ho ho!” he cries into the night and his eyes twinkle. He is omniscient, this figure all-in-red, he sees all and so he does not need to be told.
And his rugged, majestic beasts convey his sleigh through the winter’s night, a night frozen both in temperature and time, for neither of these things affect him. He sees everything. He travels everywhere. His is an ancient and eldritch magic.
Beside him, resting on the bed of the sleigh, is a gigantic sack. And the sack moves as though living things are trapped inside it, clamouring to get out. It is a disconcerting sight, but do not worry, it is simply the contents of the sack wrestling against the limitations of Euclidean geometry.
What I am trying to say is, the sack is bigger on the inside and this causes it to behave in such a way that can make it appear like it is pulsing, at times, like a gigantic human heart.
“Ho, ho, ho!” the man repeats and he tugs on the reins indicating that his beasts of burden should slow. He has come to a house at the very edge of the forest, a house resting in the shadows of the trees.
And now he exits the sleigh, one heavy boot at a time. The sack he slings across his shoulder and he stomps towards the house. Crunch, crunch.
There is a carrot on a plate on the doorstep and the old man frowns at it and kicks it away. He enters the house between the cracks in the wood, through a process referred to in some realms as thinning. Then, inside, he is whole again. He is whole and he is fat and his feet stomp loudly on the floorboards.
There, a mug of mead has been left out for him. The candle beside it burns low, the pool of melted wax glows. The old man drinks the mead, but it is not to his taste. Besides there was barely any mead in the cup at all, what a pitiful offering.
In the corner of the room there stands a tree, and the tree at least, hewn fresh from the forest in its infancy is almost satisfactory to the man in red. He goes to the tree and he brushes his fingers through the needles of the foliage.
There is only one stocking this year, though last year this very same house had three. It is hung up beside the tree, hanging from a loose thread from a nail on the wall.
The old man reaches into the sack and a thousand tiny hands clasp and claw at him. He shakes them away and removes a large lump of coal. This he tosses against the wooden floor, where it comes to rest at the base of the tree.
And then the old man passes back through the walls. He thins himself and then climbs back atop his sleigh. For those asleep in the house, this is but one night, but for the man in red it is his ever-existence. For him it is always this night, or the next one, or the next one. His existence is bound to the rituals of this night and this season.
Tidings of joy.
“Ho, ho, ho!” the old man says and grasps the reins.