Fiction Circular 3/15/19

§00. Editor’s note: links affixed to author/publisher’s name will redirect to author/publisher social media, links affixed to story/article titles will redirect to the site whereupon the named piece is archived. The ‘authors’ section focuses on lone individuals who publish their own literary work, ‘organizations’ section focuses upon independent presses, lit-mags, e-zines and other literary organizations who publish fictive work of multiple authors and ‘literary ephemera’ focuses on non-prose non-fiction literature, such as certain poems, news and art theory articles, reviews, interviews and critiques. All author/publication names arranged by alphabetical order (including ‘the’).


§01. Editor’s note on criteria for inclusion: a publication is considered ‘independent’ if it is self-contained and sustaining, that is to say, if it does not rely upon the staff, organizational prowess or financial backing of large corporations, academies, governments or other large entrenched organizations. For example, Sink Hollow Litmag will not be included on the list, not due to the quality or lack thereof of their work, but rather, because they are supported by Utah State University (and thus, are not independent).


§. AUTHORS

From Shreya Vikram, Paper Doll, by Shreya Vikram. A phantasmal and cautionary digression on art and emotion.

The heart, you see, is a deceitful thing. Its blood will choke you as fast as it gushes with life. In the end, it’s your heart that will guide the knife to your own throat.

 

— Paper Doll


From Steve Hart, Promise of Shaconage (pronounced Sha-co-NAH-hey), a novel in serialized form. One of the most interesting new literary projects I’ve yet come across. Highly recommended.

The river teemed with danger.

Timpoochee sensed it and was, suddenly, unsure about it all.

Water was Timpoochee’s love. The river, the long man, running from the tops of the mountains of the blue world to the great salt water was the beginning of all life. The water feeds his rich land, tapped by tall, stately pines which sway in the wind and moan soft, low protests to the disturbance…

 

— Promise of Shaconage, Act 1: The Water


From The Dark Netizen, Purpose. A (very) short horror story.

“I noticed you. That proves you are unusual,” said the Scarecrow; “and I am convinced that the only people worthy of consideration in this world are the unusual ones. For the common folks are like the leaves of a tree, and live and die unnoticed.”

 

— Purpose


§. ORGANIZATIONS

From 101 Words, The Visitor, flash-fiction by Renate Schiansky. Anticipation and diffidence. Feels like a story half-told. Like so many flash-fiction pieces, I wish it were longer.

“Everything must be in perfect shape for him! She vacuums the carpet and swipes the tiles. The doorbell rings. Her heart beats faster.”

 

— The Visitor


From Fictive Dream, Being The Murdered Professor, by Cathy Ulrich. On a death in a family and life thereafter. Curious in that it is written in the style of a eulogy, but to the dead, rather than the living. There isn’t much in the way of a resolution but, perhaps, that was the point.

The minister will stand at the front of the chapel. He’ll barely need the microphone clipped to his lapel, his voice rising like riverflow. He’ll read the words of Matthew, Mark, John, Paul. He’ll say this song was written by a man who lost everything, have the congregation sing It Is Well With My Soul. The minister will relate to your death through the words of men, the minister will fill the chapel with the words of men.

 

— Being The Murdered Professor


From Flash Back Fiction, From Darjeeling, With Love, by Kiira Rhosair. The tale of beleaguered field worker. The story, like many of Flash Back Fiction’s published pieces, is accompanied by a audio reading of the text. Ms. Rhosair has a novel forthcoming.

“Uphill, lush rows of foliage are speckled with faded cotton saris. Her sisters in suffering have moved on. She wonders if one might have a drop to spare. Neither her legs nor her voice will carry up. The country is free but she is not, trapped in the mazes of this place the sahibs call Heppi Balli.”

 

— From Darjeeling, With Love


From Flash Fiction Magazine, A Touch of Glass, by Rob McClure Smith. A tale of a deranged man who believes he is made out of glass. I don’t agree with the illusioned man that we are “all glass” but many people are certainly more brittle than they might outwardly appear. Additionally, Mr. Smith’s prose is very good. Looking forward to more of his work.

“You think a mirror lies?”

“A window is not a mirror,” I informed him.

“We are all glass,” he said, looking very serious. “The slightest touch of another breaks us, and we return to nothing. You are a glass man for I see right through you.”

 

— A Touch of Glass


From Monkeybicycle, An Imaginary Number, by Sian Griffiths. A whimsical tale of a mathematically talented girl who encounters waltzing beings from another planet.

“That night, she danced with aliens. They spoke to her in math.”

 

— An Imaginary Number


From Public House Magazine, Solstice (1998), by Dan Klefstad. The story of a seemingly normal man who works for a extraordinary being, a alluring and mysterious vampire named Fiona; however, problems arise when another vampire, the cold and aristocratic Søren Fillenius, arrives at their residence.

A fantastic work. Highly recommended.

“Fiona never spoke with me about anything like this. She’s only 230. I assumed she’d be fine as long as I set my alarm each night before dawn. My voice cracks: ‘Fiona expects to die before you do?'”

 

— Solstice


From Reflex Press, Have We Got A Story For You?, by Al Kratz. A flash piece wherein a fly named Notorious is slain and creativity is embraced in all its undulations, its peaks and pitfalls.

“Why should the dull get light? We shove notes into our back pockets and judge the end of the storm.”

 

— Have We Got A Story For You?


From Surfaces, A Good Thing In Bad Shape by Shane Jesse Christmass. A short tale of a hard-scrabble American couple living fast in metropolis. Mr. Christmass wields a unique, quicksilver style that, to my knowledge, bares few comparisons. *best of the week

“A great dome full of machinery … intricate mechanisms … molten metal.”

 

— A Good Thing In Bad Shape


From Terror House Magazine, First Day In Hell, by Dior. A black comedy of a hapless souls argent passage through the fiery deep. The story is quite humorous, though the writing feels a bit rushed. In my opinion, the author has quite a promising career ahead as a social satirist.

The man came across another person for the first time since his arrival. It was a man hanging from a medieval-style gallows, but his eyes were open and moving. “Hello?” the man asked, as more of a test rather than a greeting. “Hello. You’re new, I assume,” the hanged man replied. “Yeah, I just got here,” the man replied, still hopping from foot to foot. “How long have you been up there?” “Since 2006,” the hanged man replied with a sigh. “Why are you down here; you seem like a normal old man,” he asked, looking up at the elderly man dangling from the rope. “Well, it’s a long story. When you get to reception, ask the Devil if you can use a computer and Google John Money; that’s my name. That will tell you all that you need to know-”

 

— First Day In Hell


From The Arcanist, Lucky Albert, by K. C. Shaw. A tale of a man who is continuously assailed by a mysterious assassin and yet remains completely and impossibly unscathed. Things are not as they seem…

“Someone tried to kill me!” Albert joined a group of his followers and accepted the first of what he expected would be many pints. “I was on my way down the Varner Fell when a boulder tumbled in front of me. It missed me by inches!”

“Just an accident, unfortunately,” someone muttered.

“Oh yes?” Albert said, instantly belligerent — his defining trait. He swaggered over to the man who had spoken, an elderly shepherd with a dog under his chair. “That’s the third time this week alone I’ve had an accident.”

 

— Lucky Albert


From X-R-A-Y, Now He Sees Shadows, by Gregg Williard. On George W. Bush, Heinlein and art.

“I appreciate your point of view,” he told me. “But many Americans do not enjoy  modern art or space stories. That’s what makes our democracy great.  And why the enemies of freedom hate us.”

 

— Now He Sees Shadows


§. LITERARY EPHEMERA

From New Pop Lit, How To Change Literature, by Karl Wenclas. A short update on NPL’s still-congealing literary model, which they dub the “3D Story.” Very interested to see its debut (and if you’re a author or avid reader then you probably should be too).

“EVERYONE involved in the literary game in any way needs it– including at the highest levels, which are filled with caretakers and functionaries as much as literary artists. The scene is starved for a new kind of product– akin to the automobile business in the early 1950’s before the arrival of the Corvette, the Thunderbird, and the Mustang. (Especially had the only models available back then been stodgy Studebakers and Ramblers. Which is the condition of today’s established literary world.)”

 

— How To Change Literature


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Archive Obscura: A List of Small, Independent Literary Publications

Editor’s note: this list is still being compiled and will be updated semi-regularly. Names of publications arranged in alphabetical order (with numbers preceding letters). Links will be added shortly. If you are a member of one of the organizations listed and you wish to be removed (or if you are not and wish to be added), email us at logosliterature@yandex.com, or contact our administrator.


101 Words [@101words]

Channillo [@_Channillo]

Defiant Scribe [@Defiant_Scribe]

Drunken Pen Writing [@drunkpenwriting]

Ellipsis Zine [@EllipsisZine]

Fictive Dream [@FictiveDream]

FlashBack Fiction [@FlashBackFic]

Flash Fiction Magazine [@flashficmag]‏

Forge Litmag [@forge_litmag]

gn0me [@gnOmebooks]

Gray Matter Press [@GreyMatterPress]

Hagstone Publishing [@HagstonePub]‏

Idle Ink [@_IdleInk_]

Jokes Review [@JokesReview]

Literally Stories [@LiterallyStory]

Lunarian Press [@LunarianPress]‏

Monkey Bicycle [@monkeybicycle]

Okay Donkey [@okaydonkeymag]

Reflex Press [@reflexfiction]

Sinister Grin Press [@SinisterGrinPre]

Spelk [@SpelkFiction]

Story Shack [@thestoryshack]‏

Surfaces [@SURFACEScx]

Terror House Magazine [@terrorhousemag]

The Arcanist [@The_Arcanists]

The Copybook [@CopybookThe]

The Crusader Magazine [@TheCrusaderMag]

The Dark Calls [@The_Dark_Calls]‏

The Molotov Cocktail [@MolotovLitZine]

X-R-A-Y [@xraylitmag]


More publications will be added as we find them.

Fiction Circular 2/5/19

Editor’s note: Links affixed to author/publisher names will redirect to author/publisher social media; links affixed to story/article names will redirect to the named story/article.


INDEPENDENT AUTHORS

First up, Andrea Nicosia published a untitled short story concerning a dream.

A dire battle, and I was fighting. — A. Nicosia

Jason Simon published, On Returning, a fever dream rumination on social isolation and personal transformation.

-my heart no longer felt affection for these alien people and their barbaric rituals, their trivial matters of fleeting importance or their malevolent, false gods. — On Returning

Noah J. Wayne published the long-form short story, Convict. A story of one woman struggling within a partially automated prison. Highly recommended.

“Five minutes have been added to your sentence due to disobedience,” the guard said. — Convict

Sara Codair published Are We Like The Phoenix? A steampunk flash-fiction concerning volcanoes and time-travel. Whilst the plot and characters were interesting, it suffered from the perennial problem which afflicts nearly all flash fiction: being too short.

Even over the rhythmic growl of the ships engine, Lisbeth heard thousands of micro gears churning away. Of all the arcane devices she possessed, this one was the most powerful. — Are We Like The Phoenix

Stumbled across Vic Smith‘s 2018 short story, Caged, a gritty crime thriller.

He’d got Frank out of Dartmoor, and had to stand guard over him in this dingy flat and wait for orders.

They hadn’t come. Whatever the plan had been, it had failed. — Caged


INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS

From Cheap Pop, Sanctus Spiritus, 1512 by Sarah Arantza Amador.

The camp cried and prayed, and she sat in her cage, focused on the smell of sea brine and the cook’s meaty neck. — Sanctus Spiritus, 1512

Also from Cheap Pop, Still Life With Prairie, 1860, by Natalie Teal McCallister.

Little girls be brave, brave as your mother. Little boys be meant for the earth, let your blood water the prairie and come alive again in the red of sunset. — Still Life With Prairie

From Coin Man Stories, Puzzles, Part 1, by José Alves de Castro.

– And now, for 200 points: Find the difference!

The audience stared excitedly as the contestants probed into the two universes looking for anything that might be different, each of the contenders searching differently for the tiniest changes. — Puzzles, Part 1

From Flash Fiction Magazine, Dead by Joe Cappello.

Martin Aurely was dead inside. It wasn’t physical, but a persistent feeling that there was no feeling. Where there is no feeling, there can be no life. — Dead

From Hagstone Publishing, Let Me In by Michelle Simpkins.

She can deal with the fingertips scuttling over the glass window of her front door. She can pretend they are tree branches scraping the house. She doesn’t mind the muddy footprints on the porch. If she doesn’t look too closely in the morning, she can tell herself an animal visited during the night.

It’s the voice that sends her diving under the blankets with crawling skin and clenched teeth. — Let Me In

From Jokes Review, Tropicana On Steroids by Sean Trolinder.

“You don’t drink juice from a needle.” — Tropicana On Steroids

From New York Tyrant Magazine, I Called Shotgun When You Died by Christopher Kennedy.

I come to understand eventually: There is no sun. There are no stars. The coast is never clear. — I Called…

From Reflex Press, Night Swimming by Susan Carol.

She could not swim but we still swim for her. Search the ocean for her and find her only at night. — Night Swimming

From Spelk Fiction, Roachburn, 1908 by Neil Campbell.

In the village of Roachburn, all blinds are drawn. The pregnant woman cries night and day. Another woman cries. A mother and an aunt cry too, behind walls buffeted by winds across the moorland. — Roachburn, 1908

From Terror House, Moments, Part 1 by Chika Echebiri.

I feel my shoulders slump as I begin to weep softly, thinking that Richard could be lying helplessly somewhere, seriously wounded or even dead. — Moments, Part 1

From X-R-A-Y, Blood! by Oliver Zarandi.

I remember, he says. Your life is one filled with tragedies. I may order another soup. — Blood!

LITERARY EPHEMERA

From Ghost City Press, Bird Bereavement by Alisa Velaj.

Morning was slow to come,
with a lonely canary in the other cage,
now facing the empty one in front.
Oh, how long we waited for our canary to sing!


Thanks for reading.

If you have recommendations for inclusions in the next LOGOS fiction circular, or wish to submit work to LOGOS, feel free to contact our administrator.

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Time-Eaters

I don’t have no problem.”

Sure seem like you do.”

He shook his head, a fractional gesture, noticeable only due the couple’s proximity.

Well, I don’t. Was you what started yappin.”

She folded her arms below her breasts, turning slightly away, staring at nothing, muttering, “Fine.”

Yeah. It is. Why you being this way, Lyla? Ain’t never was like this between us before. Now, all a sudden, you’re constantly screwing up your face, hmph-ing all over the place, snapping at me for no good reason, constantly tryin ta start something…”

Ain’t try’n ta start nothing.”

Good, cuz there ain’t nothing to start.”

She made an expression that was midway betix the spitting-upon-of-disgust and the-self-indulgent-sigh-of-petty transgression. Harmon Kessel finished his frozen yogurt, threw it in the parking-lot trash can and turned to his girl with a expression she could not place and then fished out a cigarette and stuck it between his blood-red lips and stood smoking and watching the gulls turn circles in the thermals above the pavement.

It was one big cliché. A stupid and boring one, Harmon thought to himself with mild irritation. This venomous exchange and the countless ones that had gone before it. He was not a intemperate man but his reserve – like as every others – had its limits and in Lyla’s constant scrapping he was finding his. He blew a circle of smoke up and out over the parking lot before the ramshackle plaza, grinning-slight, proud he’d remembered how.

We’ve had this conversation before, Bluebird, and before we had it, we heard it.”

She turned to look at him from the corners of her eyes. He didn’t like that. The way she side-eyed him as if he weren’t worth the fullness of attention, as if he were merely a speck of colorful paint, floating at the terminus of all perception.

What are you on about?”

It’s the same argument I always hear from couples – that everyone hears – whether its from memories of my parents or from the parents of my friends or from my friends, newly-wed, or from some book or movie. I’ve heard it and so have you. I reckon people have been hearing it since they was able to do so. People arguing bout nothing. Eating up time. We’re time eaters. Time eaters what pay no mind to whats on their plate. That’s our problem as a species.”

She cracked an awkward smile, frailer and less broad than it used to be. He dearly missed the way she used to smile, a little slice of moon with the twin suns of her dark coffee eyes shining above it.

Anyone ever tell you that you’re strange?”

Harmon took a drag, considering. Nodded and spoke flatly.

Bout once a week nowadays.”

Can’t say I’m surprised.” She was flipping through her phone now, less than half-listening. Harmon took another drag, his expression falling into a drab blankness. He’d meant the statement as a joke. She used to laugh at that sort of thing, at his dry, off-kilter humor, driven by flat overstatements of the commonplace. Just two years ago she’d have been cackling like a hyena. Now she couldn’t seem to tell when he was being serious or not. Harmon thought maybe in him some fault lay for that; maybe he was too serious, too tense on the thread of life, like as his father had said. He never smiled anymore. It was just his way. One of the gulls swooped down to the parking lot and pecked a greasy hamburger wrapper that some litterbug had left behind. Prodding with its bladish beak til it found a fry. As Harmon watch it abscond with its prize and flutter up into the shine he wondered why he couldn’t feel sadness. Given the situation, it seemed appropriate; like as it would be the normal response. For all Lyla’s accusations of peculiarity, Harmon had always considered himself a relatively normal person. Average in most ways. Average height, average looks, or maybe, a little above average looks, average job ghostwriting with under average pay, average build, maybe leaner than most. Lean but muscular. It was only when it came to his mind that any peculiarities began to manifest themselves, odd turns of phrase and archaic words which pleased his ear and so oft poured from his lips; ruminations on the state of things that seemed beyond all ken, save his own. His grandfather had once said that Harmon spoke like a man that were unweaving a secret loom which only he could see. The random girls at the bar thought it was “sophisticated,” their boyfriends “pretentious,” Harmon’s amiable acquaintances just said he “talked funny.” He took a long drag of the fervid Fortuna and thought on the phrase “amiable acquaintances.” Most of what he had that were social were such. He reckoned he didn’t have any friends. Not anymore. None save Lyla. Only she was different. Friend and lover. Sweetheart since high-school. A bond worked for nearly 12 years. Most of the others he’d withdrawn from. He liked his solitude and hated hypocrites. Despite the shelling, his snail-like ways had never caused him any trouble, like some he’d knew who’d moan about being misunderstood. Most people weren’t hard to understand and if one found oneself alone it was only for two reasons: because one were worse than all or because one were better and didn’t seek to lead. Harmon knew he weren’t the latter as social self-ostracization were merely the plaything of the moment for him, no different than changing a tire or scaling a blue gill. Just another thing to do. But he wasn’t too sure about the former.

He looked away from the gull. Back to his girl.

She was still on her phone, drifting towards the passenger-side door.

I’ve gotta meet, Serena.”

Right, right. Art show.”

Harmon finished off his cigarette, dropped it to the blacktop and crushed it out beneath his heel with a faded serpentine hissing and then got in after the girl and drove out of the frozen yogurt shop where they’d shared their second kiss, the gravel sputtering beneath the ceaseless, half-deflated wheels of the battered 1990 Ford Escort Hatchback.

He looked over at her and smiled.

I had a good time with you. Been too long, Bluebird.”

Yeah.” She replied without excitement, gaze still fixed to her phone, as if afraid to look up. He guessed she was still talking to Serena or one of her other art school friends he’d never met.

His smile faded and he drove the rest of the journey in silence, smoking and tapping the ash out the crack of the window and watching it sputter in butterfly whorls into the oblivion-warp beyond the ambit of the roiling machine.

Fiction Circular 9/26/18

FLASH

From The Dark Netizen, the supernatural revenge story, Highway To Hell.

“Now, he was bringing hell to the demon…” —Highway To Hell.

From And Miles Before I Go To Sleep… Daughter’s Surprise by Ramya Tantry.

“You sacrificed your wishes so that you can fulfill mine.” —Daughter’s Surprise

From Heart In Print By Jaya, Where’s My Master?

“Has the master been abducted?” — Where’s My Master?

From Iain Kelly, ROXY.

“Glitz and glamour away from the gaudy Strip and the drug-riddled suburb slums.

The waitresses. All young, slim, white. Wearing just enough.” — ROXY.

From X-R-A-Y Magazine, Theme Park Suicide by Teddy Duncan. A grim tale which shows how even those who seem to have given up on life haven’t given up on human connectivity. Duncan’s work was excerpted from a as-yet unpublished chapbook.

“I just really didn’t want to feel alone when I died, no matter how fucked up it is if I was going to do it I needed an audience.” — Theme Park Suicide.

Also from X-R-A-Y Mag, The Broken Teeth Diaries by Joe Bielecki.

“We used to be in a mouth but were evicted by a fist in the winter outside of a bar by a bouncer.” —The Broken Teeth Diaries.

From Gone Lawn (issue 30), Bird Bones by Texan author, Tara Isabel Zambrano.

“One day, at work, he died of electrocution from a faulty device— his limbs twisted like the blades of a fan.” —Bird Bones.

The Story Hive is back in business with Med Bay Snippet #6. An interesting sci-fi, though you may want to catch up on parts 1 through 5 before reading part 6.

“There it is, that dirty humor that keeps us all alive. That and the air, the pressure, the heat, and the food.” —Med Bay Snippet #6.


BOOK-LENGTH WORKS

From hidden gem, Gn0me, Under Forests of Futility by Rasu-Yong Tugen, Baroness de Tristeombre. A collection of poems by the author of A Natural History of Seaweed Dreams and Songs from the Black Moon.

“Vast lattices of black shale engulf us while we sleep. Primordial roots hunch over, as if in prayer. Arching acacia and star pine whisper spectral apprehensions. Black opal rains submerge everything permanent.” — Under Forests of Futility.


LITERARY EPHEMERA

From The Rational Arumentator, Victory Against The Formican Hordes by Gennady Stolyarov II, a poem.

“Deep in the crevices where there is scantly light,
Formican hordes amassed, antitheses of right:
The tyrant queen, attendant sycophantic knaves,
Vast quantities of servants – or compliant slaves –
Not even one savant among them to protest
Antagonistic ploys to rouse their dormant nest.
In wanton disregard of property and tact alike
At my abode they militantly sought to strike,
Past every antechamber to the kitchen went,
Detected every speck pursuant to its scent,
In swarms outrageous antics perpetrated,
Blatantly coveted the food refrigerated!”

—Victory Against The Formican Hordes, first stanza.

Lastly, from Cristian Mihai has a short guide to writing in the form of The Definitive, Increadibly Short, Easy-To-Follow, No-Bullshit Guide To Blogging.

“-stop complaining and punch those damn keys.” — The Definitive etc Guide To Blogging.


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Fiction Circular 8/24/18

WEEKLY FICTION | compiled by KAITER ENLESS


FLASH FICTION

Over at The Dark Netizen, several pieces of flash fiction most notably, Lights In The Water. I’ll be perfectly frank that most flash fiction feels under developed; too airy for public consumption. Simply writing something should not predispose one to put it up for others to read. However, Netizen’s excellent piece baffles expectations with a emotional twist ending. Some much from so little! Also from the Dark Netizen, No Entry, another (very) short piece.

We’ll certainly be interested to see what he can do with longer works where he has more time to build upon characters and themes.

The Story Hive published, The Weight Curse, a short tale about a haunting, tea and, as the title suggests, a curse. Certainly seems like good groundwork for a more elaborate and detailed story.


SHORT STORIES

Longshot Press has a fascinating and sad story entitled Lawrencium by Liz Kellebrew. As I have stated before and will continue to state well into the future, the beginning of any story is the most important part, for if you fail to capture a reader’s attention at the first, they will read no further and then it will not matter how interesting or well-developed the rest of the story. This is a principal Ms. Kellebrew has taken to heart for her story begins, “There was a giant jellyfish in the St. Lawrence River-” I’m hooked already (Why is jellyfish? How is jellyfish? What does it mean?!).

Recommended and the Logos pick for Best Of The Week.

You can find more of Kellebrew’s work at her website: lizkellebrew.com

Speaking of jellyfish, Jellyfish Review has a peculiar story entitled Dump Truck by Robert Long. The plot follows a pig who is observed getting aroused by trash; I’ll not say it is a pleasant read but there is a clever metaphor here that I shant spoil for the prospective reader.

Terror House Mag has a fantastic story this week in The Crowman by Charlie Chitty. Something like a fusion of The Crow and The Mothman Prophecies. It would have been our pick for best of the week but it, far too often violates the dictum: Show don’t tell. That being said, it is still well worth reading. TerrorHouse senior editor Glahn’s darkly hilarious White Dwarf is also well worth a read (even if you aren’t big on fiction, take a gander at the cover image). If we gave out a Most Bizarre Of The Week award, White Dwarf would easily be top contender. You can find Glahn’s Twitter here.

X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine published a excerpt from Drift by Chris Campanioni, entitled Born Under Punches.

“As a rule, I strive for lucidity in loneliness-“

Drift stands out for its stylistic uniqueness, a Delilloesque stream of consciousness which conveys speed and emotional intensity. It is only a excerpt and for this reason can not be evaluated of its own accord given that it is meant to be read as a part of a much larger piece. We can however say that it certainly accomplished its promotional goal; we’re quite interested in reading the full text upon release.


NOVELLAS & NOVELS

I have started going through my old stack of paperbacks and discovered some treats which I had either never read or never finished. One of those I had finished but only read once was the tepidly received Hannibal Rising (2006, Delacorte) by Thomas Harris. Reading it through a second time I liked it much better. Even if it is fairly scattershot and a little too sparse in sections (especially as concerns Hannibal’s uncle), it is stylistically, my favorite Harris novel.

“Night heron revealed

By the rising harvest moon –

Which is lovelier?”

Hannibal Rising, p. 145.


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The Photographer’s Dilemma (I)

Ariadne Campbell scoffed.

“It’s… really quite dreadful. He’s talented, clearly, but it’s just so… grotesque.”

The woman’s companion, a bulky man with golden hair, dressed in a blazer that was far less expensive than it looked, folded his arms took a step away from the painting. He scanned the composition for a few moments and then returned his gaze to Campbell.

“I have to disagree with you. I think it’s lovely. No, that isn’t the right word. Striking.”

“You’re far too accommodating, Calvin; you never like to say a negative word. No spine beneath all those muscles.”

“It’s not that I am afraid to critique, it’s just in this I find nothing to critique at all. It’s magnificent, really.”

“It’s shock-drivel. I mean, rape… really?”

“Are you sure all that faulty ire isn’t just a result of Lynder Partridge getting top-slot and you getting… well, nothing.”

Some art reviewers from the local papers walked by, sizing up the massive canvas and it’s disconcerting contents. They stroked their stubbly chins and scratched out some notes and chattered amongst themselves about the latest cinematic releases and celebrity scandals.

“You seen the latest Captain Omega film?” A pudgy, balding man with a windbreaker inquired to a young, starry eyed Asain woman who stood beside him. She shook her head mane, “No. Haven’t seen them, superhero movies are rather… I don’t know I just don’t find them interesting. They’re all… it’s like the same film over and over again. There is no dramatic tension because you know the good guy will always win. You know one thing I was thinking about was how morality is handled in these films, superhero films, action films generally,” the fat man nodded blankly, he wasn’t really listening, didn’t really care, his eyes scanned the room, seeking out the all-stars from the world of the arts; there was always a scoop, if one was keen enough to but find it. The woman droned on, “So like, they’re always just like good and noble and whatever which is fine and all except that, ya know, they’re actually vigilantes. I mean, think about it, that’s what superheroes are, really. If someone dressed up in a mask and a cape and went around beating up criminals we’d all think they were crazy.”

The fat man turned to his companion with a knowing glint in his eye, “Lady, we pay good money to watch the mistresses of inner-city thugs throw tampons at each other; I think we’re all crazy.”

The woman gasped and turned to her friends to relay the horror she had just witnessed as the fat man cracked a grin and moved up stand between Campbell and Calvin, examining the elaborate drawing in between darting glances to the aloof duo.

“You’re the famous Ms. Campbell, aren’t you? The photographer, right?”

Campbell was surprised and flattered to be recognized; she tried in vain not to let it show through.

“Yes. Do we know each other?”

“Nope. But I know you know. I’m Ashton Derby,” he flashed a well-filled notepad in front of her face, “Been following your work. Pretty stuff, very pretty stuff, you’ve got a keen eye.”

“Apparently you do as well,” she smiled smugly, luxuriating in her burgeoning fame, “Are you an artist yourself?”

“No, not me. Ha, can barely draw a stick figure. I just like writing about it. I fancy that’s what the shrinks would call ‘cathartic release.’ Or voyeurism… or something like that.”

“What do you make of Partridge’s work; his drawings?”

“They’re… different. They’re kinda… I dunno… disturbing.”

Campbell turned to Calvin with triumph shinning in her eyes, “See, I told you he wasn’t all that.”

“Oh no, it isn’t that I think they’re bad, I mean, it’s like a car crash, it’s horrible but I can’t look away, that’s kind of a testament to the artist, don’t you think? Whole reason I came to this gala event was to snag an interview with the elusive Lynder Partridge, guy never answers my emails, phone calls, nothing. He’s a hermit. Ya know, I tried looking him up… weirdest thing, there are no photographs of the guy anywhere, online, in papers. Must be camera shy.”

Campbell’s heart shrunk. She was so sick and tired of hearing that name. So sick and tired of everyone praising such a rank amateur. This should have been her event. HER gala. If only… if only…

Now it was Calvin who looked victorious, he arched a brow in his friend’s direction as if to say, “Still so haughty?” Campbell crossed her arms about her breasts and bite her lip and then scoffed at the fat man.

“I can’t believe it. I can’t believe our collective tastes have reached such lows. Decades ago this city used to be the art capital of the world and now… THIS? This is what passes as art? This ghastly aberration?! Lynder Partridge is nothing more than an over-hyped elitist.”

Darby was taken aback and for a moment he stood in stunned silence; he’d not expected such a sudden deluge of passion. Calvin only sighed, it was not the first time he’d witnessed such an outburst. Before either of the men could respond, a new voice fluttered over the air, low and scratchy and strangely sonorous.

“I’ve been called many things, Ms. Campbell, but never ‘over-hyped’.”

All heads turned to behold a man of middling height and pale flesh standing before them. The intruder wore an off-white suit, expertly tailored, a red tie and a jet black overcoat, tipped at the collar with expensive furs and leather loafers that clattered musically upon the gala’s marbled floor as the cane that followed with them. His features were sharp and angular and his opaque blue eyes reflected the light in prismatic sparks that were diluted from the thick and serpentine whorls of smoke that roiled up from a daintily clutched cigarette – half smoked – which he held in his left and leather gloved hand.

Darby’s face lit up as he saw the man, his long-sought quarry as Campbell’s own fell in dismay. She’d not actually expected to meet the man when she’d accepted invitation as Partridge was notoriously aloof. Some who knew him reported that he was partial to month long vanishing acts; where he went was anyone’s guess.

“M-Mr. Partridge! Hello, I’m-”

“Ashton Darby. Newspaper man. Culture reporter for The New Daily Standard. I read your column,” the fat man waited in vain for the artist to comment on the quality of his writing; when he did not, the light faded from his eyes and he twirled the notepad with agitation, “And you are Ariadne Campbell, and this must be your friend,” Lynder turned to Calvin with the faintest trace of a smile and extended one of his thin, leather-gloved hands.

“Calvin Mercer, pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Partridge.”

“Likewise.”

“Do forgive my friend here, she sometimes gets a little carried away, I’m sure she didn’t mean-”

“I meant absolutely everything I said,” Ariadne snapped hotly, her gaze narrowing and her mouth going taunt. It occurred to her suddenly that this chance encounter opened up a whole world of new possibilities for her career. Perhaps, she thought, Darby would even write her up in one of his columns! If there were to be a public spat, surely someone would pick it up. One of the tabloids. One of the screamsheets. Tantalized, she steeled her resolve.

“Your art is dreadful.”

Darby nearly gasped while Calvin simply shook his head in resigned vexation; why, he thought, could she never behave herself? There always had to be a show…

Lynder’s face registered nothing. His facade as placid and impenetrable as a Venetian mask.

“You’re a photographer, are you not, Ms. Campbell?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“What I should fancy is truly cause for dread is the photographers’ dilemma; the photographer is a documentarian through and through. He does not create, he captures creation.”

“All art is documentation.”

“This is true. Art is documentation of one’s own creation, not of anothers. The photographer who does not arrange his or her own scenes, why,” Lynder finally turned towards her, it was the first time he had looked directly at Campbell since he’d entered the scene; his head level, piercing blue eyes unblinking, “She wouldn’t really even be an artist at all, but merely a voyeur, a vessel for the real actors to communicate. A medium.”

Campbell froze having noticed the gender switch – he to she – she’d heard the words but they did not instantly register in her mind. When they had sunk in she groped for a retort but there was nothing other than the rattling of the crowd like a great and baying pack of hounds echoing all throughout the hall surrounding and her own rapid cluttering thoughts which slithered up from the viscous recesses of her frantic mind. She had never considered such a position before; she knew he was wrong, of course, indeed, had to be, but she could not articulate why and in due course began to question her own conviction. I’m not… I’m not just some documentarian. I’m an artist. Just like you. Only better. Far better. You think you can talk down to me because you’re on the rise? Because you’ve got a little bit of local fame? Because you got the gala slot and not me?! I’ll show you, you arrogant bastard. I’ll show you!

Campbell made a showing of carelessness, sighing and turning from Lynder as if he bored her, though, in truth, it was to escape his gaze. Most people looked off at regular intervals when they were talking with someone but Lynder’s eyes never wavered, he was focused wholly upon her, expectant, she assumed, of a reply. She didn’t like it. Didn’t like him or his weird eyes or his fancy coat or his preened dress clothes beneath it. Didn’t like the gala and the insect clattering of the crowd.

She wanted to get out. Needed to get out.

“This conversation bores me, I’m leaving,” she thought that might do it, that that would stir some hint of passion from him, rouse some semblance of anger. But there was nothing. His cold, blue eyes and his sharp pale face remained wholly immobile, unfazed.

Momentarily, Lynder inclined his head respectfully, sincerely, “Good’day, Ms. Campbell.”

It took considerable willpower for Campbell to keep herself from running from the gala. The bastard had won, she thought to herself, and what was more infuriating was that she was fairly certain the battle was entirely constrained within the confines of her own mind. He had won today, but she vowed she’d never allow him the upper hand again.

*

 

She scanned Darby’s column as soon as it was released. There was no mention of “Ariadne Campbell.” Ariadne cursed herself; I should have made a better impression on Darby and a worser impression on HIM. I should have… I should have…

“Something on your mind, Ms. Campbell? You look worried.”

She turned to her model where he stood in the albescent loft, naked and holding a fig. Putting down the paper upon her worktable she looked up at the man and shook her head.

“It’s nothing. Hold the fig a little higher.”

“Like this?”

“Yes, good. Good.”

Only it wasn’t good. It was a stiff and cliche sub-par Renaissance-era facsimileism. It was deplorable. She looked at the digital camera reel, picture after picture of the lithe, muscular young man in various poses of heroic splendor as hackneyed and messageless as the splicing on-to of Roman columns upon a Brutalist facade. She had attempted Homeric Joe McNally and ended up as just another amateur floundering at the fathomless edges of the new. She sighed and leaned back, setting the camera down with a dull clack upon the worktable and sipped some lukewarm bourbon from a small, squat wineglass. She hadn’t been able to find any of the damned shot glasses, she wondered idly if Calvin had thieved one for his upcoming flat-party. He’d better not have…

“Ms. Campbell, I could really use a stretch, like I said before, I don’t mind posing a little over-time, and we’re,” he looked towards his mobile phone’s clock, “ten minutes over, “But I’ve been doing this pose for almost twenty minutes straight, neck is killin’ me.”

“Yeah. Sure. Fine.”

She was only half listening. Frustration’s savage increase consumed the whole of her mind. She couldn’t find her shot glasses. She couldn’t get a gala slot. She couldn’t get featured in any of the big name art columns even if she was being recognized by their writers. She still couldn’t think of rebuttal to Lynder’s rebuke and as a consequence had decided to forego her typical photographic methodology of streetcrawling for real-life scenes in favor of a elaborate and meticulously crafted designer-fantasy shot. What bothered her most was that the draftsman had not spoken out of anger, but out of concern and curiosity. His low and sonorous voice echoed still.

Art is documentation of one’s own creation, not of anothers. The photographer who does not arrange his or her own scenes, why, she wouldn’t really even be an artist at all, but merely a voyeur, a vessel for the real actor’s to communicate. A medium.

A medium… is that all I really am? A vessel? She wondered with horror, her hands closing tensely upon her sunless knees, her lips and brows trembling with emotion. The week had begun so promisingly and now everything felt wrong. Fate was taking the piss.

“What’s the matter?”

“I don’t pay you to psychoanalyze.”

The model threw up his hands in entreaty, his mouth going taunt, eye mired in confusion and a mild but growing sense of irritation.

“Yeesh. Sorry. Don’t know why you’re in such a foul mood today. I was just worried about you-”

“I don’t pay you to worry. I pay you to do good poses for my work. A task at which you have miserably failed. Look at this. It’s cartoonish,” she held up the camera reel screen for him to observe, “See. Look at this.”

“Those were poses you asked me to do.”

“Well, you didn’t do them very well, did you?” The question was rhetorical. She knew they were bad and she knew he knew they were bad. She just wanted him to suffer for it. He wasn’t an artist but he’d been around enough artists to know what was aesthetically pleasing and what was schlock. It was his fault, she thought, anger rising with her body from the couch. HIS, not mine!

“I don’t know what else you want from me.”

“I want you to leave. You’re fired.”

His eyes went wide, “What? Why?”

“Just get out.”

“An explanation for my CV would be appreciated.”

“I said get out.”

He turned to leave, hurriedly dressing and snatching his phone up from off the counter of the exposed kitchen island. He paused at the door and turned to look at his former boss with equal measures of disappointment and disdain.

“You ever wonder if you can’t get into the big galas because you aren’t talented or if its just because you’re a unbearable bitch? Food for thought. Have fun with the rest of your life.”

She was expecting an infuriated slam but he closed the door gently behind him. As his feet clattered down the old tenement hallway Ariadne moved to where he’d stood before the counter, as if to envelope his afterimage. Some indeterminable amount of time clocked away into nothing before she inhaled deeply and poured herself another shot of brew, sipping the golden drops in quick, nervous gulps, cursing her former employee in her mind. You never really cared about my work. You probably only cared about me because of money. Maybe you wanted to fuck me. Well, now I’ve fucked you. Bastard. 

Outside the cars tore at the concrete and a flock of birds she’d never seen before squealed by, as if in protest of gravity’s suzerainty. The city screamed and she screamed with it.

 

 

The Farm and the Forest (Part III)

~3~

All Seems Calm Before a Storm

And so it was that the crotchety wild goose came to be a member of the Farm. The biggest of the farm geese fell all over themselves to earn the favor of the exotic foreigner, retrieving his grain for him and expanding his place in the pen to accommodate his size. Wherever the new goose went, he was followed by a honking crowd of admirers. At the tail of this feathery train, the young farm goose plodded along sadly. It appeared he had been forgotten by his new friend. Whenever he tried to approach the new goose, his bigger brothers would hiss and flap their wings, eager to protect the peace of their new leader as well as their accorded place, and he would retreat to his small spot in the rear of the pen, sinking ever further into angst and self pity. It was not long after his acceptance onto the Farm the crotchety goose began to circulate the notion that his gaggle should be allowed in as well.

Like me, they are big and smart. Like me, they have much to give to the farm geese community, a community long deprived of well deserved consideration. What is more, they are my family. It is cruel and unusual to separate families from each other for any reason. Why, just the other day, one of my dear cousins was dragged off and slain by a fox! A fox, I tell you, which is practically an evil dog! It is more than fair, it is owed my kin! And so I say we should let them in!”

Very soon, all of the geese and chickens were in agreement, though the ducks were quiet on the matter, and tended to stay clumped at the back of the crowd during these meetings. Ducks fear conflict and loud noises. But they were concerned about their place in the pecking order; farm geese were bad enough, but wild geese were even bigger and decidedly louder. The other farm birds paid them no mind. They blustered and bawked and made a fuss. They hemmed and hawed about convening a council and making themselves heard. But bird folk are long on words and short on deeds. As flock creatures they are wary of leaving the pack and standing alone. No one goose or chicken was willing to approach the dogs and demand a meeting with the pigs. Sensing a dissipation of emotion, the crotchety goose became agitated and insolent, hissing and snapping at the farm geese who followed him, which in turn caused them to snip and snap at each other.

One late afternoon, just before bed time, the crotchety goose was down by the pond, pecking at water bugs and feeling sorry for himself.

There is a solution, Mr. Goose, and it is right under your beak…”

The crotchety goose flapped and trumpeted in alarm.

Who said that‽ Who is there‽ Leave me be or I will call the dogs! I’m a member of this Farm, you know!”

A youngish rat crept out of the long grass, surveyed the sky for prey birds and twitched her ears, listening for the plodding pant of a dog. Convinced of her safety, at least for the moment, the rat continued on.

You need a spokesbird, a messenger, to approach the dogs and pigs. We rats are your best friends on the farm. Indeed, it is we that secured your place here.”

The goose lowered his head to eye level with the crafty rodent.

Then why don’t you approach the pigs and dogs, friend rat, and make the cries of the often ignored geese heard?”

The rat, now standing on two legs to seem taller, gathered her scaly tail betwixt her claws and laughed nervously.

Would that I could! And if I could I certainly would! And though I should it’s understood that dogs hate rats because rats are good. So even though a good rat would, a good rat knows she never should!”

The goose was thoroughly confused by this torrent of word and rhyme. The rat, comfortably back in control of the conversation, continued:

Which is to say, this message must come from a goose. And I think, if you’ll think back, that there is, in fact, a perfect goose to carry this message to the pigs. Why, it is none other than the young goose who first helped you in…”

Who‽ Which goose‽ I am here because I am big and smart! I made a place for myself here! I owe no little farm goose any respect or, or, or anything! I owe no animal a thing! I deserve to be here!”

The rat smiled kindly, though her whiskers made a derisive twitch.

But of course, of course, magnificent Mr. Goose. Pay it no mind. I shall find a spokesgoose to carry the message of your kind.”

And with a twitch and flash, the rat was gone. Twilight was fast approaching, and the crotchety goose loathed the admonitions of the guard dogs, so he waddled his way back to his little throne in the goose pen.

Later that night, the rat crept into the goose pen, down the rows of snoozing birds, to the corner where the nearly forgotten young farm goose was trying to fall asleep. He was sad and sore, as no one paid him any mind and he could not find enough fresh straw for his bed. The rat watched him for a bit, then whispered softly into his ear hole.

Eloquent, courageous, young master goose. The time has come to carry the truth. The time is here for you to share the worries and concerns of your people fair. Approach the good king master goose, and offer your support to his just truth. Volunteer to speak to the pigs on behalf of him and all of the geese. Do this and you shall be elevated above all the other farm geese. This. I. swear.”

And with his message sown in the brain of the half drowsed goose, she crept away soft and silent, back to the haunt of her kind.

Morning came clear and bright. The young farm goose awoke, more refreshed than he had felt in days. He had dreamed dreams of grandeur and acclaim, with his very own train of adoring geese following him with love in their hearts and respect in their eyes. The young farm goose roosted a plan in his little bird brain. He knew that the crotchety goose was always late to rise and slow to get his own chores done. He tended to wait for a farm goose to offer to do them for him, and the young goose eschewed his own tasks to be the first in that line. The crotchety goose grunted in half-hearted appreciation at the offer of the young farm goose and promptly went back to sleep. As soon as the young farm goose was done with the extra chores, he went back to the crotchety goose who was circling around a coterie of young lady farm geese, complimenting their feathers. The young farm goose waited until his cousins scuttled off with fits of embarrassed giggles, then approached the prospective king of his kind.

Great and wise goose, I wish to volunteer my beak for our cause! I will carry your wise message to the pigs so that our people may take our rightful place on the Farm!”

The crotchety goose looked down with barely concealed bemusement upon the young farm goose for a moment, then dismissively assented to his request.

I don’t see why not. My ideas are so brilliant that it does not matter if some ignorant farm goose babbles them out to the pigs. The deeper wisdom will shine through. I therefore choose you, no, I command you to bring my message!”

The young farm goose was overjoyed at this fresh opportunity to impress the crotchety goose and raise his stature in the flock. After hastily finishing his own chores, he nervously approached a patrolling dog and requested an audience with the pigs. It was granted to him, and the following day he came before one of the council pigs. As the young farm goose stumbled his way through his memorized speech, the youngish rat whispered deviously into the pigs ear. The pig nodded slowly then interrupted the young farm goose.

Yes, yes, well said young master goose. I have heard enough to become intimately acquainted with the plight of the Forest geese. Indeed, it is a story I know well, and it breaks my heart. I shall convene a council and carry your message to the animals of the Farm. You are a credit to your kind.”

With that, the young pig turned away, followed by the youngish rat who continued to drip honeyed words into his ear.

And so it was that the most momentous meeting of the animals of the Farm was set into motion by a crafty rat, a naive goose, and a misguided pig.

An opportunity for good is an opportunity for evil, and intentions rarely matter.

The Farm and the Forest (Part I)

~1~

How It All Began To End

It all started when a crotchety goose and his gaggle of ruffians, hailing from parts unknown, landed in the Pond on the edge of the Farm. The Pond was divided by the fence, leaving a small portion just outside the bounds of the Farm, its bank up against the edge of the Forest. The small flock did not stay long, as a young German Shepherd saw them land. He hollered out to his sister and they both ran pell-mell to the pond, barking loudly and scaring off the foreigners, who flapped wildly up over the fence and into the edge of the Forest. As his gaggle spread out warily looking for seeds and bugs, the crotchety goose surveyed the Farm with malice and jealousy in his heart. He wanted to swim in the pond, gorge on the grain, and find some nice lady farm geese with which to cavort.

A young goose, all white and rather small for his age, watched this kerfuffle unfold with awe and curiosity. He always had to wait in line behind his bigger brothers and sisters for his share of grain. He stayed up late and listened to the whispering of the rats. He hated the dogs and their scary teeth. But most of all, he hated the rules of the Farm. Why should he have to wait his turn for grain? Who were the pigs to tell him where to sleep and when to eat? Why should the horses and sheep tell him where he could waddle? So this young goose was angry, sullen, and lonely, and when the big goose and his wild gaggle landed in the pond, his heart soared. He was too slow to get there before those meddling dogs ruined the fun, so he moved along the fence, hoping to catch another glimpse of the big, tough foreigners.

Just as the crotchety goose was about to turn away, he heard a rather squeaky honk. There was a young farm goose waddling along the fence, bobbing his head up and down excitedly. He made his way slowly over to the fence, wary of any dogs seeing him. The young farm goose hopped from one foot to the other. Unable to contain his excitement, he honked once, then cowered in fear when the big foreigner hissed and flapped his wings in anger.

Quiet, you silly fool! Do you want the wolf dogs to return and chase me away again?”

The farm goose was embarrassed.

I-I-I am sorry, foreigner. Why have you come to the Farm? From where did you come? Oh, I have so many questions!”

The crotchety goose looked down on the Farm animal and sensed an opportunity.

And I may have many answers for you, young one. But to get, you must give and…”

The farm goose was taken aback.

You know of the Rules of the Farm, foreigner?”

Without missing a beat, the crotchety goose continued on haughtily:

I know many things, youngster. I am a wild goose, and we are the smartest of all creatures. If you would like answers, you must bring me gifts of grain and seed. Go now. I will be waiting here after the sun goes to sleep.”

The farm goose shifted nervously from foot to foot.

Um, ah, see… the Rules say no wandering at night…”, the foreign goose looked disappointedly away, wuffling from his nostrils in derision, “But! But, I am the freest of the Farm geese, and I do not follow the Rules, if I do not want. I will bring the grain!”

And with that, the young goose waddle-flopped merrily on his way. Later that night, he snuck out of the goose pen, gathered up some fresh grain and barleycorns, and quietly made his way back to the pond. It took him some time to see the big fellow staring intently at him through the slats of the fence.

Did you bring me what I deserve?”

Yes!”, the farm goose’s loud, squeaky honk caused the foreigner to hiss angrily. Quieter:

Yes. I brought you fresh grains and barleycorns. The best the Farm has to offer.”

As soon as the young farm goose laid down his gift, the foreign goose snapped them up greedily, leaving none for him.

Mmm, delicious. Exactly what I deserve. Now, tell me youngster, are there things you would like to know?”

So many things! So very many things! What is it that-”

The foreigner cut him short.

Then you must find a way to get me a spot in that dreary little hutch you call home.”

The farm goose was nonplussed. Not only was he crestfallen at this unexpected turn of events, he had no idea how he could get a foreign goose a place on the Farm. The crotchety goose stared at the farm goose hard, swinging each eye to look at him in turn, then turned and waddled over to the unfenced part of the pond where his gaggle slept comfortably with their beaks tucked under their wings at the edge of the dark and wild Forest. The farm goose watched him go, then made his way back to the hutch. Narrowly avoiding a young pup on patrol, he snaffled a few more barleycorns and settled down to contemplate as he fell asleep.

Interesting… very interesting…”, a dark, fat rat said quietly to himself before scurrying off quickly to the haunt of his kind.

Sometimes, to get what we want we have to give more than we have.


[Part two coming soon…]

Reclaimer: Episode 3

Miner crouched silently, his hand tracing liminal rhythms across the smooth stone-face which barred his way as if, from the elements, he wished to draw some deep and forbidden knowledge. Behind him, 400 stood with her arms folded about her breasts, her blond brows slightly furrowed as she watched the peculiar ritual unfold, attempting and failing to take the measure of it.

The stone over the mine-shaft had collapsed after the steel brace-wall had given way, Miner noted, but it had not collapsed entirely. A small pin-point of light shown through the amniotic blackness like a ghostly candle. At length he drew back slightly from the lump of rubble and gestured to the pinprick in the darkness without turning.

“That’s my lantern,” 400 noted soberly, “Unity energy cell still going strong; was one of the old issue ones, they just don’t make um like they used to; newer issues fail twice as fast.”

WE don’t make them like we used to – the praeteritum – UNITY at large makes nothing; only components produce; yet how often we repeat the fiction that every action transgresses the bounds of production itself and that the source is the whole, that no center for the work itself is to be found. From birth we have been taught that everything which is accomplished is for the whole, by the whole, of the whole; yet one cannot abstract the act from the man – the solis organize, the praeteritum build and the foras luxuriate. The state of things is undressed, but none dare brave to see, as if gazing thereupon were some bawdy exercise, a destructive Eros propelling the subject towards thanatropic density. Truth is a thing of the past; failing knowledge of this, the silent fiction of the present transmogrifies itself into the “facts” of the future. 

Miner was surprised by the sudden surge of vivid bitterness which arose through the marauding haze of his mind, saturated as it was with ana-gel, now subsiding. He was particularly confused at his inner choice of words, he felt their weight and understood their meaning but knew not their origin. He scribbled away in the whirring clockwork of his mind as might some fevered novelist penning his magnum opus under the auspices of the maddening moon.

So many words do I utilize without a firm understanding of their origins. My people, our very name, ‘praeteritum,’ wherefrom did this notation come, so peculiar and distinct is it’s nature; so alien, yet so intimate… 

Such sudden realization disturbed him greatly. He waxed grateful for 400’s earlier ineptitude, had she not nearly gotten them both killed, had the shifter not triggered his exo-gel-system, had he not descended to the abyss, trammeled through the darkness and traced the laylines of the stone he might not ever have struck upon the precise mixture of component parts to assemble the puzzle, the pieces of which he had carried about his brain for the entirety of his life without ever realizing it. Discovery of the puzzle left him rent, as if a hole had been torn somewhere within him, tracing out the dimensions of some realm beyond into which he feared to tread.

Balling his fists, steeling his mind and unfolding himself from his ritualistic pose, Miner set himself to the task of excavation and hoped the puzzle’s nagging would leave him to the stern detachment of work.

*

The earth-shifter’s sensors detected a peculiar form moving towards it at great velocity. It’s metrics took the precise measure of the thing which bounded across the smooth grey silt, exposing the brown-grey earth below, yet the measure did not match it’s pre-programmed index. The mapped object should have been human but it’s velocity was such that “human” as conclusion faltered.

Unity Com Officer V-4 turned with excitement from her console and spoke with dire purpose to the Magister Von Karr.

“One of our earth-shifters has detected a biological anomaly, Magister. You may wish to take a look.”

The Magister turned from where he stood over the edge of his desk, a container of ana-gel cupped delicately between his meaty hands. He was a large creature, ungainly and possessed of a stuttering voice far higher than his considerable size suggested. He moved slowly, like a wayward seal, gel dripping from his nose and his whole body trembling under it’s influence. At length he managed the arduous task of perambulating to his co-worker where she sat in her stim-suit, plugged into the control chair. He wished to think of her as his subordinate but such thought was anathema – he knew that if such bio-patterns were assessed he’d be summarily refigured, he might even, he inwardly gasped, lose his post. Such terror prompted another dose of gel and with it a quiver of muscles reposed. When at least his nerves were sufficiently suppressed he bent to study the screen.

“What zone is this, V-4?”

“Uh… the shifter is in… Zone 8-83, Magister. One of the newer praeteritum mines.”

“W-well, um, what do you want me to do about it?”

“You’re the one’s who programmed them so I thought-”

“I have no idea what that thing is – g-goodness it’s fast!”

“It looks… like a… man.”

The speeding humaniod figure dashed ever closer, the silt spraying up in it’s wake as if the very ground were being rent and liquidated beneath the creature’s majestic passage. It was now only around 100 feet away and a voice, vaguely human, sounded from the being. A warcry.

With one quick look back at the helpless, wheezing Magister, V-4 furrowed her brows and bit her lower lip, the only semblances of stress which could express themselves from the haze of the stim-suit bioflow.

“I’m actuating defense systems. Terminate exigent threats.”

“Y-yes. Good. Can’t have anyone i-interfere with the-”

“TERMINATE!”

The magister cowered at the crackling outburst of his typically docile cohort. Through V-4’s visor he could hear the crackling affirmation of the earth-shifter, “Executing protocol.” Through the crystalline com-screen, the great mechanical spider dispensed, from it’s upper thorax, fired off a volley of bullets at the encroaching runner.

Then, a strange noise, like an electric-buzz and the ear-ringing after a grenade blast. The bullets tumbled backwards through the air as if blown aside by the breath of some fathomless beast as the humanoid figure’s velocity suddenly doubled and it shot up into the very face of the earth shifter with such force that the construct groaned, legs buckling neath the entropy of the assault. As the shifter fell to the silty ground a tan, scarred face, half-masked by a digimetric-visor, emerged into the machine’s sensor cams. He smiled and grabbed the cam with both hands, screaming.

“I’m coming for you, ya hear me, Unity scum? I’m coming for you all! First I’ll burn your mechs. Then I’ll burn your homes. Next I’ll rape your lovers, right before your children as you look on in horror, your legs, broken – arms, mangled – jaw, distended or torn free – unable to fight, or flee or scream. Then I’ll burn them too. One big fucking pyre. One city of steel-frames and marrow. A charnel tomb for charnel minds. But you filthy, backstabbing sonsofwhores… you needn’t worry, I ain’t gonna kill you lot, I’ll be keeping you around for a good long while. We’re gonna have ourselves a grand ole time, right up until the very end of it.”

Then, with a wild jerk, the man crushed the steel camera-frame with his armor-plated hands as the signal clicked off into nothingness. Slowly V-4 rose from her chair and turned to Magistar Von Karr with the expression of one who has seen the risen dead.

Karr mouthed but a single word and the whole of his body trembled with the uttering.

“Eidos… Kryos.”


 

 

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