The Silence & The Howl (§.28)

Continued from CHAPTER 27


CHAPTER 28


When Harmon returned to the house in the morning he found Andy’s car in the drive and a pile of boxes sitting on the front porch. Boxes filled with his personal effects. Andy watched from the living room window, his expression dour and wrathful. Harmon turned from the boxes to the window. Andy was gone.

The door burst open.

“Andy, why are my-”

Before he could complete his sentence, Andy shoved him hard in the chest, nearly knocking him off the porch.

“What’s your problem?”

“You.”

“What’s going on?”

“Think she wouldn’t tell me?”

“What did she tell you?”

“Take your things and leave, before I do something I’ll regret.”

“Be happy to, but not before I understand why you’re so put out.”

“Don’t test my patience, Harmon.”

“What did she tell you, exactly?”

“Oh you already know what she told me. I offer you my house – MY HOUSE – and you pull this shit?”

“I didn’t ‘pull’ anything.”

The air grew still and for a moment neither man spoke as storm clouds built in the distance, rumbling like the war drums of an wrathful god.

“I told you—take your things. Leave.”

“No.”

Andy’s face twitched momentarily before he reeled back his arm and caught Harmon full in the face with a stiff right hook. Harmon went tumbling from the porch, down the stairs and landed on the flat of his back in the gravel drive. He groaned and rubbed his jaw as blood trickled from his nose in tandem with the rain that trickled from the sky.

“I told you not to test me.”

Harmon rose to a knee and wiped blood.

“And I told you I’m not leaving til you lay things out. Can’t do that if you’re trying to put your fist through my brain.”

“Shut the fuck up.”

“I’m not sure what Marla told you. But whatever it was, its a lie.”

“Said you tried to force yourself on her. You denying it?”

“Like I said—a lie.”

Andy descended the creaking wooden porch stairs, body shaking with rage.

“You callin Marla a liar?”

“Every bit as accurate as callin you a fool. Fitting descriptions for the both of you.”

Andy’s face went red as he drew back his right arm and lunged. Harmon blocked the haymaker and took a wide step back, hands up in defense much as entreaty.

“I aint gonna fight you.”

“Then you’re gonna bleed.”

“Ain’t gonna do that either.”

Andy lunged once more but this time Harmon caught his arm and bent it forcefully and awkwardly behind the assailant’s back and brought him to a knee, then down, facefirst to the ground.

“Get offa me!”

“When you relax.”

“I’m relaxed. Alright. I’m fucking relaxed.”

“You don’t seem relaxed.”

“I am. I am.”

Slowly, cautiously, Harmon released the man’s arm and drew away. Andy rose, breath heavy, fingers furled, face smeared with mud, nursing his injured arm along with his wounded pride as the tatterdemalion sidewalkers stopped and starred.

An ill-kempt and middle aged man in a blue hoodie withdrew a phone and began recording, clucking to his disheveled companions who jeered and began to howler.

The bested man looked to the spectators, then to the source of his ire. Wordlessly, he barreled into Harmon with all the ferine strength his thin frame could muster, knocking the slightly bigger man off his feet. Harmon swiftly brought his arms up tight about his face, curling his body towards his attacker, nullifying the hammering, erratic blows of Andy’s knobby fists. Harmon then twisted hard, shucking tormentor from torso and rolling to a knee and springing onto Andy, hooking his left arm about the thrown man’s throat. Andy grabbed up on Harmon’s limbs in a futile attempt to free himself, gasping, choking, gnashing teeth.

Wriggling like a worm on a hook.

As Andy lapsed into unconsciousness and the electric symphony of the welkin reached its fervent crescendo, Marla, emerged from the house, terror-struck and bath-robed, and screamed.

*

The Silence & The Howl (§.26)

§.26


The four conversants sat in the far right corner of the cafe, the mechanical whirring of the fan and the clinking of cups, paper and plastic, and the skidding of heeled-polymer upon the linoleum floor, the only sounds, save the occassional puff of a cigarette or cigar.

With a broad smile, La’Far broke the silence, gesturing towards Andy.

“Harmon tells me you’re a roofer.”

Andy’s face fell.

“Used to be. Just got fired this mornin. Along with Harmon.”

“Oh. Sorry to hear that.”

Andy wearily waved the man’s apology away.

“Ain’t your fault. Just… one thing after another. Ya know?”

“I know what you mean. Some times it seems as if the universe is arrayed against you.”

Harmon nodded, taking a sip of his coffee before speaking, “Often seems that way to many people. But that’s just narcissism. At this moment there are countless insects tearing each other to pieces. There are spider-wasp larvae gorging themselves on the innards of paralyzed tarantulas. There are chimpanzees cracking open the skulls of monkeys and sucking out their brains. Our own problems rather pale in comparison.

Marla looked on, fascinated, disgusted and horrified, Andy just raised a brow in perplexity, whilst La’Far gave a laugh and knocked the ash from his cigar in the large glass tray that lay in the middle of the circular and well-polished wooden table.

*

Originality By Way Of Cliche: Kumo Kagyu’s Goblin Slayer, Vol. 1 (2016)

“Goblin Slayer was calm as he delivered this answer that was no answer. He daubed his gauntlets with blood, then pulled a liver out from one of the bodies.”

 

—Kumo Kagyu, Goblin Slayer, Vol. 1 (2016)

§.00 The first installment of the novel series Goblin Slayer, Vol.1 (2016), written by Kumo Kagyu (with illustrations by Noboru Kannatsuki), opens with a creation story; the gods of light, order and destiny are locked in a cosmic struggle with the gods of darkness, chaos and chance (how many gods attend each attribute, we are not told). In place of fighting each other directly, their contest is engaged by the rolling of die. After some time the gods tire of dice and create the world as their board and all the beings upon it as their pawns.

§.01 After the table-top inspired prologue, a knowing, introductory line, preempting the cliches to come: “You’ve heard this one before.” More likely than not, upon reading Chapter 1, a fantasy-versed reader will, indeed have heard the set-up before; a young, would-be adventurer known only as Priestess (no characters in the novel have names, only class-designations) joins a guild, receives “porcelain” rank (the lowest of the guild’s 10-teir hierarchy) and is met by three other, young, would-be porcelain adventurers—Warrior, Fighter and Wizard—who ask her to join their party on a quest to save kidnapped maidens from the clutches of a band of goblins (which are described as “-tall as a child, with strength and wits to match”). Priestess after some hesitation, accepts the offer. The party then tracks down the goblins to their lair in a gloomy cave. Venturing within the recess, the party is filled with confidence, save for Priestess, who urges caution, however, her chiding proves fruitless—shortly thereafter, a band of goblins blindside the adventurers.

§.02 In a more conventional tale, the brave wayfarers would have just barely defeated the goblins, rescued the maidens and received a bountiful reward for their pains. However, in Goblin Slayer, they all wind up dead, or as good as. Wizard is gutted with a poison blade. Warrior is slaughtered. Fighter is beaten and raped. Priestess is set upon and takes an arrow to the shoulder. Yet, just before Priestess meets the same fate as Fighter, a mysterious man appears who is “not very impressive” and donned in “dirty leather armor and a filthy steel helm.” The man, a silver ranked adventurer (the third highest rank within the guild hierarchy), decimates the goblins and introduces himself as Goblin Slayer. He then tells Priestess that Wizard is as good as dead, due to the workings of goblin poison that had lined the blade which skewered her. Wizard asks to be put out of her misery and Goblin Slayer swiftly obliges and slits her throat without compunction, much to Priestess’ dismay. Slayer then states that he is going to finish off the rest of the goblins; Priestess goes with him and together they destroy the nest and find a secret room filled with goblin children born from the wombs of human females the goblin horde had kidnapped. Priestess inquires whether or not Slayer will kill them. He says he will and she tries to stop him by asking if he would still be willing to slaughter them if they were good, to which the Slayer replies “The only good goblins are the ones that never come out of their holes,” before clubbing the baby goblins to death. After this grisly affair, the Priestess resolves (rather surprisingly) to become a proper adventurer by accompanying Goblin Slayer on his bloody, ceaseless missions.

§.03 The first thing that struck me about the novel was how original its execution, despite its abundant cliches. In GS, cliches are dutifully employed to be forthrightly subverted, but not merely for the sake of surprising the reader, as when, in a Hollywood horror film, convention dictates a cat or trusted friend be responsible for the first jump-scare so that the effect of the second may be heightened by causing the audience to question whether or not it will again be a harmless animal or friend, or some genuine threat. For example, Goblin Slayer, a skillful warrior and thoughtful tactician, would, in more conventional fantasy works, ladder his way up from the stock genre threats (such as bandits, goblins, trolls, etc) to ever greater challenges (such as dragons and necromancers) in tandem with a plot ever expanding in scope, from the local, to the demense, to the national, to the continental to, invariably, the world, and, perhaps, other worlds (spirit realms, etc). This, however, is not the case with the slayer, who adamantly refuses to engage in any activity not related to exterminating goblins. His idee fixe is so extreme that the co-inhabitants of the town near where he resides come to consider him eccentric, if not mad, and they might be right, for even when he is told that the world is imperiled by “an army of demons” he refuses to aid those who petition his assistance, saying only, “If it isn’t goblins, then I don’t care.” His proclivity, no matter how unhealthy, proves salubrious to those previously living in fear of the diminutive raiders, as the “military won’t move against goblins.” (p. 135)

Further, a character who is introduced in a like-manner to the slayer in a conventional genre-work would also be charged with the characteristics partial to fantasy protagonists; which are generally either sullen and given over to reverie (as in Twilight or Lord of the Rings), whimsical and optimistic (as the protagonists in the novels of Charles De Lint), or a straight-laced ‘chosen one’ (as in Harry Potter or Star Wars), however, the slayer bares no similarity to any of these archetypes, or the hero archetype in general. Rather, he is more akin to a professional shorn of all social ambition—a obsessive tradesman—than the prototypical knight-errant of romantic literature. This is demonstrated in the sedulous way in which the slayer’s tradecraft is highlight, as in the following passages, “‘Leather armor prizes ease of movement. Mail would stop a dagger in the dark… His helmet, the same. Sword and shield are small, easy to use in a tight space.'” Kagyu, p. 130… “‘Clean items reek of metal,’ Goblin Slayer said, a note of annoyance in his voice. Goblins have an excellent sense of smell.” p. 132.

Of further interest is the fact that his trade is not a vaunted one, but is, instead, looked down upon as the preoccupation of an amatuer (the consensus in the story is that real heroes should always seek greater glory). One can see parallels between the snobbery of the guild adventurers, and the differential treatment by real-life society between the man who goes to college so as to become a doctor, and the man who goes to trade-school so as to become a lineworker. In recognizing this, Goblin Slayer Vol.1, functions as a cleverly disguised social satire as much as a RPG homage or action-adventure.


The novel series had its origins in a online thread posted by Kumo Kagyu in October, 2012; the story was later re-edited into novel-form and picked up by GA Bunko. On February 15, 2016, the first installment of the novel series was published via SB Creative (in Japanese). A few months later, in December 20, 2016, Yen Press licensed the novels and released the first volume in English. Both a comic (written by Masahiro Ikeno) and an animated adaptation (written by Hideyuki Kurata and Yosuke Kuroda) have been made in the interim since the initial publication of the novel series, which is, presently, still on-going (with ten volumes released in Japan as of 2019).


 

The Silence & The Howl | Part 19

§.19


Harmon rang up sprawls at the break of dawn, knowing his former roommate would be up for work. In under four seconds, a croaky voice tersely answered.

“Yeah?”

“I’m stopping by to pick up my things.”

“What things?”

“Things I’d left there.”

“Oh. Those things.”

“Yeah. Just wanted to give you a heads up.”

“Ain’t here.”

“What ain’t where?”

“Your things. They ain’t here.”

“They grow legs?”

“I sold that shit, man.”

“You… sold my stuff?”

“Yeah.”

“All of it?”

“Most of it. Rest we threw ou-”

Harmon snapped the flip-phone shut. The undulations of his breath rising in rapidity. Rage subsumed the edges of the world as his fists tightened like fleshy stones, incisors grinding, eyes widening, muscles straining.

“Something up?”

Marla inquired from the corner, where she lounged upon the coach, slurping bottom shelf cereal, bed-headed and pajama’d, TV blaring rapid-fire political commentary: A fire. Elections. Immigrant rapist. Human trafficking. Racial radicals. Should racial slurs be criminalized? Father fined for misgendering son. Military tribunals. Sex scandal. Pedo priest. Revolution in the tropics. Killer droids close to home? Sometimes, the world can be a scary place, that’s why you need Lurch Gold. Mysterious man with white jacket linked to multiple slayings of local drug dealers…

“No.”

“Problem?”

“Richard.”

“Andy told me bout him. Sounds like an asshole.”

Harmon didn’t respond.

She was silent a moment and then cast her eyes to the milky bowl between her nicotine stained fingertips, as if expectant of a reply from its viscous, albescent depths.

“I had wanted Andy to take me out tonight, but he said he’d already made plans with one of his friends. Would you want to see a movie?”

Harmon starred out the window as he mulled over the question. A noisy crow flapped down from a telephone pole to the left of the tumbledown and began pecking at some roadkill. The creature’s beak scraped entrails across asphalt in a whirl of feathers the color of pitch.

“Harmon?”

“Sounds like fun.”

“If you don’t want to… its fine.”

“I said it sounds fun. What movie had you wanted to see?”

“I can’t remember the name. Its this political thriller dystopian type thing. You mighta seen it. Commercials for it, I mean. Bout this young group of survivors in a post apocalyptic wasteland…”

Her words faded into indeterminate babble. When she’d finished Harmon turned from the window.

“We can see that if you want.”

“You sure you’ll like it?”

“Don’t know. Haven’t seen it yet. Can tell you when I do. I’ve gotta go.”

“Where?”

“Out.”

As she opened her mouth and removed her eyes from the cereal bowl, Harmon left out of the house before a utterance could escape her lips and trekked across the yard, paused to watch the crow peel out the dead and bloated racoon’s heart and then seated himself within his car and drove off down the sunbaked band of black that cracked like the scales of an ancient snake.

*

The Warlord (Part 1)

Everywhere, they called him the Warlord.  In some lands he was Eshlaru in others, Issaraym, in others still, Kirnavir.   No one knew from where he came. He had a visage marred by strange scars, his scalp always shaved bare; for they said his hair would not grow upon the scars.  Some say in a lifetime of fighting under his shadow dragon banner until they turned gray, he’d never aged a day.

Now, even amidst the swirls of falling snow he rides his black horse that haughtily high steps, his barbed blade held straight out in front of him, shield ringed with spikes held at his side as he passes through the ranks of his men all beating their weapons on their shields, howling with bloodlust.  His face could just be seen through the sickle-toothed jaws that formed the mask of his helm. The Coalition of the Ascendant had pursued us even here far into the winter wastes of Itlavalus and after months of patient retreat our general had said the time was finally right. All through the long wait to fight some had lost faith and called our general a coward.  They had all long since left for warmer climes. Those of us who still remained were the best. We were far outnumbered now, but the repressed eagerness for battle was all the greater. When we had been rallied, an intense silence fell over us. Now, we could hear the massed ululating shrieking of the Coalition as they marched upon us. As they came closer we could see that even now, many of them wore little more than rags that were falling apart.  How they managed to survive such privation no one knew for certain. We supposed it was a power which only the High could have bestowed on them. Men and women alike, their faces every hue, hardly distinguishable anymore after all their fleshly bodies had endured, they frantically whipped themselves with lashes, screaming out their devotion against the outlaws of Humanity and their hate of the Hateful.

They were a terrifying force to the uninitiated and before the arrival of the Warlord, Yeleysh Issaraym, they had toppled one rich king after another though they wore rags and swore themselves to lives of humility and victimhood.  No one could seem to make sense of it, but now there was no need to. All that mattered now was to crush the life out of them on this battlefield.
The enemy knew a great fury and fanaticism, but it was the fury of the mob, not that of a man himself, or even of a band of men who knew one other.  Or even of anyone who had the least in common. That is why we had always beaten them before they had driven us into these arctic wastes with their overwhelming numbers.

We were grim and resolute now as they were fanatical and strident.  We wore bulky black armor adorned with spikes, our helmets closed about our faces.  Those who had grown strong in the service of the dark powers had eyes that glowed or were black and empty within their facemasks.  As terrifying as they were even to us, the Warlord’s presence was strongest as he led us on his black stallion. Our great war drums beat, their bass thrum felt down to the pit of the gut.  If we had not been able to feel it, the shrill wailing of the Coalition of the Ascendant might have drowned it out. They rushed at us headlong from over a mile away and somehow, their worn frames had the endurance to sustain the charge.  The mass of them had fanned out into irregular tendrils as if to envelop us, prongs of off-white and flesh tones coursing across great mounds of windswept snow. We had formed into our phalanxes in anticipation of this. Black squares that marched methodically across the white waste bristling on every side with wickedly barbed sarissas, needle-sharp lances, and long pikes.

Soon, we were completely surrounded.  The only way out now was to fight our way out.  We advanced toward their front line which we knew was probably stretched thin after so many had joined in the charge so we thought we might take advantage of their indiscipline.  But first, they were closing in quickly on our flanks and soon behind us as well. For every other opponent they had faced, this had meant total disaster within a crushing vice. The armies of great empires had marched forth only to panic as the Coalition had attacked them from every side and then perished as they discovered that the Righteous accepted no surrender from transgressors.  Once one had ever opposed them, no abasement or apology could ever appease them.

We knew our enemy, though, and kept marching in formation, even as the first tendrils of their host closed in on us.  The keening shriek of Righteous fury reached a peak as they crashed into us. At the beginning of their wave were the strongest and most fanatical, sped on by their superior devotion.  The best of them were the first to die. What made them any different from the rest, doomed them to death. It was no accident, it was what they believed was just. Even so, these ones were still the best.  The spearman next to me was just a little too slow and one of them got through. One slash of its nine-thonged whip cut his spear into multiple pieces and sliced through his armor with ease. My unfortunate brother-in-arms fell backwards spurting blood from multiple arteries, dead before he hit the ground.  I cursed in rage as I felt one of the thongs slice the skin of my forearm. The Ascended fanatic screamed back at me, its pinched face framed by filthy braids of unkempt hair. I brought down my hammer on that contorted visage with its wildly rolling eyes and its rictus of indignant rage and split it into an unrecognizable ruin a few chunks of brain tumbled out of.

Then came the rest of them all at once in a great press.  The odor of their masses, pungent even in the cold. These we held off with our outer ring of spears and began to steadily plow through them.  First the spears pushed them back and we advanced another few steps, those who tried to break through that outer barrier were slaughtered by the rest of us waiting for them just within.  And so it went all day. Like the rhythmic cries of galley oarsmen we bellowed in chorus every time we thrust with the spears, pushed further ahead, and then locked shields again. We advanced at a steady pace no matter how the mob pressed and pounded on us from all sides and all they had to show for it was a trail of corpses clad in bloodied rags trailing nearly a mile behind us, already stiff and well-dusted in snow.

We finally reached the center of the Coalition army and before us was no longer a rabble of fanatics but several orderly cavalry regiments stiffly at attention in resplendent white armor, riding pure white horses.  At their head was a grave figure, wearing an ornate plate of alabaster armor, with his silver scimitar raised in the air, his complexion almost ebony in color, his features narrow and aristocratic, his gaze fixed and intense.  Jazan Gur had led the pursuit for months and now he was there before us, under attack by those he thought were his quarry. The fanatics were still on three sides of us and as the Coalition general lowered his scimitar, the White Knights began to approach at a trot, swiftly gaining a rumbling momentum.  Jazan Gur gave out a harsh cry and the fatiguing fanatics came alive with a new buzz of fervor. They completely surrounded us again and this time they threw themselves screaming onto our bristling hedge of spears, pikes, and lances, faster than we could dislodge them, though we tried as the charging knights bore down on us.  Too late. The White Knights crashed into us with hardly any outer defense to oppose their passage into our ranks. The impact sent men flying everywhere in a great sickening crunch. Their momentum soon began to stall and they fought from horseback their silver sabres flashing back and forth. This strain was too much for the formation to hold and now the fanatics poured in through the gaps on all sides.  All discipline was soon gone, our fates to be decided in a general melee. Our now-useless polearms were dropped to the ground, everyone wielding their swords, axes, maces, hammers, and studded gauntlets at close quarters.

I saw one knight turn away from me as he slashed down with his sabre on his other side.  He started to turn back toward me but my hammer crushed him out of his saddle. With a great overhead swing I shattered his panicking horse’s spine and stepped past its twitching bulk to find its rider still stunned on the ground.  I, in my black armor of spiked, overlapping plate with a great wolf’s head carved in steel on my chest, the mask of my helm wrought with snarling fangs, was the last thing he ever saw.

I see a flicker at the edge of the vision my helm allows me and I swing without thought, honed instinct guiding my instant reaction.  A fanatic with a rusty kris knife upraised to strike flies backwards with caved-in chest and bloody mist spraying in a single burst from its upturned mouth like a profusion of scarlet fungus spores.  It was female, I think.

Then, the Warlord and his entourage of lesser demoniacs enter the fray all at once.  Moving with animal quickness even in heavy armor they dart in and out among the White Knights leaving corpses of man and steed as fast as the eye can follow, their victims often left cut cleanly in two by a single stroke.  The knights soon begin to panic and those not trapped begin to flee. Those left behind are torn down from their saddles and disappear into a dark mass even as they frantically try to slash with their sabres. The demoniac acolytes turn on the fanatics now but the Warlord himself walks in front of the army alone and points with his gauntlet adorned with razor-like projections and attached below his right wrist a crude black blade of what might have been volcanic glass but did not shine.  He bellows out his challenge to the enemy general in his harsh voice.

Jazan Gur solemnly dismounts his steed and approaches the Warlord with his silver scimitar.  The Warlord rushes towards him and soon their weapons meet in a clash that can be heard against the clangor all around.  Jazan Gur moves as swift and sure as a serpent but the hulking Warlord keeps up easily with the blinding speed of his attacks.  While they fight, a hunched over figure approaches them with the simplest of daggers. I rush towards the fray of those far greater than me to prevent this crass interference.  As I face the interloper, I see it is of indeterminate sex, with eyes that flash with feminine fury but with a hairy upper lip, with a matron’s flabby forearms and sagging shapeless breast tissue yet with a barrel chest and narrow hips.  I move to cut down the impudent Hag, or whatever it is, but I am stunned when the point of its rusty dagger stops my hammer as if I had struck a castle wall. As I nearly lose my balance the sneering creature slashes at me and I yell to lower hell as it somehow cuts through my armor and into my thigh.  I tower over my opponent that has just wounded me and yet it continues to attack quite confidently. With a loud ping I find the solid steel handle of my hammer has been severed from its head.  In the next moment I am thrown aside somehow into the snow as if I were but a feather.  I look up from the ground and to my dismay the strange Hag and the general Jazan Gur are attacking the Warlord together.  Now, he is barely able to fend off their combined attacks.

Filled with fury even as the wound in my leg throbs with agony, I take the head of my hammer and with a roar heft it with all my might.  One side of Jazan Gur’s face collapses like a melon as my heavy projectile hits its mark. He falls instantly, just like a common soldier.  The Hag however, fights on, her power inexplicably great. I begin to drag myself toward the fight as best as my furiously burning leg allows.  As I draw near, the Hag turns her head a little to take note of my approach. In that moment, the Warlord runs her through with the infamous blade on his wrist.  She gives out a shrill, grating scream heard across the battlefield as she tries to push herself off of the blade with all her might. To no avail. It sucks her back in no matter the strength of her struggles like a thirsty man tugging at a waterskin.  With each greedy glugging swallow, the contorted, hideous face grows more pale and her struggles more feeble. Finally, the Warlord casts the dessicated corpse sucked dry of life and soul aside. A rising penumbra surrounds him now like a flickering candle flame of negative light that he can barely seem to contain as he strains with his hands balled into fists, his shoulders and chest held back.

He says to me.  “You have proven yourself this day.  Will you make the Pact?”
I prostrate myself and reply, “Yes.  Yes! It is my honor.”

“Good!  It’s the only way you live now.”

He walks up to me and lays his hands on my shoulders.  In that moment, rivers of raw power he drained out of that terrible Hag flood through me.  I can hear her soul screaming with bloody terror and rage as her essence is siphoned away for the sake of empowering everything she ever fought against.  She thrashes and scratches with her whole being, until her being is no more. At first I am terrified but then I am able to let go and let the raging torrent all rush into me at once.  I am changed forever. Nevertheless the pain in my leg grows unbearable now as I come into my bodily senses again. I have had many wounds and I know something is different and terribly wrong this time.  The Warlord himself helps me to my feet and places my arm and my weight on his shoulders.
“Even now, you won’t easily survive that Hag’s venom.  We have to get you back to camp.” As I struggle against oncoming delirium, the battle rages on but the White Knights have fled the battlefield and the fanatics have been weakened by the deaths of their leaders.  The Dark Army is invigorated into a blood rage and as the slaughter intensifies, the milling swarms of white-winged locusts finally break.

As the pursuit begins, the Warlord sets me aside and gives out a harsh scream that echoes across the battlefield.  The nearest drums change beat, then horns blow as the message spreads across the whole army. The Warlord runs in front of his men, waving his sword, bellowing for them to halt.
In less than an hour the entire army is marching back to our camp.
The Warlord again returns to me and again personally comes to my aid, even though he could have anyone else do it. “No sense chasing them now.”  I am in no condition to even speak as I feel agony, bitter cold, and delirium creep through me. The brief winter daylight ends but the snowy clouds clear away, the night is more brilliant with the hard, glinting points of frosted stars and shimmering auroral ribbons rippling across the sky.  I see my fellow warriors as silhouettes against sheets of snow that sparkle like the stars even in the dark. Somehow, my state of physical shock makes the spectacle even more vivid and otherworldly. Perhaps it is also the senses granted to me through my Pact, all the better to perceive the world’s beauty.  The world begins to fragment into fever dreams as I begin to see the travails of war in the shimmering aurora veils, I manage to keep marching through heavy snow until we go over a hill that looks gentle yet concealed all our tents and horses from a distance. The warlord brings me to his own tent in the center of the camp, only bigger than any other tent to allow the officers to confer around the firepit.  He has a simple bedroll on the ground like any other soldier, though I hear he seldom uses it. In a hurry, he and a medic help me remove my armor and begin dressing the vile wound given me by the Hag. All they can do is bandage it and hope my newfound resilience can conquer the poison. Wrapped in furs on the Warlord’s own bedroll, there is nothing more for me to do but rest.

 

The Futurist Manifesto of Architecture

The speculative techno-poetic document provided below was written in 1914 by the Futurist architect and draftsman, Antonio Sant’Elia [anˈtɔnjo santeˈlia]. I have here reproduced Sant’Elia’s manifesto in it’s entirety for the prospective edification of my readership.

se-2b
‘Air and Train Station with Funiculars,’ by A. Sant’Elia (1914). One of 6 drawings included with the manifesto’s original manuscript.

No architecture has existed since 1700. A moronic mixture of the most various stylistic elements used to mask the skeletons of modern houses is called modern architecture. The new beauty of cement and iron are profaned by the superimposition of motley decorative incrustations that cannot be justified either by constructive necessity or by our (modern) taste, and whose origins are in Egyptian, Indian or Byzantine antiquity and in that idiotic flowering of stupidity and impotence that took the name of neoclassicism.

These architectonic prostitutions are welcomed in Italy, and rapacious alien ineptitude is passed off as talented invention and as extremely up-to-date architecture. Young Italian architects (those who borrow originality from clandestine and compulsive devouring of art journals) flaunt their talents in the new quarters of our towns, where a hilarious salad of little ogival columns, seventeenth-century foliation, Gothic pointed arches, Egyptian pilasters, rococo scrolls, fifteenth-century cherubs, swollen caryatids, take the place of style in all seriousness, and presumptuously put on monumental airs. The kaleidoscopic appearance and reappearance of forms, the multiplying of machinery, the daily increasing needs imposed by the speed of communications, by the concentration of population, by hygiene, and by a hundred other phenomena of modern life, never cause these self-styled renovators of architecture a moment’s perplexity or hesitation. They persevere obstinately with the rules of Vitruvius, Vignola and Sansovino plus gleanings from any published scrap of information on German architecture that happens to be at hand. Using these, they continue to stamp the image of imbecility on our cities, our cities which should be the immediate and faithful projection of ourselves.

And so this expressive and synthetic art has become in their hands a vacuous stylistic exercise, a jumble of ill-mixed formulae to disguise a run-of-the-mill traditionalist box of bricks and stone as a modern building. As if we who are accumulators and generators of movement, with all our added mechanical limbs, with all the noise and speed of our life, could live in streets built for the needs of men four, five or six centuries ago.

This is the supreme imbecility of modern architecture, perpetuated by the venal complicity of the academies, the internment camps of the intelligentsia, where the young are forced into the onanistic recopying of classical models instead of throwing their minds open in the search for new frontiers and in the solution of the new and pressing problem: the Futurist house and city. The house and the city that are ours both spiritually and materially, in which our tumult can rage without seeming a grotesque anachronism.

The problem posed in Futurist architecture is not one of linear rearrangement. It is not a question of finding new moldings and frames for windows and doors, of replacing columns, pilasters and corbels with caryatids, flies and frogs. Neither has it anything to do with leaving a façade in bare brick, or plastering it, or facing it with stone or in determining formal differences between the new building and the old one. It is a question of tending the healthy growth of the Futurist house, of constructing it with all the resources of technology and science, satisfying magisterially all the demands of our habits and our spirit, trampling down all that is grotesque and antithetical (tradition, style, aesthetics, proportion), determining new forms, new lines, a new harmony of profiles and volumes, an architecture whose reason for existence can be found solely in the unique conditions of modern life, and in its correspondence with the aesthetic values of our sensibilities. This architecture cannot be subjected to any law of historical continuity. It must be new, just as our state of mind is new.

The art of construction has been able to evolve with time, and to pass from one style to another, while maintaining unaltered the general characteristics of architecture, because in the course of history changes of fashion are frequent and are determined by the alternations of religious conviction and political disposition. But profound changes in the state of the environment are extremely rare, changes that unhinge and renew, such as the discovery of natural laws, the perfecting of mechanical means, the rational and scientific use of material. In modern life the process of stylistic development in architecture has been brought to a halt. Architecture now makes a break with tradition. It must perforce make a fresh start.

Calculations based on the resistance of materials, on the use of reinforced concrete and steel, exclude “architecture” in the classical and traditional sense. Modern constructional materials and scientific concepts are absolutely incompatible with the disciplines of historical styles, and are the principal cause of the grotesque appearance of “fashionable” buildings in which attempts are made to employ the lightness, the superb grace of the steel beam, the delicacy of reinforced concrete, in order to obtain the heavy curve of the arch and the bulkiness of marble.

The utter antithesis between the modern world and the old is determined by all those things that formerly did not exist. Our lives have been enriched by elements the possibility of whose existence the ancients did not even suspect. Men have identified material contingencies, and revealed spiritual attitudes, whose repercussions are felt in a thousand ways. Principal among these is the formation of a new ideal of beauty that is still obscure and embryonic, but whose fascination is already felt even by the masses. We have lost our predilection for the monumental, the heavy, the static, and we have enriched our sensibility with a taste for the light, the practical, the ephemeral and the swift. We no longer feel ourselves to be the men of the cathedrals, the palaces and the podiums. We are the men of the great hotels, the railway stations, the immense streets, colossal ports, covered markets, luminous arcades, straight roads and beneficial demolitions.

We must invent and rebuild the Futurist city like an immense and tumultuous shipyard, agile, mobile and dynamic in every detail; and the Futurist house must be like a gigantic machine. The lifts must no longer be hidden away like tapeworms in the niches of stairwells; the stairwells themselves, rendered useless, must be abolished, and the lifts must scale the lengths of the façades like serpents of steel and glass. The house of concrete, glass and steel, stripped of paintings and sculpture, rich only in the innate beauty of its lines and relief, extraordinarily “ugly” in its mechanical simplicity, higher and wider according to need rather than the specifications of municipal laws. It must soar up on the brink of a tumultuous abyss: the street will no longer lie like a doormat at ground level, but will plunge many stories down into the earth, embracing the metropolitan traffic, and will be linked up for necessary interconnections by metal gangways and swift-moving pavements.

The decorative must be abolished. The problem of Futurist architecture must be resolved, not by continuing to pilfer from Chinese, Persian or Japanese photographs or fooling around with the rules of Vitruvius, but through flashes of genius and through scientific and technical expertise. Everything must be revolutionized. Roofs and underground spaces must be used; the importance of the façade must be diminished; issues of taste must be transplanted from the field of fussy moldings, finicky capitals and flimsy doorways to the broader concerns of bold groupings and masses, and large-scale disposition of planes. Let us make an end of monumental, funereal and commemorative architecture. Let us overturn monuments, pavements, arcades and flights of steps; let us sink the streets and squares; let us raise the level of the city.

I COMBAT AND DESPISE:

All the pseudo-architecture of the avant-garde, Austrian, Hungarian, German and American;

All classical architecture, solemn, hieratic, scenographic, decorative, monumental, pretty and pleasing;

The embalming, reconstruction and reproduction of ancient monuments and palaces;

Perpendicular and horizontal lines, cubical and pyramidal forms that are static, solemn, aggressive and absolutely excluded from our utterly new sensibility;

The use of massive, voluminous, durable, antiquated and costly materials.

AND PROCLAIM:

That Futurist architecture is the architecture of calculation, of audacious temerity and of simplicity; the architecture of reinforced concrete, of steel, glass, cardboard, textile fiber, and of all those substitutes for wood, stone and brick that enable us to obtain maximum elasticity and lightness;

That Futurist architecture is not because of this an arid combination of practicality and usefulness, but remains art, i.e. synthesis and expression;

That oblique and elliptic lines are dynamic, and by their very nature possess an emotive power a thousand times stronger than perpendiculars and horizontals, and that no integral, dynamic architecture can exist that does not include these;

That decoration as an element superimposed on architecture is absurd, and that the decorative value of Futurist architecture depends solely on the use and original arrangement of raw or bare or violently colored materials;

That, just as the ancients drew inspiration for their art from the elements of nature, we—who are materially and spiritually artificial—must find that inspiration in the elements of the utterly new mechanical world we have created, and of which architecture must be the most beautiful expression, the most complete synthesis, the most efficacious integration;

That architecture as the art of arranging forms according to pre-established criteria is finished;

That by the term architecture is meant the endeavor to harmonize the environment with Man with freedom and great audacity, that is to transform the world of things into a direct projection of the world of the spirit;

From an architecture conceived in this way no formal or linear habit can grow, since the fundamental characteristics of Futurist architecture will be its impermanence and transience. Things will endure less than us. Every generation must build its own city. This constant renewal of the architectonic environment will contribute to the victory of Futurism which has already been affirmed by words-in-freedom, plastic dynamism, music without quadrature and the art of noises, and for which we fight without respite against traditionalist cowardice.


se-4a
Another of the sketches included with the original manuscript.

Blown Head, Black Dance

I hear his poorly maintained car before I get around the bend. The cabin is lit, since it is almost dark. Everything that Erin did seemed stupid, yet he had never been arrested. He conducted himself with a righteousness. Confidence I guess is a better camouflage than paranoia, a camouflage I should learn, since I am quite paranoid.

I open the passenger door.

“Yooo,” his grating affected blackness contrary to his suburban face. There is a dime in the cup-holder.

I point “I’m not looking for this. I need a gun,” I say, like its normal and Erin’s face grows sober.

There is a gap in the conversation and then it takes on the rhythm of when we smoke cigarettes.

“A gun,” he looks through the window with contemptible dramatic affection. Who is he lying to? He will sell me a gun; the suspense, I know, is him stunned by the labor that it will take to acquire it, no need for acting. I need this fucking gun!

“I’ll give you a lot of money,” I point my gaze into the center of his face and put a strong gust behind the air that the words float they are carried straight deep into his mind

“It’s difficult to get a gun.”

“I’ll give you 600.”

“Ha!” I understand the humorous jolt. We have been so un-business-like in the past, always casual, but Erin’s surprise continues to build as I lift my book-bag from my feet and place it on to my thighs from it I take an envelope.

“Your money,” I place the envelope on to Erins lap and his face changes or at least he took off the face that he had worn over that which is exposed now. With his hands shaking slightly from his money lust, he peers into and weeds through the deposit slip, checking that the paper aligned with my words.

“Alright, okay….give me like a week.”

I step down from his car on to the blacktop and walk towards home, a little staggered from what I had just done. I’m sure he felt similar. The nervous bug that lingered in my chest grew again when I see the sky begin to blacken. It was a short walk home, but the storm seems to be a sprinter. I want to get out of the way of this, I don’t like being wet. I feel rain or maybe a bit of dripping sweat, faint thunder or a car moving quick, riding over a bump or pothole, we have many of those around here. I make it inside through the door before the raindrops come from the clouds that wonder in the sky, watering the earth with their tears from their homeless sorrow. The beginning of the rainstorm always comes with that scent, then hissing. The winds confused on what direction to pick, twist the downward bound water and strike the windows in the living room making a rattle from the perpendicular rain-brushes. Thunder, it’s like you can hear the inside of the earth, the rocks and stones in chaos, like the air. Like the strumming of a guitar, the strings are feathered, they ring so close in time, you cannot tell which note started the chord. Which was first, the metallic scent, the deafening crack or the blinding light.

Lately chaos whispers in my ears starting sentences that I back out of…

Boring boring boring boring boring; life-less life-less life-less. The same comfortable thing every day. I wake up late, I go to sleep late, I sleep longer than I should, 12 hours. Things more or less ever moving move quite increasingly slowly without motion and nullified evolution –  

slowly slowly

Middle class homes arranged like traffic. Some parts of the town are still wooded, the trees hiding something historical, I tilt the wheel into Jesse’s nocturnal patch. A little plume of cigarette smoke rises and gets examined, passing through the yellow of the porch light. Jesse’s hand unerect dashes up and down when he hears my car. He does not look away from his phone that casts a blue foreground on to his round face, with strange long contrasting upward shadows behind all the ridges in his face. He looks like the oldest man who has ever lived.

He sucks more and there’s a long silence as I stand before him. His greeting crawls out dry and injured.

“Hey.”

“Sup.”

Jesse takes another long drag and it is as if he has just awoken.

“You see this video?” a fat black woman sits on a toilet, she is embarrassingly fat. She moves her massive weight side to side twisting at twice the speed of her head, facing away from the camera and then rhythmically her fat black head comes back around. Every time she faces the camera she says, “sittin on the toilet” her thick voice strained of its grease comes through the small speaker and cracked screen.

“What happened to your phone?” I say to avoid faking laughter.

He takes another drag from his cigarette it is a few moments away from the filter the smoke still obscuring his words.

“It’s been broken for awhile I was..uh just walking and dropped it, weren’t you there?”

“No” I was.

“That video is fucking funny dude, fucking uh.. classic.”

“Yeah,” I say without passion.

“Where’s Chris?”

“I don’t know….. you can’t text him?”

“Can you text him?” Jesse stamps out his cigarette.

“What’s the point of asking he is going to come any way we do the same thing every night.”

“can you just text him?”

We walk into his house

“can you just text him”  I mimic back to him “Your too lazy to text him”

“Its not my fucking job” Jesses says

while we walk down into the basement, my rage heightens with every creaking step.

“Not my job what the fuck does that mean. I didn’t think we had fucking jobs.”

“Why are you being such a dick?”

“I’m being dick?” I make a face.

“Fuck you.”

“Fuck….fuck you, talking about jobs you don’t have fucking job, so calling Chris should be your fucking job.”

“FUCKING LEAVE THEN!”

“FUCK YOU, you’re boring and you’re fuckin lazy, and you’re make me boring. We do the same thing and it’s boring, every night, every day we do the same thing, and we pretend it’s special, we get high and we watch videos and were not cool, were not cool, We are just losers who watch videos down in the basement, I want to be fucking cool, and I pretend, and no;  you!, YOU! pretend that you don’t care, I care, you act like a nigger, but a different type of NIGGER then you think, you act like a lazy nigger not like those cool fucking nigger who makes money like the guys you watch because they break rules and they hurt people they make money, you’re harmless, fuck you fucking NIGGER”  I turn my back to Jesse and walk out, surprised that in my moment of passion I went so vulgar and incoherent.

“Get the fuck out dude just get the fuck out” Jesse said as I ran up the stairs

Driving past homes, its night I left the house in rage, I pray to something – I hear something I can have the strength – I’m so con – fused – sumed – and chaos – whispering in my ear – I walk past – hours the – the homes – I left the house in rage – it’s night I can have the strength –  I – can’t – I can – I – am –’ve found myself rather far from home – I’m not suicidal or I’m not looking to do – anything – something bad – kill someone – like that b – but can you –  recently I’ve been watching a lot of videos – I think we’re headed for bad times and I need something to protect myself – I’m – depression – we are – I am – entering into a – the greatest depression is  – the economy its – RING –  In the middle of the woods field  – I grip the gun and I point it to the sky and shoot the fucking stars and my ears  – RING  – I feel exposed  – I run out of the hedge-line catching my breath  –breathing –  I should go into back into the woods  – it’s a safe place they won’t find me – I don’t know where my I mind is –  where I –‘m at least there’s  –  – RING  – and no chaos in my ears –  Nobody lives around –  nobody cares around – here they’ll ignore –  it – my thoughts fight my heart.

It really nice to have the floor supporting my back. Gazing into the lit ceiling my open mind fights between hope and despair – the paint when it was applied fought gravity and dried leaving snowy dimples – What am I going to do with this gun, I thought I would be inventive more brave, do something be cool. Hadn’t my creativity, my sanity, been taken by drugs, Erin’s drugs. I have my incite  – something  – I know something that’s righteous – I’ll kill him I’m going to kill him and put my gun in his mouth and take his mind  – mind.

“Erin, I need to see you now.”

“Yeah… what’s wrong? Where are you going to be?”

“Come to the baseball field.”

“I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

I imagined what he was thinking, thinking nothing of what I would be doing, evil for evil. I imagined his rickety car moving swishing through the lonely air.

How his dashboard rattled vibrations played from the speaker cones calling out comforting nigger chants that kept away the evil spirits that had gotten to this mind – He’ll be screaming. I’m a predatorI called my evil wicked self that slaughtered – hollowed – deboned the former me this predator so wise he did not even wear a demonic smile when he saw the sign of his prey that raised his horny heart to see that light through the woods.

Erin parked his car and he walked to me standing in the field. He’s coming towards He’s coming for me.

“Hey, what’s up!” he says from a little far  – he’s out of my range – away.

“Hey,” I call back.

“What are you looking for?”

“I’m not looking for weed,” Erin laughs.

I remember what I was going to do I think. My heartbeat – ed  – and – ed  – jumped in remembrance and knocked my eyes out of focus and I started shouting.

Why don’t you dance anymore you fucking idiot

relaxing is not a statement – playing off your dead feet

pretending you are too strong for the beats command

the truth is you are with the god death and not a

good subject of him – like I am – you use your fuel

that can’t get you beyond the next ridge to justify

your scrawny potential drag us down with your potential

potential is fat and fat is sticky, just like shit, just like your

in-consequence – So nonentity dance for me before my bullet  – before

my gun dance like an idiot  – else you’ll be dizzy busy dancing

blown head the black dance your last blown head goodbye

dance or you’ll dance there’s no option to deny my command

that I hope you don’t follow because I am the good follower of

death who wishes to harmonize your discontent with your own

sour note soul –  Dance before me or die  – I hope you don’t dance so I

may kill you – DIE! —————————————AHHHHHHHH——————HH!!HHHH————————x—————RINNNNNNNNNNGGG———————————————————————x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

Which was first the metallic scent, the deafening crack or the blinding light?

I drove his poorly maintained car around the bend and –  the dark it’s almost gone – and I open the hatch and shoved his limp poorly maintained body into the storm drain, when he hit the ground it sounded like fresh dough ————————————— drove –  and the sun rose from the horizon and drifted off and away and the world around me turned a deeper lost black————— but I am the predator me and he has no need to smile————— The car –  I drove it into to the woods and into the swaps and I pushed it into a deep unknown pond. I walked for miles  – From the little woods to the places where all the lights were off and there was no sound – I started to see the new sun rise and my pupils shrunk  – I looked at the new sun’s new blank face.

“Hey I know that you freaked out and all on me the other night, look I’m not mad, we can be better, I was thinking that we could go to the museum.”

“oOk,” I’d like that

Jesse came and picked me up.

“What fuck man, are you okay?”

I’m fine

“Alright.”

Jesse played music the whole ride – I’m fine

We parked and gave the keys to the parking attended who guided Jesse’s car to a place somewhere deep in the earth.

“Dude, I get that your mad and all but like, can you talk?”

We walked through the city in the bottom of the glass canyon and went into the MET and the place was busy with foreigners who look with wonder at the big and beautiful things that were from their countries that are there on the walls– And I was struck – St John Baptise grey leather skin blood drained silent his nature submit to death and severed  – and as I drifted into fantasy – the noise of the city – RING – faded and – “We ask you to make a donation of what every you can”’ – I looked into the eyes of Johns flock of sheep and they could feel my knife pressed into their necks  – Satan paradiddled on my heart  – His closed gaze that draws me in like  – the closing of eyes draws me in  – walking in closer and closer

“Alan,” delivered back up into the world,  “aren’t you glad we came?”

I’m fine – Jesse – strange – John Baptise

“Fuck.”

his mind makes – sounds that pierce me and block out – the sound of chaos like the gun RING – a series of RING RING RING RING RING RING  

“Fuck no.”

I’m fine – Are you fine – I’m fine

“Dude Erin is dead… look at Facebook.”

I open my mind – in my hand – my phone – I have to climb a mountain – A mountain of conversation – dialogue plummeting down – that RING RING RING in my mind and RING – I put him where they won’t found in the coin slot – he’s just penny no one picks up a penny – it was in the woods – no – no it was in the field – but – no one cared – no – I’ don’t like getting wet – no – but – RINGRINGRINGRING – I’ll look – I –  NO! – know one looked –  NO! don’t look down there – but – i’ll do it  – I’ll look –  I’ll look   – I’ll look –  I’ll look  – I’ll look –  I’ll look  – I’ll look –  I’ll look  – I’ll look –  I’ll look  – I’ll look –  I’ll look  – I’ll look –  I’ll look – RINGRING

Yesterday morning our family received a phone call that Erin had been found and was unfortunately deceased. We are sad, very sad, his funeral service will be a 12:30 on Monday at the Bizub-Quinlan Funeral Home in Clifton. Address: 1313 Van Houten Ave, Clifton, NJ 07013 and Phone: (973) 546-2000. We ask the people of the community and especially our family and his friends to join us in our time of grief and speak about his life. RIP Erin Goffman 1994 – 2018 you will be missed, by everyone especially me your mother, your father and your sister

Eric omg I miss you so much see you in heaven

I wasn’t close with you man, but you were so nice every time I saw you, what an angel

what happened is that too early to ask

It was related to his business

Fuck this political system if these nazi politicians didn’t use this plant to justify fascism and scam money from the AmeriKKKan people than we wouldn’t have to be so hush about his business, lets be honest Erin sold pot is that so bad it’s just a plant. Fuck the fucking Republicans

I bet the cops shot him

Cops kill more people than pot ever heard someone overdosing on pot ha! Maybe if the fucking PIGS! Smoked a blunt once a while their little dicks would hit get so hard from killing an innocent kids!

Everyone, will miss you Eric my prayers go out for you and your parents so sad!

There is no fucking god

Incredibly rude I can’t believe that anyone would comment like that

Well Erin didn’t believe in god bitch, Erin told me if he died he didn’t     lllllllllllllllllllllllll         want a funeral he wanted to have a party so I’ll be smoking a blunt in the lllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllparking lot BITCH

I’ll be calling the police ASSHOLE!!

This didn’t seem right I didn’t do that – Iook – I’m looking – I’m fine – RING – Its just paint and it’s the – figure is in a black room – something bad happened – Its not really real it’s like the –

But she keeps on smiling at me – hey let go don’t touch me – But I look and she is moving – who put her in the there in the wall – the wall is paint – and there are people in there tooo – ghost do’—RING–nnt— !— “YOU LIKE TO TO? PICTURE OF YOU TAKE OF AHHH US?” – don’t look at me freak you freak – I can say nothing – they will find me – coin slot eyes – chingchingchingchignchifnchinc – fucking nigger Chinese fucking nigger – It’s a drew – its not a drewing – its just a drawing – don’t look at me –That drew me in – I get closer and dance to its beat – look at its atoms – I smell it – taste it “SIR!” “ALAN!”  What do – n’t! touch em – you – f – ucking – rom – nigger I – make for – DIE – x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x – stab – hi – m – y – bl – ade – eed – s – harp – all over the gallery floor my – canvas – and penetrate his skin !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! – It pours out – my paint – RING “P – I – UT – m – YO – fine – UR H ANDS UP——————————!—————”———!————————————————!!———!!!——!—AHHHHHHHH——————HH!!HHHH————! RINNNNNNNNNNNNNNG———xx——————————————— x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

Apostasy (Part 3)

Previous chapter

Suryn looked on the still-terrified guards who said they had encountered the escaped Demonic servant, Dask. One of them had been killed by a being she knew must be the remains of the first young man who had been burnt at the stake. He had been reduced to a Hate elemental now. She loathed the thought of those foul things and memories rushed back to when she was a retainer in the Divine Army fighting in massed silver ranks as whole howling swarms of the vile things rushed them. She had watched friends die horribly in those battles that had raged across blighted planes that lay upon the celestial fault-lines of Light and Dark.

Two more of the guards had grotesquely swollen faces dominated with dark shadows of bruise, one with a shattered jaw, the other who’d had the bony bridge of his nose all but flattened. The servant, Dask, was just a freshly made lesser imp, but he was already too powerful for most mortal men to handle.

She had been awakened from her sleep the night Dask escaped as she felt something intrude within the keep even though she had warded the whole place. She had immediately sent the guards down to Dask’s cell only to discover he was somehow missing. This Demon’s ability to get past her defenses unsettled her; the wards should have worked even against powerful foes. Could it mean there was some weakness in herself?

Meanwhile, the hunt had gone on. Since the first heretic had been burnt, there had been others, this time with no interventions as they wriggled and screamed within the blaze. She would deny the Demon access to power no matter what it took and find and break the sources that let him lurk here. She had never taken on a Demon by herself but she had hunted down many lesser creatures. If she could take down Demons, then the ascent to the angelic orders might one day be bestowed on her. She would be more than human. She would never again feel the base needs of the flesh. Every time she had touched herself, she had been filled with self-loathing afterwards over her weakness. The advance of years did very little to her anymore, but that only gave her more time to contemplate the frailties of her imperfect frame. As much as she hated Hate, she despised herself and longed for that final, blindingly alabaster death in perfection, for her limbs, no longer soft, to be sculpted as if in divine marble. It had been nearly a week now since she had slept and her sad body yearned for repose. She thought again of the Demon and forged on with her Work.

*

“There is nothing left of him now but his fury,” explained the Dark Man. “He was unwilling to pledge himself until his higher mind was stripped away by trauma and only the lower functions were left to decide. His natural meekness buried the seed deep and she unearthed it.”

“So the guy he was really is dead?”

“That final flash of rage against the whole world is all that’s left. He is just a simple hate elemental now.”

“Just? I watched him beat a whole squad of armed men!”

“He has strength and instinct but nothing of intellect or restraint. He is useless without guidance. You gave him that.”

Dask felt a pang of sadness for the young man who had been transformed into the grotesque horror that now accompanied him.

“I wish he’d done it sooner.”

“I reached out to him. But only the flames could burn away his inborn tenderness.”

Dask looked to the burnt man and the creature tilted its head in response to being given attention.

The Demon was barely able to sit up. He only just managed to position his back against the rock wall.  Beneath his robe, a soft light still sometimes shone through. Dask told him everything that had happened and the master listened, motionless.

“I know my old self is dead now.” concluded Dask

“You turned away from the Light and have just begun to understand what that means.  You now have plenty of time for that.” the Demon replied.

“What do you mean?”

“Get the chisel.”

Dask grabbed the chilly, glassy sharp object from the pile of blankets he had awakened in and brought it to the Demon.

“Why have you not been using this?”

“I didn’t think about it.”

“That’s a physical form taken by the power of your pact. Keep it with you.”

“Why?”

“Go and find out.”

He went back to his chamber, sat on his bedroll and began to turn over the chisel in his hand.  It was like a jagged shard of obsidian yet with the dim vision he had in complete darkness he could see no light reflect from it. It was a slice of abyss, impenetrable even to his supernatural senses. It was always cold but tingled somehow when he grasped it more tightly. Out of curiosity, he tried scratching the wall with it. The tip did seem to leave a mark. He started slashing and left gashes in the stone no normal weapon would easily cause. He thrust and a chunk of stone chipped off the wall. Impressive, thought Dask, but nothing to compare with the night he had escaped from his cell. What more was there to know? He wandered through the catacombs until he was under the city and impulsively stabbed a cockroach. To his astonishment, there was a wriggling sensation that worked its way up his wrist and into his arm, then his shoulder. It was a strange feeling that sickened him and it didn’t go away. He writhed, squirmed, and scratched, but the feeling was just under his skin. He even pricked himself with the tip of the chisel but it did nothing to him. The same object that had scored a stone wall didn’t even break his skin. Whatever this was he wanted it out of him! He clenched himself and willed for the bothersome feeling to go away. To his surprise, there was a feeling kind of like a popping pimple or a loose baby tooth on the back of his shoulder. A long thin black spike barely thicker than a thread thrust through his skin and tumbled from his shirt sleeve to the floor. The straight spike became fluid and started squirming like a jet black tapeworm. After a short while it stopped and grew rigid in its final, twisted pose and evaporated into a mist of shadow. Dask just stared at the spot for the longest time his gut roiling with disgust. It took him hours to get the courage to stab a rat and this time he immediately wanted to vomit as a scurrying and scratching feeling bounced all around inside of him. He only just managed to keep from panicking as the feeling skittered down his backbone. He finally focused enough on expelling it from him. He heaved as if to vomit but small black spikes erupted along his spine. Soon they fell out onto the ground and also evaporated into that unholy material. Dask could not help but be fascinated with this discovery no matter how unpleasant it felt. He thought of how he had been through much worse before he had finally turned his back on the Light. He was thinking about what he should try next when he heard a shuffling. He looked up and saw the Burnt Man. It tilted its head back toward the direction of their lair. Dask followed.

*

“Go through the Doorway when I make it,” instructed the Demon. “There is someone in need of consultation.”

With visible exertion, the weakened Demon reached out, a pale hand emerging from its sleeve, and a whirling vortex of grey and pale green light opened in the middle of the floor. Dask looked to the Burnt Man, but it, of course, had nothing to say. He somehow overcame his fear now that he had nothing to lose and dropped into the yawning hole. His gut wrenched as he expected to fall into a whirlwind but instead he immediately found himself standing in a luxurious bedchamber. There was no one in bed, though someone had clearly used the bedsheets. Then he looked to the starlit balcony and saw a female figure there. She was crouched in despair, clutching a silvery knife. Her robe was open and she shook as she stared at the blade.

“Don’t.” rasped Dask.

She immediately fell over in surprise and fumbled to conceal her weapon underneath her.

He walked from the darkness of the suite toward the balcony.  “It’s ok. Where am I?”

She didn’t say anything as she looked up in terror at his approaching shadow. Dask strode out onto the balcony and he was looking out on a walled garden. It was the Duke’s palace!

“Please, don’t hurt yourself.”

She continued to tremble on the ground, the knife concealed underneath her.

Dask cleared his throat. “I’ve been sent to talk to you tonight. He wouldn’t have sent me unless you were having doubts.”

“My children.” she whispered.

“What do you mean, um, Ma’am?” Despite the urgent duress he had begun to notice her open nightrobe, her dark flowing hair and eyes that were luminous by the light of the stars.

“He took them from me.”

“Who?”

“Him! He sent them away and now I’m bearing one of his!”

“The Duke!” Dask blurted out.

She collapsed to the ground trembling.

“There’s another way,” he said.

“I wanted to kill him. Tonight. He was here.”

“Then why did you want to kill yourself?!”

“I enjoyed it so much.”

“Don’t do it. Pledge yourself. That’s the other way out. Not repentance. Apostasy.”

There was a feeling of rushing energies in the air and Dask turned around and saw the swirling doorway. He turned away.

*

Suryn finally descended into sleep but it was into a realm of nightmare. She woke up and felt the breach opening as she had during Dask’s escape. She rushed down flights of steps but there was an eerie wailing as small hands and arms reached up through the stairs and grabbed at her ankles. They almost brought her to a stop on the floor beneath her room but she broke free, made her way to the dungeon and opened the cell door. There was a yawning chasm into Darkness looking straight into her soul. She turned around and a marble statue of an angel she remembered from church as a child was flying at her, drifting through the air without a sound, its form simple, its facial features a nondescript pitiless mask. She took a step back and began to tumble backwards into the void.

She awoke on the cold floor of her chamber, trembling within a tangle of blankets. At first, all she felt was terror and relief. Then she thought back on friends who had fallen in battle. She squeezed a blanket, feeling a hand’s last clasp on hers before it fell slack in repose. Slowly the sense of purpose redawned in her and she donned her robe to begin a new day in pursuit, still hours before dawn. Then she realized why she had awakened. There was something wrong again. She grabbed her sword from her bedside and did not even bother to alert the guards this time. She flew down the staircase outside her room with her divine blade out of its sheath. She continued to fly down the stairwell towards the source of the disturbance. She stormed into a wing of the palace she’d never been to before, sprinted down a wide hallway with doors on either side and then felt the source to her left side. She was a woman of ordinary stature yet she effortlessly kicked in the heavy wooden door with a bare foot. She saw the Demonic portal closing just as she ran through. Too late. There was a woman on the balcony shrieking at the sudden incursion into her chamber. Suryn lowered her sword and went to her. The woman looked up and her face was pale and streaked with tears. “What happened?” Suryn looked into the woman and saw the taint of darkness battling, not with the Light exactly, something else. Then she looked at her. She had unmistakably beguiling features, large dark eyes, flowing dark hair, and long elegant legs revealed by an opening in her nightrobe. In spite of herself, Suryn felt a visceral dislike rising up in her.

“Who came through that doorway?”

“I don’t know.” cried the woman.

After some time of sobbing that further aroused the Paladin’s ire and then a labored description in between sobs she realized that Dask had been the visitor.

“What did he say to you?”

“He, he wanted to take me away. I was trying to stop him!”

The woman revealed a knife that lay underneath her.

“I’ve dealt with their kind enough, I know that’s not why he was really here. You put yourself in peril.”

The woman threw herself at Suryn’s feet and begged for mercy protesting that she had told the dark servant to go away. But the Paladin could see the taint struggling to grasp hold of her clearly enough. It was not surprising this woman had attracted the attention of the Dark Powers. Her or someone like her had allowed the Demon into the palace to release the servant, Dask, right from under her watch. This grim thought gave her very little sympathy for this harlot who had already tried to lie and manipulate.

“I will have you detained until you reconsider your story.”

“Noo! I’ve done nothing wrong!”

“Then you have nothing to fear.”

The Duke rushed into the chamber. Suryn turned toward him in astonishment. She had somehow thought him incapable of being flustered. “Alarya!” he cried. He reached out, startled by the knife in her hands. “Where did you get that?”

“I had it just in case, my lord. It saved my life tonight!”

The Duke frowned, but the woman abruptly dropped the knife and ran into the Duke’s arms where she buried her head in his chest and sobbed. As the Duke’s hand ran tenderly through Alarya’s lustrous hair, Suryn felt a wave of acid heat and physical anguish rise up through her heart and into her head as never before. Then, doors further down the hallway began to open up and there were several female voices. A group of young women rushed in and flocked to the Duke. They too were clad in luxurious nightrobes and every one of them was conspicuously alluring.

“Everything is alright ladies! He is gone. The Paladin is here.” The Duke looked at Suryn and saw at once she was dumbstruck. His eyes met hers for a moment and his gaze was hard and appraising, gauging her reaction. His eyes flicked deftly away. “Ladies, all is well now.”

Suryn had never seen the Duke with another woman, had never asked, had never wanted to know. Now she had been driven at last beyond the realm of feeling. Past the threshold of rage, something again had quietly snapped and now she felt nothing at all. All emotion had been as noise and now there was silence in her. She lay to sleep through the night without concern.  She woke in the morning calmly. Held a morning meeting with officials, with the Duke present, but she did not even look at him. She headed out to do her duty in the name of Heaven. She tried to figure out what might motivate Dask next. He wasn’t the first young imp she had dealt with. Her own irrational pain that she had buried told her how she would find him.

*

“You cannot go back to that life. You almost died trying it.” the Demon admonished.

“She had been taken from someone else so she could pleasure the Duke! Where are my wife and my son?!” demanded Dask

“Yours!? You are no more. You must learn who you are now.”

“Fuck you! I’m going back.”

“Don’t try it.”  The Demon’s tone was strangely resigned. This made Dask hesitate more than any infernal rage. The Demon was sitting up more strongly now but still weak; the glowing of its wound seemed to be gone.

“We all must let go,” he sighed.

“Come with me,” Dask commanded the Burnt Man. It eagerly followed him from the cave, beginning to bay in solemn tones as it already began to scent the Hatefulness of mankind.

Dask charged with the Burnt Man through the underground passageways, smelling out heresy and the hunters of heretics alike, just barely dodging their surprise maneuvers, even in the smallest hours of the night. He asked their stories and, finally, one man said the name “Slandriv.”

“Judge Slandriv?” hissed Dask.

“Yes, he’s the one. Does whatever the Duke wants.”

Dask felt a vein throbbing in his temple as he thought back on the note on his door, the guards, the brief hearing in a court room. Judge Slandriv! “I will help you with this!” he snarled through clenched teeth.

That very night, he began murdering the judge’s private guards with the Burnt Man at his side and burst into the mansion without the slightest ceremony.  In his night clothes, the judge cowered on the ground before them.  “I have only enacted the law! If you strike me you get nothing and just make it worse for yourself!”

Then, Dask heard a female sigh from the judge’s bed. There was the contour of a sleeping human beneath golden, silken bedsheets. Without a word, Dask approached the sheets and abruptly pulled them back. He nearly collapsed as he saw his wife there, curled up blissfully. In a blood-rage, Dask thrust his hand through the judge’s chest, lifted his body in the air, and crushed his heart. A gout of blood spurted from the man’s gasping mouth and then his head lolled forward limply. Dask contemptuously tossed the corpse aside. He then approached the woman who had betrayed him. “Kamilya, why did you do this?” he rasped. She came awake, recognized his voice and looked up at him in utter terror.

“Where is our son!?” he rasped insistently. She backed away from his silhouette in what to her was near-darkness and shook her head emphatically. “Where is heee!” Dask shrieked now, and, as he closed in, the Burnt Man was content to watch, sensing somehow he was unneeded.

*

When Dask and the Burnt Man stumbled blood-spattered from the mansion, they were blinded for a moment at the blaze of torches that surrounded them. Before them, hundreds of guards stood in a great ring.  “Masterrr!” cried Dask.

“He can’t help you now.” said a steely voice. Suryn strode from the crowd of guards, smaller than any of them yet anyone could feel a power and strength radiating from her, belied by her plain, angular features.

Dask nearly fell to his knees as he recalled his tortures in the keep. The Burnt Man, though, did not hesitate to attack. “Nooo!” cried Dask. Suryn waited motionless and at the last moment, with a single swipe of her sword, almost casually sliced the charging hate elemental in half. Its two halves tried to continue the assault, but she buried her sword in each of them for a few moments until they smoldered into lifeless ash.

Dask collapsed in weary despair as the guards closed in on him. This time, they seized him without a struggle and swiftly clapped his limbs into thick, heavy manacles that seemed more suited to an ox than a man. Then in a covered wagon with a sack over his head, he was hauled ignominiously back to the palace dungeon he had given everything to escape from.

Next chapter

Reclaimer: Episode I

The heat of the newly risen sun cut like a thousand scythes across Miner 457’s arching body as he toiled in the layered soil. The strip mine was expansive. Total area of four-hundred feet by five hundred feet, sinking down with mechanical specificity some fifty-five feet below ground. It was one of fourteen which dotted the scoured, patchy landscape of the desert.

The earth-shifters surrounded him like giant steel spiders, tearing at the silt and stone and clay in dull rhythmic undulations. He was one of only three other miners who had been dispatched to the barren waste by The Unity. The mine had no name, like as it’s workers, only a formal designation: Zone 8-83.

Miner 457 moved to the edge of the newest pit, gazing down the slate walls to the basin of Zone 8-83; in the shadow of that rectangular abyss Miner 400 remained. She had taken a seat upon the ground. Breach of protocol. A dangerous one at that, the slate was unstable, it’s hissing uncertainty could be heard even over the clanging of the clockwork earth-shifters, tearing at the skin of the world as if the whole of the globe had committed some dire treachery deserving of punishment.

“Miner 400!”

Her visor-clad head snapped instantly to the ledge. Biosensors alight and swarming the visual plane of her helm-covering, affixing itself to 457, mapping bio-metrics, hers and his alike. Bio-chemical spikes, indicative of anger. The woman’s heart knocked against her ribs like the bellows of some mad-dash furnace, fear overtaking exhaustion; the whole of her form.

“Sitting down on the job – in a slag pit nonetheless – is a direct contravention of protocol. The slate-walls could collapse at any moment! You trying to get yourself killed, 400?”

“I’m sorry – I was very tired. I just… I had to sit down…”

“Don’t apologize, woman, just move! Can’t you hear the stack crumbling?”

The nearest earth-shifter turned upon Miner 457, hissing out a message. A crackling, mechanical monotone that echoed off across the vast flatness of the strip-mine and vanished across the red sands of the outer rim.

“Elevated stress levels detected. Miner 457, please remain calm. Aggression towards co-operatives is unacceptable.”

“It doesn’t matter right now – can’t you hear the stack? It’s collapsing, we mustn’t have braced it properly! You need to get down there and protect our worker!”

“A reminder, 457: These co-operatives are not ‘our’ workers. They belong to Unity. As do you. As do we all. A true Unified owns nothing.”

“We really don’t have time for this right now. Get down there and get her out of the pit! 400, you need to move – NOW!”

The walls of the slag pit were wavering, layers of dirt, silt and stone shifted down in sputtering clouds of dust upon Miner 400 who scrambled to the left-most bracewall and began climbing the ladder their affixed as fast as her arching body would carry her.

“457: Elevated aggression levels further increasing: untenable. Administering ana-gel.”

The massive drone scuttled swiftly across the shattered skein to stand before Miner 457, long, jointed legs moving out towards the young man like a crustacean preparing to pluck a husk of carrion.

“I don’t need the damned gel, you stupid hunk of junk!”

457 diverted his back-up power to the core, shoulders and arms of his exo-suit scant moments before the claws of the earth-shifter would have reached him. With a grunt of supreme exertion, Miner clasped upon the underside of the drone’s claws and shunted them aside. Muscles afire, he shifted, turning heel and dashing towards the pit as the shifter static-bellowed behind him.

“Invective will not be tolerated, you should comply with protoc-”

No time for protocol. Only time to act. Purely. Intensely. Decisively.

Miner 457 tuned out the drone’s crackling-radio static voice which continued to fizzle through the rarefied mid-morning air and rushed to the edge of the slag pit, his heart pulsing like a serpent coiled about it’s prey. Miner’s shadow evaporated into nothingness under the radiant brands of the fulminate sphere as his eyes slide left then right over the wasted plain of sand and stone. Miner 401 and 402 were nowhere to be seen.

No time to think about them; too far away to help, he mouthed to himself as he ran, feet rooted to a restless shadow.

Kneeling and grasping on to the ladder as the northern-most wall began to collapse, the miner lowered his torso down as far as possible into the chasm, extending his steel-plated hand, hoping to feel fingers shortly grasping back. The mining suit lent considerable strength and durability, the whole of the exo-skeleton grafted directly into the inhabitant’s nervous system. With an exo one man wielded the strength and speed of ten, the titanium-ceramic body plating able to withstand a heat-blast from a industrial furnace and the weight of a fully equipped earth-shifter. Yet the exos had their limits. Miner 400’s suit was fully intact, indeed, newly fitted, but no amount of external armor could save her should the rock-face of the mining pit swallow her in it’s tenebrous maw. Nothing could.

“Faster, 400! FASTER!”

Palled in darkness he could hear only her ragged breath, it’s sharp in’s and out’s and the quick collapsing brace-wall which screamed against it’s imminent dispossession like the spirit of some hideous shade.

Then all was chaos as the brace-wall gave way to 10,000 tons of rock which sundered the metal binding like gelatin and careened to the earth with all the destructive alcahest of some great and vengeful god.

 

Sex, Violence, Death, Toil: A Brief Primer on Fiction Writing, Prt.4

 

Art as a directional model for human action.

All human endeavors bespeak of ourselves; such is the case with fiction, which gives form and function to the nebulous, scattered and fevered energy of the brain’s wild imaginings which roil up from from the instinctual chasm. 

-Brief Primer on Fiction Writing, Part. 3

In the 1996 book Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk, a socially satirical, psychological thriller, a socially alienated, weak and emasculated corporate drone meets a bedazzling political radical. The two men strike up a bizarre friendship and eventually create a underground fight club where they are able to release their pent-up frustrations about the decline of masculinity and the vacuous wage-slavery that is their lives, by viciously beating each other until one contestant concedes defeat. The book was highly popular, so much so that three years after its publication, a film of the same name was created by David Fincher, with a screenplay by Jim Uhls; it is this iteration of the tale that most people are familiar with.

Fight Club was and still is extremely popular, as much for the acting and aesthetics as well as for the pointed and clever social commentary – it is especially popular amongst socialist radicals (which is rather ironic given that one of the principal points of the film is that radical insurrection is all very well and good until lives start being ruined and people start dying) which can be seen by the creation of the self-styled “Leftist Fight Club” for the express purpose of “Bashing the fash.” The “fash” that they are referring to are the illusory fascists that such Antifaesque organizations seem to see everywhere. The club’s only condition for entry: Don’t be a republican – for as everyone knows, all republicans are fascists.

You might here be wondering why I’m bothering to mention this seemingly trivial, though curious, affair. I mention the Palahniuk inspired Leftist Fight Club because it is the perfect modernistic example of life imitating art which is the single most powerful thing any piece of art can conceivably do. It is, I think crucial to highlight such cases when looking through the analytical lens of political outside-dissent. For those that wish to shift any power structure will need to pervade not just in the military, the media and the legislation-complex but also in the arts. That being said we will dive into a manifold sampling of those past and present instances where some work(s) have powerfully influenced the directionality of human action – Leftist Fight Club was just the tip of the iceberg.

[continued part 5]