Sunday, November 30, 2003

Today’s Word: Lupine

At the last we were forced to use the belay, cleats, and ice hammers to claw our way to the penultimate summit. Snow lay on the mountain like a soft down of feathers upon a goose's neck. The air was bitter cold and thin. Just the effort of breathing made my head dizzy and muzzled.

We struck our anchors in a shelf of rock crusted over with ice and strung our ropes. Then it was time for rest.

John and I took our ease, not yet soaking in the realization that we had conquered a titan, but rather taking our somnolence after so many days of pure labor at mere survival.

The moon rose while we lay on our backs, nearer the stars than any two men still connected to terra firma. It was huge, silver, almost fearsome in its grandeur. It peered down as we peered up, as if contemplating a leap to our summit; a fall to match our peerless climb. Had I the breath I would have beckoned, and grasped it in my weak arms like a lover.

The first howl broke a near perfection of silence, save the wind which we had learned to tune out days ago. This sound was not the incessant skirl of artic winds pulling at us like the fingers of angry gods. It was sharper, more mournful, and, without question, alive.

A form, vaguely lupine, though far too large to be a wolf – more a small pony – rose up on a nearby outcropping, its body silhouetted by the giant moon. Red eyes gleamed at us, though from what light source I cannot say. The thing lifted its head and howled once again, the sound making me plug my ears involuntarily.

I was first on the ropes; first and only as it turned out. As I slid downward, feeling the nylon play in my gloved hands, I heard John screaming and the distinct sound of gortex ripping, mixed with bestial growls, then the wet sound of something large feeding.

I haven't returned to Mount Bryson, not even to the foot. Something there has a taste for man, and I'll not tempt it again.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Today’s Word: Orpine

The Bitus wall runs north and south along the lower edge of what once had been the kingdom of Trenhes. It is a crumbling thing now, gray and weatherworn. Ghosts frequent its quiet watch over the Everslands. Their calls to arms and screams of both fury and fear rasp on the cold wind that has torn at the wall for centuries. No living man walks these sentinel's paths. The Khans and Rews long ago bullied themselves to extinction, battling for dominance over this land of marginal crops and seldom beheld sun. Now only the orpine grows along the wall; a living thing growing within the gray palm of death itself.

Friday, November 28, 2003

Today’s Word: Opine

Joyous were the folk of Opine. For winter had come, sluggish and cold after a long summer of good rain and laughter. Harvests were gathered, stored, or sold.

Long nights came and with them the bright moon which gave light to the rituals of Opine, dark-towered by the mountain.

Fires burned high and solemn as the darkness gathered thick. Men, women, and children circled, shedding their earthly facades, taking on them the Hell Mark; gray skins writhing under lank, dead hair long to their feet.

Winter was come, and with it the joy of death.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Today’s Word: Chopine

Maren Mees Martel knew her place at court. It was to the right of her paramour, Baron Halfen von Blassuer, Lord Protector of the Three Fangs, a small triple peninsula on the farthest western edge of King Card's empire, Braycen. The Three Fangs would have been far too insignificant to warrant the Baron's position in court had it not been for a large deposit of both iron ore and gold on the middle peninsula, which extended twenty seven royal miles into the Tambien Sea. And so it was that young Maren had attached herself to the much older man, trading favors as befit her title as courtesan, and quickly earning her a place by his side everyday at court. It was an auspicious position, and much talked about by Maren's betters, but she loved the attention. Being a whore at heart, she found it easy to ignore the content of rumors about her, choosing instead to enjoy being talked about in some of the finest mansions in the capital.

But little did Maren Mees Martel know that it was not her sexual positions in the Baron's bed at night, nor her powerful position by his side during the day which brought her such infamy; it was her position of standing a foot over even the tallest men at court. For no one had told poor Maren that the tree-style riser of a chopine had been last year's fashion for the elite, only to be replaced this season by low-heeled jackboots and soft silken slippers of modest sole.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Today’s Word: Supine

I would say that the ocean spewed us forth onto the beach like Jonah from the whale's mouth, but that is not true. More it taunted us like a spoiled, evil child, moving our aged rowboat inland, only to suck it away at the last moment, heedless of our frantic paddling and shouts of anger and loss. By the time low tide arrived the sun was nearing the eastern horizon, tickling the clouds blue, and separating the near dark from the distant dark. Only then, haggard beyond sensibility of either thought or movement, we four men pulled ourselves ashore and lay supine in the cool sand, staring up at a field of stars which seemed to recoil from our view. Hunger and exhaustion battled within my breast, neither willing to subside for a more opportune time. And by the look of my shipmates (ex-shipmates, we had lost our ship) they were suffering every bit as much as I. But we were alive, and for the first time in four days we were on land.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Today’s Word: Repine

I stand in the aisle choosing out the cheapest package of size four diapers I can find; anything under ten bucks will have to do. A little girl with long, platinum blonde hair swings her dirty bare legs from the kid's seat in her mom's shopping cart next to me. She's a scrawny thing – the girl – with wiry arms and a dirty face. I hear her babbling to her mother, who pays her little attention, and note that her accent is thick as molasses. She's asking for a toy she saw two aisles back; something glittery and pink.

Two checkout lines are running when I arrive with my box of Rice Krispies, gallon of milk, and diapers. I choose the aisle with just two people rather than four waiting to pay for their sundries. These two are mother and daughter. They share the same bulging waistlines and thick, brown sideburns that grope down to their jawlines. On the black conveyer belt lay their purchases: eight bags of porkrhines, a box of Klondike bars, Sauerkraut in a twenty-four ounce glass jar, and a box of ten Slim Jims double packed with finger-sized columns of yellow cheese. I have time to count all this because the mother is asking our clerk how to win a free turkey from the store. The clerk, a pretty black woman whose nametag says Crystal, has to explain that you don't win the turkeys, you buy them ahead of time and they will be baked and ready on Thanksgiving Day.

She's patient with these overweight white women, even though it's late and probably near the end of her shift. Crystal doesn't repine the situation by sighing loudly or rolling her eyes. She seems to expect this state of affairs, glumly answering as her hands pack away their valve-clogging treats.

They leave and Crystal tallies my items. Fourteen dollars and change for this little bit. I notice Crystal doesn't touch the keyboard when she taps in numbers. Her nails, perfectly painted in a French manicure, won't allow it. The clack, clack of her fingernails on the register keys is somehow satisfying and yet defiant, as if to say, "this is a real job, just listen to the sound of these keys, just like the computers in your office."

I pay with cash; the last twenty dollars that were in our checking account until lunch time this evening. Now we're broke and facing another week before payday with just one gallon of milk and one package of supermarket brand diapers. All this regardless of the fact I work in an office. It comes to nothing.

I think about the prejudice of work as the glass doors swoosh open before me. Outside smells like a woodworking garage, but I know it's just a trick of the night. In reality, the smell has wafted down from the pulpwood mill about three miles east. Somewhere along the way, the stench has meant up with something better to produce a scent, if not altogether pleasant, at least more breathable than the rancid fart air that usually belches from the mill.

Driving home I listen to the last ten minutes of a radio program about UFO conspiracy. An intelligent sounding guest explains how there is no God; human beings are an experiment of a more highly evolved species. In fact, we are called "containers" or "vessels" by our progenitors, but no one knows why exactly. Our history has been essentially "reset" at least sixty-five times over millennia untold whenever we started down a path the aliens didn't like.

The show goes on like that, and I listen intently for a few miles. Then my mind begins to wander as it is wont to do. Idly, I wonder what the cost of such a project would have been for the aliens. Did they have to raise taxes for it? Did the older aliens demand a prescription drug plan out of the deal? I also wonder how we're doing. I worry that we might be corrected again.

Maybe next go around diapers won't cost so much.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Today’s Word: Schrodinger's Cat

A scruffy black and white of indiscriminate breed with one ear nearly gnawed to the nub and a lazy eye. This cat is a time traveler, but not in the way you imagine. He slinks around the now and now – the right and left of three dimensions, following divergent paths that multiply with unimaginable rapidity, spreading and merging forever to form a kind of grand litter box for our fine tom.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Today’s Word: Interlard

As I exited the automatic sliding doors a plume of warm air followed me into the night, enveloping me, if only for an instant, before the cold November night dared touch my bare face. And I thought, in that moment and for several more after the cold had claimed me, how this similitude of vitality and safety, was no more true than crocodile tears when closely examined – just more scummy bottom feeder water, leaking off a heartless beast's eye. For no warmth could come out that building save a kind of mechanical heat; the breath of machines, cooking their numbers endlessly in dim corridors where children will never laugh. It was at that moment I knew my heart was somehow interlarded from the place – as separate as heaven from earth.

I would never belong. I would never return
Today’s Word: Conestoga Wagon

Cyber Bubba was not stupid. Country yes. Stupid no. He rode the waves of the metasphere the way his forbearers rode Conestoga wagons across the plains and back again. From the soft confines his Phage-Chair®, Bubba had access to vast riches of information; from the exact weight of a Green-banded glass frog to the latest centerfold layout for Ms. April. Cyber Bubba had it all.

The only thing he was missing, the only thing that would make life on the metasphere complete – well, Bubba could never find. He searched, he invested time and even money, but the one golden thing eluded him. So Bubba made it himself.

New in the spring of 2031, try Cyber Bubba's ultra-realistic Deer Hunt Beer Fest!!

Cyber Bubba was rich.
Cyber Bubba was happy.
Cyber Bubba scored a nine point cyber buck.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003


Today’s Word: Portent

Grrr, robins and gladiolas
Grrr, rabbits in their holes
Grrr, jackals on the prowl
Grrr, smoke in the east and all portents of man
Grrr, the pride diminishes
Grrr, the cubs suckle not

Monday, November 17, 2003

Today’s Word: Bifurcate

We had that strong connection when we were young, that sense of rightness whenever we got together, which was most every afternoon. He loved action cartoons and I MTV, so we divided our time with the tube between the two. Summer days we spent biking (he was never embarrassed to ride with a girl) and I surprised him by being able to keep up.

But time passes in packets: bundles of years and moments stuffed into nondescript brown boxes and mailed to us from God. Millions of little seconds came between us – the actions of those seconds. Making love at seventeen was probably the most telling. That act alone bifurcated our lives like a cement walk down the middle of a perfect green lawn.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Flashers is on hiatus until Sunday the 16th while I work feverishly to meet a deadline.

-- david j.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Today’s Word: Doyen

The Doyen of the Twelve hunkered down with his disciples, his nose pressed firm against the trench wall. Other men scrabbled along the concave floor, breaking loose tiny avalanches of scree, but the captains got them stopped quickly.

"How far off are the medusas?" asked the Doyen of his first councilor, a large man named Tonce.

"Spotter says three miles east, but the wind is blowing in from that direction, my lord."

The Doyen nodded, still facing the dirt. The giant, jellyfish-like medusas could cover that amount of ground in minutes, especially if the wind favored them. With their kilometers long tentacles, the beasts could almost reach that far so long as they sensed prey milling about on the ground.

He was running a risk, giving his disciples this mission. If they failed, if something went horribly wrong, the entire Twelve could be consumed by diaphanous sacks of hydrogen. And, worse, Lanta would be lost.

"How many are there, Tonce?" asked the Doyen.

"Spotter says three, your grace."

The Doyen nodded. "Pour the tar and set the fires. Don't wait for my command, start shooting the moment you believe they're in range."

"Yes, your grace."

Tonce rolled to his right and called for the captains. One of the younger disciples – probably seventeen if a year – let out a gasp and everyone's eyes, even Tonce's and the remaining members of the Twelve, turned to see the first medusa rising over their trench to the east.

Its tentacles hung down lazily, as if it were careless what lay below on the green earth. But this misconception was dispelled quickly when one of the massive tendrils snared a cow from a nearby pasture. The hysterical bovine screamed as stinging buds pierced its flesh, deadening the muscles in a mater of seconds, silencing the thing's cries to a horrid gurggle. In a moment the cow was lost from view, as the massive arm rose upward, lifting it to the medusa's waiting mouth some two kilometers overhead. A shower of blood and one leg with hoof still attached, rained down into the pasture.

"No time to gape, men!" cried the Doyen, rousing his disciples to arms.

One of the captains sparked dry hay to flame, which he in turn used to set a moat of tar afire.

Young disciples – deacons in the Faith – carried the arbalest missiles to the tar moat, setting their tips to the fire, then returned them to the machines which only captains were allowed to operate.

The Doyen saw scores of flame arrows fired from longbows and crossbows rise from the trench seeking to damage the medusa, but he had little hope for their success. It was impossible for them to climb high enough to hit the thing's body and the tentacles were virtually impervious to any attack known to man.

His only hope was the arbalest.

Tonce gave the order and a captain triggered the huge machine to fire. Its arrow flew away faster than any bird the Doyen had ever seen take wing. Its flaming head did not go out, rather it seemed to burn more brightly as it rose away from the trench.

The huge flame arrow was only halfway through its climb when the medusa's tentacle started to move.

"Oh, God," whispered the Doyen, as the now tiny missile bounced off the side of that massive limb. Three other tentacles, each the width of a large tower, rose over the trench wall, and swung inside. Disciples screamed as they were carried away to a gapping maw in the clouds.

Tonce ran forward, and took the Doyen by the sleeve of his damask shirt.

"We must shelter in the cave, your grace. You mustn't die in this place, while Lanta is still under siege."

Reluctantly, the Doyen followed his first councilor through the trench to a cave of thick stone that opened into it.

Tonce collapsed on the loose rock at his master's feet.

"I have failed you," he said, his deep voice hoarse with emotion. "The Twelve are lost, all but me, and I am dead in my failure."

The Doyen placed a hand on Tonce's shoulder.

"They are not dead, my loyal disciple."

Cheers erupted over the sound of fear and pain outside, followed by a heavy thud and the sound of something massive burning.

"They have taken one from the sky," said the Doyen, looking out the cave mouth, though there was nothing to see besides the first bend of trench. "Soon we shall have airships to match the Ogema, and then Lanta shall be ours."

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Today’s Word: Amity

Amity among our nations led to enmity among our people.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Today’s Word: Avatar

The heart. What a strange organ man has chosen as the avatar of his love. Of all the organs held within his frame, this one is the most inconstant. Ever does it vary in speed and intensity, squeezing a man's blood through channels and tributaries it shall never know; working in darkness, thrusting and pumping till he dies, like an unfaithful lover quit of its paramour.

And yet, without this inconstancy, this strangeness of mood and secretive touch, our lives would not be. With the stoic blandness of a jaded prostitute our hearts caress our blood; taking in the cold, the depleted, and sending it out anew, refreshed and whole. Unlike the compassion of love, but strong and sure as that emotion's ties, do our hearts bend to their tasks, like seamstresses about the cloth.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Today’s Word: Traduce

It was a slip, as most indiscretions are. Tyler's promise broke upon the rocks of his friends' ears, like a tiny wooden vessel shredded against a stony cleft. As soon as the words left his gullet, words that traduced his own wife before mixed company, his ears began to burn and his stomach grew tight. He hadn't meant to say it. He hadn't opened his mouth with the intention of calling his wife a nag; she wasn't a nag. But the guys were being guys, speaking about their wives as if they had no feelings for them; as if these very women didn't make their lives complete. And maybe, for a few of them, that was true. Maybe their wives were nagging, self-righteous, bossy, women with no sense of purpose beyond ruling their husbands. But not Meagan. Meagan was his sweetheart, his reason for working this thankless job when all other reasons had ceased to matter. She was the mother of his children, and his dearest friend.

When he came through the door with a dozen roses and a copy of her favorite movie on DVD, Meagan was taken aback. Real tears came to her eyes and she wouldn't stop hugging him. Even when told her why, told her that he had called her a nag for the stupid reason of peer pressure, she only shrugged and accepted his apology with grace.

"How can you forgive me so easily, when I promised I'd never disparage you before anyone?" asked Tyler.

"Because that's what best friends do," said Meagan.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Today’s Word: Voluminous

Sometimes the vagaries of war were such that the Queen retreated to her winter home in Briston, where the cold, foggy air and voluminous snow could invigorate her spirits. But in the year of '73, when the Archduke of Imprenes, Lord Terrinval, sacked the lady's capital of Breninvair, and took her country at the tip of sword and flame of torch, the Queen retreated to her winter home with every intention of finding death upon the columned terrace.

What she found was Lord Terrinval himself, and he certainly didn't LOOK like death, in his dashing black military waistcoat, pure white hose, tricorne cap, and three flashing golden suns upon each shoulder – representations of his rank as supreme commander of the Overan armies. Nor did this man dressed in black carry a shearing scythe. Instead, Lord Terrinval came bearing a ring and a crown – a crown that matched her own.

After the years of her youth had bled away, and with her womanhood sitting upon her brow and bosom like a mantle of burnished brass, the Queen finally knew what it was to be conquered.

It was love.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Today’s Word: Internecine

The tribal lords of the Falcon Reefs might well have dominated the eastern shores of Virs, perhaps as far as the third city of Mot-her, but their clans were ever at war one against the other. Of the six most powerful families, the Chur-Hol were the dominant, and their clan alone, numbering in the thousands, may well have ruled the reefs from Hurn Spine to Bu-Hag, save for their internecine struggles which sapped the clans' strength until they were little more than fodder for the invading Stampon.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Today's Word: Vapid

Boring minds lead vapid lives.