We call it an Embrace,
But it’s not anything so…
What it is, what it is, is like
Being a deer, being
Pulled down by a pack of wolves.
Only the wolves all share the same skin
All snare with the same eyes
All tear with the same teeth.
We call it a Gift,
But it’s not anything so…
It’s very little Give,
And a whole lotta Take,
Not so much a kiss, as, well…
What you have left, when
The wolves have rent and run
Is a pool of blood that’s not yours.
We call it a Requiem,
But it’s not anything so…
Do not sing for us, you who
Still have souls to lose, for
Our fate is undecided, but decidedly
Neither rest, nor eternal, having
Neither repose, nor purpose;
A celebration of neither life well lived,
Nor death well earned.
We call it an Embrace,
I am an ancient but Quickened oak, putting down my roots to drink the blood of our goblin foes from the soil as the others bind their wounds after days of endless battle. I am weary, but this nourishment will sustain me for yet another fortnight or so. “Sap seeps slowly, blood flows quickly”, goes the saying among my kind.
The others assume I am dormant while I sup, and it’s true I become very like my Rooted kin while linked to the soil, but I can still hear, my leaves catching the tiniest vibrations on the wind. Even the Sylvani woman who called me from my home wood to follow her does not know this. Tonight she plies her healing arts on the mighty warrior from the southern reaches. She spends more time on him than is necessary. Her long, slender fingers linger against his bronzed skin, so dark compared to her alabaster flesh. Her whispers linger in his ear, eliciting a laugh and a flicker of firelight in his dark eyes.
I do not begrudge her this dalliance, but I worry for her. This is not the first time she has grown close to a mortal, and I do not look forward to the decade of brooding I know will come following the human’s inevitable death, whether it comes in 5 years or in 50.
I am on Monster Island searching for the Fountain of Youth. I run into Morgan Freeman, who caresses the fabric of my shirt in a rather unsettling way, comparing it to that of his own suit. I escape his attentions to catch up with my partner, who has found us a guide, a kappa by the name of Kupo. The turtleish creature leads us to a small pool, and dives in, saying it’s the mouth of a long underwater tunnel that will get us to the central valley of the island where the Fountain is guarded by antediluvian terrors of every description. Peering down into that pond, I can see it is lined with every kind of slick and slimy aquatic ickiness I can imagine. Anemones and sea cucumbers and mossy corals, and no way in hell am I going in there, sorry, sorry, nope! Dinosaurs and Yetis and Jersey Devils I can handle, but slimy things in the water is where I draw the line.
My partner tries to convince me but I am having none of it. Finally she dives in and leaves me on the beach to wait for her return. Unfortunately it seems word of our expedition has leaked out, for I can see a task force on the horizon, aircraft carriers and battleships and attack boats full of special forces. But Monster Island does not suffer fools or invasions gladly, and a thousand titanic horrors arise from the waters to smash and sink and crush, tentacles and jaws and armored scales. The forest disgorges velociraptors and mammoths and pterosaurs and a pitched battle ensues, it’s not clear at all who will have the upper hand. I just have to hope my partner gets back with the goods so we can make our escape before either side wins and turns its attention toward us.
I watch as the Adventurer travels far and braves much peril to find the Temple of All Fear atop the highest mountain in the Utter East, where the Four Beasts wail at the Font of the East Wind so it carries their message of terror throughout the Bowl of the World. At great cost the Adventurer convinces the Four to wail a specific warning to the people of all kingdoms, praying it will reach them in time to prepare for what is to come.
When I hear the warning, my vision clouds over with frost and my heart stutters in my chest- it is not a warning for the world of the Bowl, but for our world- the one we wake to when dreams are done. It renders some common household phrase, or a child’s schoolyard rhyme, into a premonition of deepest dread- the specific words I can not recall, and I do not know if that is a blessing or a curse.
K and I were at a mall, waiting in line to see The Life and Times of Honey Boo-Boo: The Musical, probably because she had to do a presentation on it for the kids. Ron Edwards was also in the line, several people behind us. All day we had been noticing these strange new boxes attached to the tops of telephone poles everywhere, and we were wondering what they were for. I suggested they’d been installed by the government to intercept everyone’s communications, and that they were building an alternate infrastructure that could divert and trap undesirable information or inquiry into their own “shadow internet” that they exclusively controlled. Just then a tall blonde guy in a brown trenchcoat, (looked a bit like John Constantine, now that I think about it) stepped up to me with a grin and tasered me right in the side of the neck. I went down like a poleaxed steer and twitched on the ground for a bit, wondering if, like Mel Gibson, I’d hit too close to the truth with my conspiracy theory.
Eventually I got up and we proceeded into the theater. There were several classes of grade school children at the performance as well. It was predictably horrible, with the role of Honey Boo Boo (whom I know nothing about, having never seen the show) played by an adult woman (I think it was Jelena Jensen) in a gold bikini. It was bizarre and we were mostly ignoring it to play with our various devices (which included an old microcassette recorded that also for some reason took SD cards). At some point there was an intermission or something and the teachers and chaperones started shuffling the kids out for a potty break, at which point several hard looking men entered and approached us, demanding we hand over all our devices and data. We argued with them, claiming it was a violation of our rights, but they would not be deterred. Eventually I left all my gear on my seat, but took the SD card from the cassette recorder, saying “Oh, fine, if you have to search our stuff, go ahead, just don’t steal anything.” and started to leave. The men gave me a look as if to say “we’re not really sure where you got the idea you have any say in the matter, but cut the shit.”
We skipped out on the rest of the performance and returned to K’s place without our devices, and set about making something to eat to calm ourselves down. Suddenly the doorbell started buzzing insistently. K was like “I’m not expecting anybody, are you?”, and I’m like “NO, CUZ IT’S THE GOVERNMENT THEY’RE HERE TO TAKE OUR COMPUTERS AND PROBABLY KILL US OMFG WHAT DO WE DO!” and we started running around the house and panicking and then the doorbell turned out to be my alarm and I woke up.
The White Lady knocked at the door of my mother’s house, with her Carnival of Sin in tow. Smiling, I invited her in. We had a nice dinner, prepared by clones of some of the world’s finest chefs and served by my robot butlers. Then we went dancing, using my holo-chamber to insert ourselves in a rotating selection of nightclubs across the world that serve as fronts for my outposts, caches, and monitoring stations. Then we took my private subway to the waterfront, where we chatted under the stars about ourselves and the many tribulations of supervillainy. Experiments gone out of control, hapless minions, pesky would-be heroes, and don’t even get me started on trying to get good health insurance. After a while the conversation died down and we were just enjoying the fresh air. She leaned in for a kiss. Then I tumbled, limp, off of the bench, eyes rolling back in my head.
“Shit!” she exclaims. “I forgot about my knockout lipstick!” She whistles and several of her clown minions appear, freakish grins greasepainted across their idiot faces. She has them carry me back to the subway car, and peruses the destination settings on the control panel. “Ooh, Main Lair Control Room, that sounds deeeelightful.” she smiles, hitting the button. Of course it ignores her at first, but then she fishes the keycard out of my pocket, and off we go.
In the control room of my lair, she has her minions prop me up on the “throne” at the center of the observation dome, and secure me with ropes made from silk handkerchiefs tied end to end, which they pull out of their mouths. I’m beginning to stir, and she doesn’t want to be interrupted as she surveys the very heart of my criminal enterprise, hers for the claiming. She puts in a call on the satphone, and Killomancer appears on the main screen, twice as big as life and at least sixteen times as ugly.
“Hey, Killy, you’ll never guess where I’m calling from. The dope fell for it hook, line, and sinker!” she cackles. “I’m sending you the coordinates now, but this place is huge and we still have to clear out all the robots, so bring your whole crew, and we’ll start divvying things up, ok? Seeeeeyaaaaa.” she singsongs, waggling her fingers goodbye, and signs off. I’m almost fully conscious, now, but I pretend to still be out of it when she turns back to me and spins my chair around with a “Wheeeeee!” of pure malevolent joy.
Two minutes later, the screen shows one of Killomancer’s mystic portals opening up right outside Gate B and innumerable cultists and demons and mercenaries armed to the teeth begin shuffling through. Shelly (that’s her real name, or at least the one she told me to call her) flips the switch to let them in, the huge aperture irising open to admit the invaders onto a massive elevator platform that sinks directly into the hangar bay. Over the loudspeaker she calls “Make it snappy, Killy, these robots are givin’ us hell in here!” which is confusing, since not a single one of my robots has lifted a metal finger, or even noticed our presence. Her two clown minions are capering stupidly in the corner of my vision as I watch her lean over the control panel, her charming leotard-clad backside waggling as she flips this switch and that. I can’t quite see what she’s doing, but then the screen makes it clear- the elevator platform is halfway down when she hits the emergency stop, and deliberately trips all the countermeasures one by one, singing to herself as she goes. “Force-field, nerve-gas, laser-beams, Yay! Flame-jets, poison-spikes, razor-blades, Whee!” This time when she whirls around, grin wide on her adorable, alabaster doll-face, I’m grinning back. “Hi, honey!” she chirps. “I got you a preeeeeseeeeeent!” she does the Vanna White gesture at the main screen, where the screams and wails of a few hundred men and monsters crescendo as each trap adds to the carnage. I slip out of the handkerchief ropes with an old stage magician’s trick I learned from Mystificus when we were college roommates, and put my arm around her waist to watch the show. It’s beautiful.
I am an elderly modern day samurai, a former secret agent. My partner falls under some form of mind control at the family holiday gathering and attacks everyone, forcing me to kill him in defense of them. My family is irate and blames me, they’ve never been supportive of my “lifestyle”, ever since I took up with a man after my wife passed on. Distraught, I ring up my old bosses to call in a favor, but they can’t help me- we weren’t married, after all, he wasn’t even listed on my personnel file as a significant other. It would have been an embarrassment, they tell me. Maybe this is for the best. My sons, both successful lawyers, whom I never asked to lobby against their beliefs, are belligerent. This is all my fault. But my son-in-law seems sympathetic, even angry on my behalf. He encourages me to take matters into my own hands. I am, after all, a retired killer, with nothing but time and money on my hands. “Go all A-Team, man… or, well, A-You, anyway. What have you got to lose?” He’s right. I leave my family squabbling and go upstairs to pack some things. I still have a few favors to call in from less discriminating sources. And someone’s going to pay.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 550 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 9 trips to carry that many people.
He had braced himself for pain. Expected it. Hell, even welcomed it. Pain was an old friend by now, familiar, even comfortable.
This… this was something else entirely.
A small, far off voice suggested “agony”, and that had a certain ring to it.
As the darkness of torpor closed in around him, hands slipping helplessly on the precious vitae coating the spar of corroded rebar jutting from the broken concrete, part of him dimly wondered “Oh, shit… do vampires get tetanus?”