Wednesday, October 23, 2013
I write a lot of stuff that never sees the light of day. Most of it meets the waste basket or the delete command because it sucks. But sometimes I get a little idea that I start to flesh out only to realize that while it's fun, it's not going anywhere.
This is one of those:
Mike and I rolled into a little town called Potter's Hill on a code 913: unlicensed use of infernal powers.
Civilians always want to know how that happens. Doesn't HE know everything? Sure, HE probably does, but that doesn't mean HE tells us. HE believes the struggle is more important than the victory. HE believes the choice, that beautiful moment when one of you embraces the divinity within you, is worth everything else, particularly since the whole of your history is just a moment to HIM and your entire universe is no bigger than a mote of HIS dust. Which doesn't mean that HE doesn't love you with all the love in the universe.
There are just more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of yada, yada, yada.
I picked up the radio unit and signaled HQ. "Metatron, this is unit 36 reporting. We are on-site for the 913 in Potters Hill. Over."
"Confirmed, 36. Procede as dictated by the Word. Over."
Mike looked over at me. "Have we ever not proceded as dictated by the Word?"
"That thing with the tower," I said. "And the plague of rats."
"Both of those worked out splendidly, and so were obviously in accordance with HIS will. Now let's go find out what this is all about."
I can hear you all saying "But David, that's awesome! We totally want more!"
(Actually, I can't hear that. I never hear that.) But there's a reason I stopped writing it.A buddy cop story about angels is an amusing concept, but the entire joke is played out in the first couple paragraphs. Anything else would just be another adventure story. Still, it was kind of cute.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
I decided to go ahead and do a title card for the other Reality Gem holders. I hope they don't get picked out from under me.
Lady Styx and Lilandra are stock. I gave Abin Sur Captain Comet's suit to create the Space Phantom. Umar just got the Emerald Eye of Ekron from an Emerald Empress micro. The only really impressive one in teh bunch is Captain Thunder, who has parts from the Sentry, two different Flash micros, and a shield stolen from Taskmaster and slightly modified.
In the (fictional) fiction, he has powers bestowed on him through the Greek Gods, wears the sandals of Hermes, and carries the Ageis. I thought the costume I cobbled together was suitably Golden Agey.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
My pick could come any time now, so it's time to put up my title card:
Here's another version, with Beautiful Dreamer's astral form blurred:
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
It's likely my next pick will go live while I'm at work today, so I'm taking the awful risk of putting up my micro now (actually 2 micros).
I present Monet St. Croix-- Shiva
Presented in Astral form and life-support wheelchair form.
And as a bonus, here's a picture of Binary, just because.
Monday, June 10, 2013
Here's Ororo Munroe (Storm, of the X-men) as The Mighty Isis.
This turned out to be a pretty common idea. Another drafter already had a Storm/Isis micro hero I could have borrowed. But I'm fond of mine.
Tuesday, June 04, 2013
These two aren't modified at all - just two straight microheroes I'm borrowing to represent a couple of my upcoming picks.
Falcon: King Katar Hol of the Aerie, Emperor of the Savage Land
(Who is basically just Hawkman. I kinda wanted to put one together with one of his more... unfortunate... costumes and a different helmet, but it was a big pain in the ass. I may try again tomorrow, though.)
Johnny Thunder, AKA John Henry Irons
I really wish I could have found a better Zzzax to use - one that showed how big he is. But this one will do. My version of John Henry Irons was transformed into a nuclear plasma monster when his experimental ARC reactor blew up. Now he wanders the world, hunted by the military, and tries to do some good while searching for a cure. If I were a better person, I'd make a micro of him in human form as well.
Sunday, June 02, 2013
I present Ulysses Bloodwynd:
"I have had it with these Motherf-cking Shuggoth on this Motherf-cking astral plane!"
Saturday, June 01, 2013
I really shouldn't be comic book drafting. I have a novel to write. But I love these so. Over on RPG.net we're running a Hybrid Universe draft, and it's been incredibly awesome. You can follow it HERE
I'll post stuff lost to pickageddon here, and as I frequently do I'll use my blog as an image host. Here's my first round draft pick: Jor-El the Air-Walker
Saturday, March 17, 2012
I'm kind of ashamed of this one. The writing is fine. It's just... I couldn't think of anything more creative than vampires. Lesbian vampires, even.
At least they don't sparkle.
By David Goodner
moving. Find some people, a crowd. Where is everyone?
“Justine? Where are you?” Her voice is sickly sweet, falsely
friendly. “You’re not scared, are you?”
mall is right up ahead, open late on Friday nights because of the club and the
movie theatre. The automatic doors slide
open for me. The mechanical voice says
“Welcome to Nolan Pines Mall. Please
come inside.” It offers me no
protection. But there are people inside.
down on the end with the arcade and bowling alley. Loud music blares out of the opening,
different than the not quite so loud music blaring from the mall’s
speakers. Should I go in? No.
There’s no way out but the emergency exits. I have to be able to slip away unnoticed, to
get far enough ahead that she can’t follow me, then to get into a house. I’ll go to my brother’s. We don’t get along, but he’ll let me in, and
he’s never invited Katya over.
pause for just a moment, scanning the crowd.
Are any of the others here? They
love to play games. Did they just heard
me this way?
department store at the other end of the mall has three exterior exits. Can I make it? It’s late.
A lot of stores are closing up. Steel
cages roll down from the ceiling, most only pulled half-way down so far. The crowds are thinning out, too.
I shed my jacket
and stuff it into a trashcan. I pull my
hair out of its ponytail. If I can
change my appearance enough, maybe I can throw them off.
(In my heart, I
know it won’t work.)
Just a few more
minutes, just keep walking. My breath
thunders in my ears. I can’t believe
everyone isn’t staring at me. Somehow, I
keep it together, keep walking at a pace faster than normal but not so fast I
Is that Katya up
on the second level? Is she waiving to
me? No, some other redhead, in a
different outfit, even. I’m jumping at
I’d saved my cell
phone from my jacket pocket. I can’t
call the police. They can’t stop
her. No one can. But a cab.
If I can get a cab to meet me at the mall, we can get away. Katya and the others are on foot. They couldn’t keep up with a car, could they?
Transport,” says the bored dispatcher on the other end.
I try to control
my breath. “I need a cab. I’m at Nolan Pines Mall, and I need a ride as
fast as possible.”
“We have a limo in
the area. We can pick you up in five
minutes, but there’s a $50 dollar minimum.”
fine. I’ll pay it. I’ll be at the tire shop entrance. On the south side.”
behind me. I turn, nearly drop the
phone, but there’s nothing.
“Did you hear me,
miss? I need to know how you intend to
I’d left all my
money in my bag at the club. Thank god I
knew my credit card number.
Amex. Is that okay?” If this was one of the places that didn’t
take American Express, I was going to die.
“That’ll be fine.”
I give the guy my
number while trying to keep my eyes on everything at once. As I pass the food court, there are more
people, more smells: grease from the burger joint, meat-smell from the little
Mongolian style grill, sin incarnate from the Cinnabon.
learned what sin incarnate really smelled like tonight, a little musky with the
hint of apples: Katya’s perfume.
They don’t seem to
be following me. Maybe I really had lost
them. The smells from the food court
might slow them down. I duck down an
employee only isle. I’d worked here
once. The tunnel lead back outside, but
only a few yards away from the department store’s tire section. Some guy in a hairnet says “hey…” but doesn’t
try to stop me. I wouldn’t have tried to
stop anyone, either, not for minimum wage and a free burger a night.
I get to the
store. There’s no limo. The night is cold without my jacket, and in
my short skirt. It’s dark. The streetlamps don’t illuminate much beyond
isolated circles of pavement. I stand by the door, locked at this hour, and try
to figure out where else I can run now.
A white limo pulls
up in front of me. The window rolls
down. “You call for a ride, miss?”
I think. “Yes! Yes. I
need to get over to Farmington.”
I reach for the
door, but the driver is already getting out to let me in. It seems to take forever. I sink into the seat, which is the most
comfortable leather upholstery I’ve ever felt.
The limo drives off, headed for the highway and safety.
I’m so glad you could make it. We’re going to have such fun at the club
tonight. Your new sisters are waiting
for you.” Katya smiles, sitting in the
seat across from me, her legs crossed in black satin leggings. Her fangs gleam perfectly white in the dark
compartment of the limo. “I know changes
like this are scary, baby, but once you join the family, I know you’
Three stories made the "that doesn't suck" cut this week. Here's the first one:
By David Goodner
the end came, it wasn’t with a bang, but with a sigh. The Knarv tried conventional warfare, but
humanity has been fighting and scrapping for thousands of years. Even with their better technology, we fought
on. We murdered them by the thousands as
we died by the millions. Then we stole
their technology and murdered by the tens of thousands, the hundreds of
thousands. And we did what we have
always done. We out-bred them. The Vorgull tried orbital bombardment, but by
then we had mastered kinetic shields, stolen from the Knarv.
the Jax destroyed us. They killed us
with the least of things, something more fecund than we were. It was a virus, introduced to the planet on a
rock too small to merit disintegrating.
The plague ripped across mankind, but we stopped it. We came up with a vaccine. It mutated to our livestock, and that was
bad. The myriad strains each required a
different cure. But by then we were
growing yeast cultures for most of our food anyway. Our ships hunted Jax ships, harried them from
the virus mutated again, and again. Then
it mutated some more. By the time we
noticed the final form, it was too late.
Transmitted by air, it silently infected its host organisms for years
before we understood. It rewrote their
DNA. In a way, it made them stronger,
there was one crucial change. Infected
plants… all plants… no longer turned oxygen into carbon dioxide. They started breathing out methane, just like
the Jax breathed. Millions of species,
too many to cure. Day by day, the earth
poisons her children. The plants die,
too. They still need oxygen, and every
hour there’s less to breathe.
could try leaving. We will try. But only a fraction of us will make it. Earth is dead, and with it dies the beating
heart of the human empire.
we’re not going to die alone. Our
scientists learned from the Jax metavirus.
They learned to make a virus that turns methane-breathers into cyanide-producers. There are twelve major worlds in the Jax
cluster. We have twelve ships armed and
ready to go.
will fight to the last breath.
Friday, March 09, 2012
The Secret Name
By David Goodner
way to Ilius, I was forced to stop at a wayhouse by torrential rains. I knew better than to go to Ilius in the
spring, but some errands can’t be put off.
The wayhouse was a large example of its kind. By the lines, it was a defunct barracks, sold
back to the civilian population after the Legions moved their primary base to
stew was good. The bread was fresh. The libations were reasonably priced and
better than I’d expected. Then again,
Ilius is barley country. A minstrel
provided some entertainment for the occasional denarius or mug of beer.
The rest of the
guests were a mixed lot. A group of
pilgrims shared a big round table and seemed to be determined to earn their
money’s worth on the forgiveness available at the Shrine of the Maidens. There were the usual farmers and merchants
who stayed too long at the market and were trapped by the rain, as I was. And there was one man sitting by himself in the corner. He wore a tattered tunic and surcote that
bore markings I didn’t immediately recognize.
Because of my work, I would have said I was familiar with every Legion
and Free Company’s badges.
He sat as if he
was alone in the room, taking no notice of the other travelers, or, indeed,
anything else around him. A bowl of soup
sat in front of him, untouched. A mug of
something sat, unsipped. His eyes held
only a vacant stare into nothing.
When the housemaid
came by to refill my drink, I asked her about the man.
She was busy, and
only replied shortly, “That’s Pallas.
Leave him alone.”
The name jogged my
memory: Gaius Pallas Maximus, leader of the Black Hawk Company. Their badge had been struck from the
registers, which was why I had not immediately recognized it. The Black Hawks were one of the great
scandals of the Free Companies for the sack of the Holy City of Therica. No one knew exactly what had happened or why
they destroyed the city and put out its temple fires.
As a historian, I
had to know. I moved over to his table
and realized that he was mumbling to himself.
His mouth hung slightly open, and his lips barely moved.
I sat down and
introduced myself, but he took notice. I
said his name, but he seemed not to hear.
He just kept muttering, and try as I might, I could make no sense of
what he said. It was not merely that the
words made no sense. I could not
recognize them as words.
As I speak
fourteen languages fluently, and am passable in six more, I found this
surprising. So I leaned closer, hoping
that if I heard better I could understand.
A crash behind me
startled me almost out of my chair. The
housemaid had dropped her pitcher, and not even pausing to see to the mess she
charged across the common room and grabbed me roughly.
“I told you to
leave him alone!” she yelled at me.
Now we were the
focus of all attention in the wayhouse.
I had no idea why, but I apologized profusely.
My hostess calmed
enough that I could ask “Please, madam, tell me how so great a warrior came to this
supper,” she said.
So with quite a
bit of impatience, I waited until everyone had eaten and most had gone off to
their billets. She came to me where I
sat by the fire with a mug of beer.
“You know his
history,” she said.
Of course I did,
up until Therica.
“He is my… great
uncle. I am the only family he has
left. He’d been a bit better lately, so
I let him out into the common room. I’m
sorry for what I did, Sir. But I
couldn’t let you speak to him while he was like that.”
At length, she
told me of the fate of Gaius Pallas Maximus.
The Black Hawks had gone to Therica because Pallas believed that the
Oracle there could answer a question.
His wife and only son had died the previous winter, and Pallas himself
had suffered the blue fever, after which no man will ever sire a child. He blamed God for his misfortunes, and had
determined to challenge the Almighty himself.
And the Oracle of Therica, it was said, knew the true name of God. So Pallas lead his Black Hawks there,
together with various common mercenaries, to hold the city hostage against the
Lord’s true name.
“And the Oracle
would not give it?” I asked. “That
explains the sack of the city. Gaius
Pallas Maximus was not known to bluff.”
laughed. “Oh no. They sacked the city after, for revenge. She DID tell him the name. It broke his mind, and breaks it still. Some days he’s almost lucid, but then
something he sees or hears will remind him of the name. Everything reminds him of the name, because
the name of the Lord is everything.
“And if you listen
to him, he’ll tell it to you, too.”
Be Careful What You Wish For
By David Goodner
picked up the ring at an estate sale. It
was tarnished and gaudy, and went for a song because nobody else realized it
was the real deal. I hadn’t been sure, but it looked a little different than
all the other costume jewelry in the lot I bought. The band was wide, and marked with something
that could be Hebrew of Sanskrit. I
couldn’t really tell the difference. I
knew the ring was real because of the weight.
Real silver is pretty heavy. I
figured it might make a nice prop for something. If ever there’d been a magic ring, this was
naturally, I did what anybody would do.
I tried the ring on. There was an
immediate blinding flash of light. I
blinked away starbursts, and when my vision cleared there was a woman standing
in front of me, wearing a red dress with silver bangles all around her waist.
enough of a history student to know that the traditional harem outfit is
actually a late addition to middle eastern culture. So I didn’t find that all too
surprising. I mean, face it, my threshold
for surprise had already been met and exceeded.
had blue skin and hair, and gold eyes.
Her wrists were bound with slave bracelets that connected to rings on
all her fingers. She had on a kind of
jeweled headdress that terminated in a ruby exactly like the one on my ring.
said something incomprehensible, and bowed to me.
I replied. Not my finest moment of
dialogue. “You’re a genie, aren’t you?”
asked me something. I could tell it was
a question by the tone of voice, but still couldn’t understand.
don’t speak… Urdu or genie or whatever.
This better not cost me a wish, but I need you to speak my language.”
tried another language, I think, then another that sounded a little like
Italian. She was getting increasingly
upset. Finally, she stamped her foot and
reached over to put her palms on either side of my head. Sparks flew through my brain. I kind of fell backwards into my chair.
she said. “That’s better. What year is it?”
I asked. “What the hell did you do to
me? I want my wishes.” Like any good fantasy gamer, I’d planned what
I’d do on this day in excruciating detail.
“I wish for… wait, are you the kind of genie who grants just three
wishes, or the kind that grants any number of minor services?”
am a lesser genie, Master, but…”
so whatever I want, but only conjurations.
You can’t make me immortal or change reality to suit me. Just make stuff.”
is correct, Master, but only…”
first of all, I want a black Lamborghini Diablo out in the driveway, fully
fueled and ready to drive.”
something shifted in the world. It felt
like being electrocuted by an earthquake inside a freezing volcano. And the ring dropped off my finger. “What was that” I asked. Where had that come from? I tried to pick the ring back up, but my hand
passed through it like it wasn’t there.
“What the HELL?!?”
genie looked a little sad. “I was trying
to warn you.” She shrugged, reached down
and picked up the ring, slipping it onto her finger.
I realized her
headdress was gone, and felt something on my own head. As she put the ring on, I felt another shock
go through me. I also noticed she wasn’t
blue anymore. Her hair still was.
“I’ll need some
modern clothes,” she said. “Do it now.”
“Yes, mistress,” I
said instantly. It was as though I had
no control over myself. Power flowed out
of me, and an outfit appeared on the table; a sundress, sandals, and appropriate
underwear. “Mistress?” I asked. Where the hell had that come from? None of my plans included any of this.
“I was trying to
warn you, my service had a limit, an expiration date. I was bound to serve for 1000 years in… you’d
say the year 1009. Counting the years by
the Hijri calendar, my term of service ended in your year 1979. But my last master lost me many years
ago. I was trapped in the ring until
someone freed me. But if someone tried
to command me after my term of service ended, well… they’d be forced to take my
“I did try to warn
you.” She started taking off her clothes
to put on the dress. “But now, I’ve been
stuck in that ring for over 100 years, and nobody ever even wore it. I’ve been bored out of my mind, and based on
what I read from your head, your century looks like a lot of fun.”
was all I could say. I stood there,
She reached up to
pat me on the cheek. “Don’t take it too
hard, kid. You only have to serve me for
1000 years. Of course, since I’m an immortal,
I’m not going to lose you like some of my past masters did. Now, I think I want a black Lamborghini
Diablo, fully fueled and ready to drive, in your driveway.”
I'm getting an early start on the weekend. And I'm going to change my procedures. I'd rather have a separate entry for each story so I can tell at a glance which ones I've already posted.
Prophecies Always Come True
By David Goodner
the Prophet only had one prophecy: that in the two hundredth year of the Dark
Lord’s reign, a child would be born marked by the sign of the Eastern
Star. That child would be the Child of
Light who would bring down the Dark Lord.
the Dark Lord in his tower was afraid.
His Dark Legions traveled the land, looking for the Child of Light, and
crushing his followers wherever they might be found. The Legions were very harsh and very
thorough. They left blood in their wake. Blood and ashes.
ashes, and resentment. Resentment grew
in the far corners of the Dark Empire.
Resentment gave way to rebellion.
Rebellion spilled over into open revolt.
Cult of Light had been scoured from the land, with only a few scattered members
left. But other bastions of good, or
just rebellion, stood firm: the Sisters of the Moon, with their blood magicks;
the survivors of fallen Tyer; the Paladins of Yyin all rose up to avenge
themselves on the Dark Lord who had slain their wives and mothers, brothers and
in the one hundred and ninety ninth year of the Dark Lord’s reign, the tower of
Darkness fell. The Dark Legions were
routed. The Dark Lord himself was slain
before his own evil altar, which was riven asunder, the ground salted, and the
temple put to the flame.
in the end, Bertram the Prophet turned out not to be a prophet at all. He was forever after known as Bertram the guy
who said that thing one time.
Saturday, March 03, 2012
I did several that I'm reasonably happy with this week. Check these puppies out:
"A story about a promise"
By David Goodner
Markos stood on the ramparts on Ashday, watching the fighting below. Fires raged in the city, particularly in the
festering Carthian quarter, where the rebels had the strongest foothold. The King’s Guard were outnumbered by the
rioting peasants, but Markos had no doubt they would prevail. He had trained them, after all.
a bit of regret, he realized they had probably started the fires. Sir Borz, who now lead the Guard, was known
as a pragmatic knight. Markos might say
“callous,” instead. Setting fire to the
wooden shacks near the edge of the outer wall would give the rebels something
else to worry about, and the fire would be unlikely to spread to the
better-constructed portions of the city, and certainly it would not spread to
the castle itself. King Yoland was not
the man his father had been. He seemed
more concerned with his due as monarch than his responsibilities as steward and
The people chafed
under his rule. Where his father had been
kind, Yoland was cruel. Where his father
had made sure his people always had enough to eat, Yoland cared only that their
tributes filled his silos and coffers.
He took all his due and a little more.
It turned Markos’
stomach, but the old Knight had sworn an oath.
He turned away and continued his inspection of the defenses. Yoland had expanded and modernized the castle
since he took the throne. The work was
The fighting had
spread throughout the city. Not all of
the rebels were peasants and townsmen.
Yoland had seized the holdings of several Carthian Lords for
himself. One, Baron Taelaad, had been
Markos’ friend and a fellow member of the Royal Guard. But Yoland did not trust Carthians, even
though some of them had been in the Pyriades since before the Wars of the
Taelaad did not
submit lightly. He’d fled his keep with
a coffer of silver that he used to hire mercenaries and fund the
rebellion. And rumor said the man
himself had been seen in the capital.
The Guard had been searching for him non-stop. Other rumors said Taelaad had found Yistina,
the king’s eldest, the Lost Princess. If
so, Yoland’s entire rule was illegitimate.
heavily down from the battlements to inspect the old wall. The new wall for the expanded inner bailey
was incomplete. A temporary curtain
closed it off, but with the Guard spread so thin, it was less secure than
Markos would like. Still, the old
postern gate would probably keep the riff-raff out. You’d have to know about the old gate to even
know it was worth trying to breach the wall there at all.
before the old gate, really almost a secret door. It was too small to mount any kind of
successful sally. It was only really
designed as an escape hatch. Only the
castle servants and a few key retainers really knew it was there.
The old knight
stood for a long time. He reached under
his tunic, where his fingers closed on a sweat-stained parchment. He read it by torchlight for the thousandth
Ashday, three weeks hence, are all are hopes pinned.
you love this land more than its king, you know what you must do.
Taelaad’s badge of
two lovebirds before a crescent moon decorated the bottom.
Markos held the
parchment to the torch and let it burn.
Then he took an iron key from around his neck and opened the lock.
"A story about something stolen"
The Water and the Wild
By David Goodner
wandered through the wood, wondering.
This, he decided, was a tulgy wood if ever he’d seen one. In his eight years of life, he had seen many
more in his dreams than in real life.
Pale light filtered through the leaves of strange trees. Birds with songs more beautiful than real
life flittered and sang. Their plumage
liked the forest. It was nice here,
clean. If his mother was here, she
wouldn’t cry. She wouldn’t need to
drink. She’d remember supper. And shopping.
little boy turned, frightened. No one
else should be in the wood, not even a bandersnatch.
was a woman. She had huge, green eyes
and long, blond hair. Her skin was
smooth, and glowed in the moonlight. She
was a stranger, but she seemed nice. She
held an apple in slender, graceful fingers.
do you know my name?”
know everyone in my forest, Jeremy.”
not supposed to talk to strangers.”
okay,” she said. “You’re probably not
supposed to take food from them either, but you can have this apple if you
want. I promise it won’t hurt you.”
stomach rumbled. His thoughts were
troubled. “My mama will want me home,”
he said, or perhaps asked.
woman knelt down. “Of course she
will. Mothers should take care of their
sons. But she’s asleep now, isn’t she? And she forgot to make your supper. Why don’t you come home with me? It’s late.
It will be getting colder. I can
make you some supper, and if you want I’ll take you back to your mother when
fingers were warm, maybe even hot, where they gently touched Jeremy’s
face. “You can have the apple either
* * *
sat by her son’s bedside in the hospital, missing a shift at the factory,
craving a drink. But she couldn’t leave
him. She’d never leave him again, if
only he’d wake up. The coma had come out
of nowhere. The doctors still didn’t
know what caused it. And she hadn’t
noticed for a whole day. She’d been so
lost in herself, drunk out of her mind, that her son had slept for a whole day
and she didn’t realize. And he slept
“Baby, come back to me,” she
begged. “Momma is so sorry. Just come back to me.”
"A story about a wish"
I really liked the voice in this one.
By David Goodner
on a lonely hill, stands the old chapel, a shrine left by forgotten priests,
and maintained because no one wishes to offend the gods. Though the ground nearby is fertile, no one
furrows the soil with a plow, because this is a place where the veil between
the world of the living and the world of the dead grows thin. Or so the old women say.
hill, with its little copse of trees, is a cemetery of sorts, for those who die
near the village without kin to claim them.
With no one to say their names, the villagers think, perhaps it’s easier
for their souls to find the way to the afterlife here than back in the
village. And if not, they’d rather the
hill be haunted than their homes.
old women also say that if you come here on a moonless night and make an
offering on the shrine, your wish will be granted. But only a certain kind of wish. Whatever god once lived in this shrine, he’s
long gone. The dead answer prayers here
now, and there’s only one prayer the hungry dead can hear.
here comes Meg Willow, daughter of Bran Willow, who everyone knows as a good
man. Meg’s his good daughter, born
before his son Little Bran. She was
always a bit of a wild one, sneaking out of the house at night to watch the stars
or listen to the night birds. And later,
she came out to see Kemp MacAsher, son of the Laird.
MacAsher was betrothed, just a moon past, to Bella MacRea. Their marriage will make the Laird a little
richer and tie the clans together so the MacRea boys will go east instead of
west to steal sheep. It’s good for
everyone, they say.
has a bundle with her, thrown over her shoulder. Inside are two rabbits, tied with twine. The twine she spun with her own fingers, and
the rabbits she raised in her own pens.
She’s taking nothing from her father that won’t be easily replaced. In the bundle also are two scraps of
aspen-tree bark. Paper is too expensive,
even if Meg crushed her own rags to make it.
Long before rags should be paper, they could be patches for a tunic, or
batting in a quilt.
she has a taper lamp, and a bundle of twigs and dried moss, and a cake of
sheep’s dung. The old women say it’s bad luck to burn the wood from the hill.
reaches the shrine by the feeble light of her lamp. The night is clear and dark. To Meg, it seems that there’s too much space
around her. The familiar hills are
invisible, and the night drinks in all the sounds.
the altar, she starts a fire. She uses
the lamp and kindling, and the dried sheep dung to keep it going. And she pulls from her bundle the two
rabbits, one for each wish. She kills
them and lets their blood decorate the altar, careful not to douse her fire.
the fire change? Does it now burn with
ghost light? Meg doesn’t know. All her life, she’s stayed away from magic
and faeries and anything that stinks of the veil. But now she doesn’t know any other way
So she pulls out
her little scrolls of tree bark. The old
women in the village say that if you make a sacrifice and write the name of a
person and burn it in a fire on the altar of the shrine on the lonely hill, the
keepers of the dead will take the person who’s name you wrote, and they’ll
dwell in the land of the dead forever.
The first scroll
has a name scratched out in charcoal, “Kemp MacAsher.”
The second one
says “Meg Willow.”
Tune in next week for more. Unless they all suck so bad I won't post any.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
This is not the only story I've written since "The Lie," but it's the only good one. I'm aiming to do one every day M-F, but I'm only going to post the ones that don't suck here. I also didn't write this in five minutes. It was closer to twenty. If I get a good start and feel like the story will be worth the effort, I don't mind going over my time limit.
What I'm trying to learn to do is write on demand, and get stuff down quickly without agonizing over it.
A Small Boat on a Dark Night
By David Goodner
Todd pulled his hood lower, again.
Working the oars made his shoulders start rolling it back, again. So the rain dripped in his eyes, again. He tried to think more about the three silver
pennies in his neck pouch and less about warm broth, fresh bread, and roast sea
bass in his cozy, dry, cottage by the dockside.
three silver coins, he’d row further, and with much more cargo than a spindly
old man with a bent back and a crooked staff.
His passenger was so old and wrinkled that his eyes were almost
invisible beneath the lines of his face and the bushy eyebrows. The rest of his hair was wispy, like
something an artist had barely sketched in.
And his nearly toothless mouth lent a mushy sound and a bit of spittle
to every word he said. He wore no cloak
against the chill or the rain, just a tattered robe in a style Billy didn’t
to the right,” the man said. “And
faster. If we’re not there, we’ll miss
Codger. If you want to go faster, take
an oar,” Billy said.
“Bah! Mind your elders. If we get there on time, it’s another penny
for you. Hell, if we get there on time
I’ll not be needing coins at all.”
time for what?”
the conjunction, of course.” The old man
said. “The day and the hour, the place
and the time. Stars, moon, and sea are
perfectly aligned, as they haven’t been for twenty years and won’t be for
another twenty. I missed the last one,
but I won’t miss this one.
pointed with his stick, to something over Billy’s shoulder. Billy half-turned to see, but there was only
dark sky covered by thick clouds through which the moon barely shown as a
slightly lighter smudge.
and stars? There are none. Try not to make me feel like more of a damn
fool than I already am for being out in this mess.” But Billy knew those three silver pennies
would see him in fish and ale for several days.
Hells, he might buy pork or mutton.
can’t see them, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there, stupid boy. Just like the faeries, and the Isle of the
Isle of… Satan’s shit! You’ve dragged
me out here to find the Isle of the Young!
It’s just a stupid legend, and anyway it’s supposed to appear on clear
nights once each seven years off the coast of Mahnn.”
went. Legend was wrong.” The old man spat off the side of the
boat. “But the Isle is real. I lived there once. Fell in love with a mortal girl and followed
his passenger was crazy, Billy rolled his eyes.
He had the coins. He could turn
back. “Did you?” he asked. “So you was a fairy? Then why don’t you just fly to the damn
I’m a man as true-born as you.
Stolen from my cradle as a child.
I stayed on the island and aged only a day every year. But out here time took what it’d been robbed
of. And once I left the island, I knew
no way back.
I was smart, wasn’t I? I listened. I learned.
I read books.”
couldn’t even read his own name. But he
could see that the cold and the wet was doing the ancient man no good.
learned to follow the stars and the moon.
I learned about conjunctions, like tonight, when the moon comes near to
the earth and the ways open. I’ll go
back. You’ll take me there. And the faeries will restore my youth, and
never again will I be so stupid as to touch mortal soil. Never aga…”
old man didn’t finish. He keeled
straight over the side of the boat in the space of a word. Billy reached for him, but the dark sea was
hungry, and the light of their one lantern wasn’t even enough to reflect off
* * *
in the end, Billy’d rowed out past the harbor lights for naught but three
pennies. He wasn’t going swimming to
find the rest. But he had a story to
true and sure, as he was rowing back for home and hearth, he saw an island
appear out of the gloom, shining silver and bright. He fancied that he might have seen a few
people on the shore, but he didn’t look too close. There were things a wise man didn’t poke
at. One was ant hills. Another was sleeping bears. A third was anything to do with faeries.
decided he’d spring for a meal of mutton and a bottle of good wine.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
I just picked up a book called Fast Fiction
from Half-Price Books. The basic idea is to use the story-seeds it provides to write little five-minute stories.
I've decided to do at least one a day until I get bored or find something else to do. Since anything worth doing is worth doing in public so you can be humiliated if you fail, I've decided to post them here.
The first inspiration on the list is "tell a story about a lie."
By David Goodner
“Come, Jimmy, it’s time to go,” said mother.
“To meet Daddy?” the boy asked. Only just awakened, his eyes were cloudy and his voice still quiet.
"He’s waiting for us at the restaurant,” mother said. “He gets angry when we're late.”
She helped the boy out of his bed, found his shoes from where he’d kicked them before his nap, took up his favorite bear, which had fallen aside while he slept.
He insisted upon tying his own shoes. She tried not to fret, not to interfere. The boy took such pride in these small accomplishments.
“Hurry, now,” she said. “And get your jacket.”
The bear, Mr. Muffles, she stuffed into a knapsack. It barely fit into the top. While Jimmy found his jacket, she put the bag next to another, larger one by the door. Both knapsacks rested against a larger suitcase. She put her own coat on, turned up the collar, felt the large plastic sunglasses in the pocket.
Jimmy had trouble with his jacket sleeves, the jacket being a hand-me-down from a larger cousin.
“Here, let me help you,” his mother said. She sorted out the too-large garment, and couldn’t resist hugging the boy tight.
“I love you, mommy,” he said. “I love daddy, too.”
“... That’s good. Now get your bag. We’ll be late if we don’t hurry.”
“Why do I need my bag?”
“Just in case, baby. You never know what can happen. Now it’s time for us to get gone.”
Sunday, August 28, 2011
For today's update nobody really cares about, here's my character origin for the Emerald City game we'll be starting shortly. I spend way too much time on these things. This one takes the form of a fluff piece in a local magazine. I used a Seattle skyline since I didn't have an Emerald City one. Close enough.
As usual for me, there are tons of subtle little pop culture references, and at least one reference you'll only get if you live in my town.
Emerald City’s favored son, Jon Clark Nedor has long been
loved from afar, traveling the world, frequently alone, sometimes assisting
parties as varied as Doctors without Borders, Books without Frontiers, and the
U.S. State Department. He’s often known
as the Renaissance Man of the new Millennium: a true polymath, scholar, and
inventor. Recently, he has returned to
the city of his birth
EC caught up with Jon, who the press has dubbed Mister
Amazing, for an interview.
EC: Thank you for
your time, Mr. Nedor. Lots of people
want to know more about you. Pardon the
humor, but you’re pretty amazing.
JCN: It’s my
pleasure. Ask me anything. I might even know the answer.
EC: Since you’re
known as the seventh smartest man alive, I certainly hope so.
<laughs> That was totally a joke, and now it follows me everywhere. I don’t really know where I stand, or even if
you could really make up a list that wouldn’t just be “my favorite geniuses.”
EC: Well, you’re
our favorite genius. And a certified
one. Besides multiple advanced degrees,
three well-received books, and a Centurion prize, you’ve developed some really
impressive technology. Of your inventions,
which is your favorite?
JCN: They’re all
my favorite, at the time. I mostly build
things I see a need for, and once I have it I move on to the next
challenge. I guess my favorite is the
skybike. I mean, seriously, it’s a
flying bike. Who wouldn’t love
that? The core of them all, of course,
is the Deep Energy Converter, which remains held up in litigation with the
Department of Energy. I have a Congressional
dispensation to build them for my own use, but not to distribute them or use
them for “public provision of energy.”
EC: But you’re
not bitter, right?
JCN: I’m pretty
solidly bitter. Deep Energy stands to
free the world from its fossil fuel addiction, reduce pollution, and improve
quality of life for billions of people.
But instead, I have four converters, one running my home, one in the
skybike, a little one for my force pistol, and one for emergencies.
EC: What can you
tell us about the case?
JCN: I can’t
really discuss pending litigation, and I won’t express an opinion of the merits
of the case, scientific or legal. The
scientific literature on Deep Energy speaks for itself, and anyone with an
internet connection can find out all they need to know about the legal case.
EC: You’ve been
abroad for over twenty years. For quite
a bit of that, you were completely off the grid. What were you up to, and why did you come
JCN: My father
always pushed me to excel, not in an adversarial way, but he encouraged me. He gave me the tools. He paid for the best tutors, made sure I had
the best opportunities. He never made
things easy for me, but he always told me I could do anything I put my mind to,
and he’d be there to catch me if I fell.
When I was eighteen, I felt like I’d reached the highest
point I could reach at home and it was time to go see more of the world, and it
was time to see how I could do without my dad there to back me up. I sort of went on walkabout. I studied for a few years at a monastery in
Tibet, and spent about a year as a fugitive of the Chinese government. I traveled to the Middle East and
Africa. I attended Oxford. I did a fellowship at CERN. Mostly, I just went wherever I felt like and
did whatever seemed to need doing. I
tried, as much as I could, to avoid dropping my dad’s name or use his
connections. It didn’t always work out
that way. Several times, people who were
connected with my dad needed my help.
Eventually, I figured out that dad would always be a part of
me, but that didn’t mean I was letting him carry me. Then, in the past year or so, I came back
home a few times, more and more often.
Last month I decided to stay. Dad
loves this city, and so do I. I thought
it was time to give something back to the city that has done so much for our family.
Wow, all that sounds really self-aggrandizing. I don’t want people to think I was running
around like some kind of superhero who needs no one and nothing. I had a lot of help at every turn. I wouldn’t be here today without the aid and
sacrifices of many good people.
For that matter, I’ve met a few superheroes, and they don’t
need no one and nothing either. They’re
people with some really stressful jobs.
EC: Now that you’re
back in town, what are you going to do?
JCN: I’m starting
a consultancy, bringing unique perspective and expertise to unusual
problems. It’s probably not really the
kind of thing you can make a living at without a multi-million dollar trust
What I hope is that my experiences will let me see things
other people don’t see and my skills will let me do things that might otherwise
take a host of separate experts. At the
same time, I want to help with the Nedor Foundation and volunteer with some
local charities to help them make the most of resources and opportunities.
EC: Is there
anything you don’t do?
JCN: I can’t make
a soufflé to save my life. My teacher at
La Cordon Bleu despaired of me.
And really, there are a lot of things I can’t do. People hear that I’m skilled in multiple
disciplines and think I’m omnipotent. I’m
really not. If I’m more skilled than
other people, it’s because I’ve had more opportunities, and I’ve always been
very focused on learning whatever the world could teach me.
EC: People do say
you could do anything. They say if you
turned your hand to politics, you could be state governor in the next election
and President in no more than twelve years.
You’re not just a celebrity, you’re a voice for change and unlike a lot
of celebrity spokespeople, you really know what you’re talking about. Experts in the causes you champion
acknowledge your expertise. If you
wanted, you could be JFK, Bill Gates, Lee Iacocca, maybe all three at once.
JCN: But I don’t
really want any of those things. I enjoy
helping people. I love learning. I thrive on solving problems. Power comes with responsibility, or it
should. And money is just a tool to get
what you want. I pretty much have all
the responsibility I can handle, and I have all the stuff I’ll ever need.
EC: Tell us more
about these problems you solve. Like the
job you did for the State Department in the Congo.
JCN: I carried
out negotiations, and when those failed a rescue mission of some hostages from
the Sons of the Dark Earth. That was pretty
intense. Despite what people think, I’m
not usually an international man of mystery.
It got even more interesting when the SDE called up something called a
Dark Totem. The Freedom League even got
involved to put the thing down. Captain
Thunder really is awesome to behold.
That was the first time I used a force gun. I had cobbled one together as a proof of
concept. It was kind of big and failure
While the Freedom League fought the Dark Totem, I helped rescue
the hostages from the SDE compound.
EC: Was your life
JCN: Not really,
although it was pretty scary at the time.
The Totem was at a temple several miles away, and there were only a few
guards left at the compound. And it
turns out that other than all their crazy magical stuff, the SDE didn’t have
much in the way of weapons – they were on patrol with AK-47s with just a few
I’m still trying to figure out what the Dark Totem really
was, maybe an energy-based alien trapped in a matrix of Element X, and the
latent psychic energy from the terrorists was enough to free it.
EC: And what kind
of problems do you solve now?
JCN: I hope less
dangerous ones, although a little excitement is good once in a while. Right now I’m working with a company that
owns the old Forum Imperial mall and a group of Suquamish merchants and
craftspeople, along with some Chinese Americans and an artists’ collective to
revamp the mall into a cultural center.
They all really want the same thing, but they don’t always know how to
communicate with each other. I can’t
talk a lot about specific details, but if we can iron out the kinks, it’ll make
a lot of money for some people who really need it. It’ll help revitalize a part of the city that’s
currently suffering economic decline.
And it’ll be cool.
Since the alternative is that the mall where I saw all three
Star Wars movies gets bulldozed and turned into warehouses or something, I
think something cool is a much better alternative.
I’m also consulting with PrimaTech on a new aerosat design
that will be able to help rescue workers in isolated areas and improve
communications in the third world.
Before you ask, an aerosat is an ultra-high altitude dirigible
with minimal payload that uses solar power and storage batteries. Put one up, and it’s good for about a week to
bounce data. I’m helping them improve
their batteries and power efficiency so they can stay up a little longer and
have slightly more powerful engines so they’ll be more stable.
EC: All work and
no play makes Jack a dull boy. What do
you do for fun?
JCN: Work is fun
for me. Otherwise I’d do something
else. But I try to find some time every
day to relax. I like live music. Emerald City is great for that. On Thursday nights, I play jazz and blues
with some guys at Sachmo’s down on Byrne and Claremont sometimes. It’s kind of an informal jam session.
I like to build new stuff and test it out. Sometimes I’ll do some surfing or diving.
I still love to travel
and see new things, so even though Emerald City is my home again, I think I’ll
move around a bit, at least to visit friends.
For now, I’m trying to get reacquainted with my home. I’ve been away too long.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
So, welcome to the first of yet another sporadic Electric Widget. I'm of two minds about posting fiction. Theoretically, I'm a professional writer, or at least I'd like to be. So putting stuff up for free is kind of counterintuitive. Most of what I write is either abysmally bad and will never see the light of day, or is something I'd like to sell professionally.
But there are a few pieces I can share, and maybe some publisher will be reading and will think "Hey, that guy is pretty good. We should hire him to write something."
Probably not, given that I have 6 subscribers, but who knows? :)
Anyway, without further ado, I present a little bit of oWOD Werewolf fiction that started off as a character description. I was trying to do something new with the boring old "Character X is tall and thin, with piercing eyes... yada yada yada" thing, and midway through the second paragraph I realized my narrator had a crush on the character I was trying to describe. The rest of it just spilled out in one of those easy writing sessions that make the normal (horrid) ones seem even worse than they really are.
Given that the oWOD is dead, long live the nWOD, I can safely assume this would never be published ligitimately, so I hope you enjoy it.
What He Doesn’t Know, What She Can’t See
By David Goodner
I see her every day, ya’ know? Sitting in the back of the room, near the door. She looks at the door a lot, nervous like, like she’s worried about who’s gonna’ come through.
God, she’s pretty, beautiful even. She always wears ragged out clothes, like that green army jacket that can’t be warm enough. I want to give her mine… But I’m never gonna’ get the chance. The guys on the team already call her the Ice Queen.
I see her every time I come in late from lunch, which is, like, all the time. Her eyes hit me as soon as I open the door, and they don’t leave ‘till I’m past her. Sometimes I say “hi” and smile to cover up how much she freaks me out. Her eyes are weird, green or blue or yellow. I can’t tell which.
She never says “hi” back.
She hardly ever says anything. Except sometimes, when nobody’s done the reading and someone gives Mr. Kennith a lame answer, she’ll say something. Her voice is quiet, but everybody can hear her, and she’ll say something that makes everybody in class look stupid.
When we do group work, with all the desks in circles, I try to sit where I can see her. She has this thing where her hair falls down over her eyes when she looks down, and she keeps brushing it away.
* * *
He’s looking at me again. Is he stupid? (well, of course.) Does he think I don’t notice? He’s kind of cute, I guess. His hair is short and black. He’s on the basketball team, a forward or something. His eyes are like Daddy’s in that really old picture of him and Mom, all bright and soft, gentle blue.
I wonder when Daddy changed, when his eyes froze to the way I remember them, when he decided he needed to hurt me, but let’s not talk about that…
I think his name is Jim. Jim Elmore. I know its Elmore, ‘cause Mr. Kennith always says “what kept you, Mr. Elmore? We’ve all been waiting,” whenever he comes in late.
I wish Mr. Kennith would just leave him alone. Stuff happens, and five minutes is no big deal.
I don’t know what he wants. Well, yeah, I do. He wants to fuck me. I could tear out his throat with my teeth, but he doesn’t know that. He’s just like all the rest. They call me the Ice Queen when they think I don’t hear, the ones who don’t call me the Bitch Queen instead. I don’t care, as long as they leave me alone.
* * *
I have Study Hall right after Basketball. Sometimes I just skip, but I saw her in the library the other day, so today I tell Mrs. McReedy that I have a paper due in English and I need to do some research. She knows it’s bogus, but she lets me go anyway.
The school library is big, and musty, and dull. I don’t think I’ve been in here three times before. I don’t see her anywhere. Last Thursday she was pushing a cart of books, so I guess she’s a library aide.
The Librarian, Mr. Gallows, is the school scary guy. He looks like he’s about a thousand years old, with real bushy hair, all grey and black, and his eyebrows almost meet in the middle. He wears a black suit and tie with a vest. When I go to ask him if she’s there, I can’t remember her name.
“She’s kinda’ thin, and her hair is real red, and she’s got this green jacket,” I tell him. “Her name is T-something. Tanya?”
“Tina. Tina Avery,” Mr. Gallows says like I’m an idiot. “Why do you need to see Tina? Your hall pass says that you are here to study for English.”
“Yeah… That’s right… She’s in my English class. I need to ask her some stuff about class. I missed a day ‘cause of the game in Albany.”
I figure I snowed him when he says, “Today has been rather slow. Tina is in the back, at the study carrels.”
So I say thanks and head back there, and then he says “You be nice to her.”
Mr. Gallows is weird.
Before I get to the back of the library, I just stop. What am I gonna’ say to the Ice Queen? But I’m stuck in the library ‘till the end of class.
And there’s her eyes.
Most guys never get that far, and she’s got a good body under the Salvation Army clothes, too thin though. But her eyes… blue and gold and green, and hard, but hard like thin glass, like they could break real easy and spill out whatever’s inside.
I swallow around the lump in my throat and go over. She’s sitting at a desk, reading. She’s got her headphones on. The CD case says “Switchblade Symphony.” I’ve never heard of them. I’m about four feet away when she looks up. I can see her whole body go tense, and I remember this time when we went on vacation and this deer was in front of the car all of a sudden, and it didn’t move.
“Uh… hi,” I say. I want to kill myself. God, I sound so lame.
She just takes off her headphones and puts them around her neck. Then she says “Hi. Need some help?”
“Yeah… I mean, no.” Someone please just shoot me now. “I mean, I wanted…”
She’s just looking at me, and her eyes aren’t hard or cold at all, just sorta’ sad. She brushes a lock of her red hair out of her face, but it falls right back.
“I wanted to ask you… if I could borrow your notes from English on Friday. I missed ‘cause of the game…” I finish, taking my rightful place as the biggest coward on the face of the Earth.
“Sure,” she says, smiling a little, like she’s afraid someone will see her and tell her to stop. “I’ll go make you a copy.”
She gets up, slipping her Discman into one of the huge pockets on her pants, and starts to walk to the office. I reach out and grab her wrist before she gets past me, and her whole body goes stiff, and even though she’s not moving I can feel her pulling away.
I let go, and she draws her arm back to her body. I’m not sure how I did it, but I made her mad. “Uh… you don’t have to do that. I’ll just take them home and copy them myself,” I tell her. “I don’t want to bother you too much.”
Really, it’s because if I don’t take them with me, I won’t get the chance to give them back later.
“It’s OK,” she says. “Mr. Gallows lets us make copies for free as long as we use wasted paper. You don’t care if there’s sideways encyclopedia pages on the back, do you?”
“I guess not,” I say.
She goes to the front desk and I can hear the office door open and close. I look down at the book she was reading. It’s called “Demonology,” by somebody named James Stuart I, with annotations by Ryan Thomas, Ph.D. Must be some kind of old horror novel, I guess.
She comes back with a bunch of copies and I say thanks and go back to Study Hall to lick my wounds.
When Mrs. McReedy asks me about my research, I tell her the book I needed was checked out.
* * *
I get home as fast as I can. There’s a meeting in the Park tonight, and I’ve got homework in History and Algebra. Sarah is going to ask me if she can go again, and I’ll need a good excuse why she can’t.
On the subway, I can’t help thinking about Jim. It would have been funny, if it hadn’t been so pathetic. I could tell he was trying to ask me out, but he couldn’t do it, so he asked me for a copy of my English notes. I thought stuff like that only happened on insipid TV shows. I would have said “no” anyway, so maybe he was better off not asking.
I get home before anybody else and start on my math. The History is pretty easy, especially since one of my past lives actually lived during the Revolutionary War. She hates giving me answers, though. I used to be a bitch.
Sarah comes back from her friend Amber’s house, and she wants to tell me what she did today. I let her sit in my lap, even though she’s getting too big, and we talk for a while. Then, about six, I go change clothes and tell the Barrows that I have to go.
Donna asks me how my day was, and I give her the Reader’s Digest version. She’s really nice, but she asks so many questions. She’s a nurse at Forest View Retirement Home. I don’t know how she stands being surrounded by slow death all the time. Peter said she used to be an ER nurse, but she quit even though her new job was less money. Maybe slow death isn’t as bad as fast death.
Thinking that, I look down at my hands. I notice that I forgot my handcuffs, and run back to my room to get them. I like to feel the weight on my wrist.
Sarah doesn’t pester me too much when I try to leave. Peter rented “Sleeping Beauty” on the way home, so she’s distracted.
The subway takes me pretty close to Central Park. I get off early and walk the last few blocks because I really hate the subway, and there’s this creepy bald guy at the other end of the car who keeps looking at me.
Tonight isn’t a Moot or anything, just a meeting. Nick, who’s this big, tough Shadow Lord, wants to beat up on me for a while. He thinks a Black Fury should be able to fight. Actually, I like sparring, and I want to learn to fight better. I’ve been lucky so far, but my luck won’t hold forever.
* * *
That night, me and some of the guys go to see a movie. After it’s over, we’re heading home and I see Tina leaving Central Park. She’s wearing a black spandex thing and her army jacket. Her hair is all wet and dark with sweat, and she takes a towel out of her gym bag to dry it.
I break off from the group and cross the street. The guys ask me where I’m going, but I just tell them I’ll see ‘em at school tomorrow.
When I catch up with Tina she’s at the corner, waiting for the crossing signal. She looks flushed, like she just had a workout.
I learn slow, but I do learn, so I don’t grab her this time. I just yell, “Hey, Tina! Wait up.”
She turns to look at me. “Oh, hi.” Not the most enthusiastic greeting, but better than “drop dead, creep.”
“Hi,” I say back. “What are you doing here?”
She looks back over her shoulder at the gate into the park. “Karate lessons,” she says.
“Cool,” I say, wracking my brain for something to keep the conversation going. “What style?”
The signal changes, and she starts out across the street. I have to jog a few steps to catch up.
Over her shoulder, she answers me. “It’s this obscure style you never would have heard of. I can’t pronounce it very well.”
“That’s cool,” I say. I can almost see the reflection of the neon “STUPID” sign on my forehead in a car’s windshield. “Where’ you headed.”
“Home. My subway stop is about three blocks away.”
“I’ll walk with you,” I say, pulling up even with her.
“Whatever,” she says. She’s not carrying her CD player, but I know if she had it she would put the headphones on. That’s the way she closes people out, that and her sunglasses.
We go down to the terminal and I search my pockets. Thank God, I have a subway token. I don’t know why I’m still following her. The train arrives, and she gets on, and I still haven’t managed to ask her out. Hell, I haven’t even asked her how she was doing.
“I can get home by myself,” she says, and I can tell I’m starting to piss her off.
“I don’t mind,” I tell her. “This city can be dangerous at night.”
It was supposed to be all cool and macho, and she was supposed to be impressed, or get kind of mad and amused all at once, but she gives me this unreadable look and just says, “yeah…”
The train stops a few times before she gets off. The terminal is almost deserted. There’s just this homeless guy curled up in the corner, all in rags and this big coat and with a beat up old hat.
Tina looks over at him and her nose wrinkles up like she smells something rank.
I sort of move around so I’m in between her and him. “Don’t worry. It’s just a bum.”
She looks scared, really scared. I’ve never seen her show any emotion this strong before. She grabs my jacket and pulls me toward the steps. “Let’s get out of here,” she says.
The old guy gets up slowly. He does smell pretty bad, I notice as he staggers over to use. He grins real big, with ugly, rotten teeth, which is all I can see under the greasy old hat and the ratty scarf.
“Hey, Girlie, you’re not supposed to be here.” His voice is rough and high pitched. He giggles. “You’re going to be in big, big trouble.”
I look at his hands. They’re big and bent and gnarled and covered in scabs. Tina is still pulling on my jacket.
The old guy is right in my face. The stench is overpowering, and he’s all ugly, with red eyes.
“Back off!” I yell, and shove him away.
He staggers back, just a little. He never stops laughing while he takes a swing at me. I almost get my arm up in time. I hear Tina shriek. Everything is moving slow, like in a movie. Then my head explodes.
* * *
Jim goes down from a backhand. His head cracks up against the tiles with a distinctly unhealthy thud. I don’t have time to pay much attention. The vampire is still advancing, and Nick says Leeches usually come in groups.
I can feel the Rage coming. My vision starts to go red, but I fight it back. If I Rage out now, Jim is dead, and probably me too. I drop into a fighting stance as the weight of my Crinos form settles around me, all the time trying to remember everything I can about Leeches: never look them in the eyes; you’re stronger most of the time; go for the head. Also, Nick says that the leeches in New York are pack animals. If you can make one run, the others are likely to run, too.
Sure enough, two more come out of the shadows at the back of the terminal. I rush the first one, the ugly one. The smell of him fills my nostrils.
He bares his fangs.
My Rage rises in me, but I control it, and I’m moving like lightning. I hit him twice before he can react. Once, my claws bat down his arms. Then I have his throat in my jaws. His flesh is cold and dead and unclean.
He hits me before I get a good grip, and I feel my ribs buckle. I shake him in my jaws, doing my best to ignore the sour-rancid-sweet taste in my mouth and the pain in my chest.
One of the others is closing fast. His fangs are out and he has claws instead of hands.
The ugly one isn’t moving anymore, so I throw the body to slow him down, and let out a howl that echoes through the tunnels.
Too late to dodge, I see flames dancing across the third one’s hands, and a tongue of fire lances out at me. I spin to get away, but my side explodes in pain. The all-consuming fear rises in me, but I choke it back. I can’t run now. My gym bag took the most damage. It’s burning.
I pull it off my shoulder, glad that I decided to leave the strap pretty long, and throw it at the bastard Leech who burned me.
The melting, burning nylon bag hits him in the face, and that’s enough for them. The Vampires turn and run back down the tunnels. The ugly one’s body is still laying in the subway tunnel. I hope he gets hit by a train.
My rage is all gone, and I sink to my knees back in my real body. I want to collapse altogether, but there’s no time. My ribs are still tender, and my whole left side hurts with a hot, throbbing itch. At least my clothes weren’t ruined since they go into limbo or somewhere when I change.
My hands aren’t too bloody. I use the inside of my jacket to wipe off the blood, mouth, too. Can’t forget that. Then I look over at Jim.
He’s not in good shape.
My muscles feel like molten lead, but I rush over and cradle his head in my lap while I check his injuries. I really don’t need to know what’s wrong with him, exactly, but one of the Gifts the spirits taught me lets me heal wounds. With my soul, I feel the cracks in his skull and the blood leaking inside. His life-force is ebbing away. He’ll die if I don’t do something.
I’m so tired, but I gather all the energy I have left and ask Gaia to help me. The Goddess answers and I dip my soul into his, so for a second we’re as close as any two people can be. My energies caress his back into life, and I can feel the bones in his skull knitting back together, the tissues healing. His breathing stabilizes, his heart starts beating in perfect 4/4 time, and I know what Donna felt when she worked in the Emergency Room.
His eyes flutter open and he looks up at me.
“Jim, are you OK?” I ask, even though I already know.
“What happened?” he asks. His voice is still a little weak.
“What do you remember?” I need to know. I know he can’t have seen me change, but what else might have seen?
He touches the back of his head gingerly. “There was this homeless guy, and he was bothering you, and… and?” he looks a little blank.
I smile down at him. “You don’t remember the shoving match?”
“No.” He sits up carefully.
“You pushed the guy away, and he tried to hit you. Then you fell and hit your head, and I screamed, and he ran away.” I help him stand up as I answer.
He looks around. Luckily, he doesn’t look down the tunnel. “Where’s your bag?” he asks, all confused.
I want to laugh, or scream, as I sort of herd him up the stairs before he can notice the smoldering pile of nylon, or the dead body. “The old guy took it when he ran. If he wants my spare clothes and a sweaty towel, I guess he needs them more than me. I keep all the important stuff in here anyway,” I tell him, pointing at my hip-pouch. “I just want to get home, OK?”
* * *
So I guess I wasn’t much of a protector, and I still didn’t ask her out. We walk about five blocks to her apartment building. She’s favoring one side, so I know the bum hurt her more than she’s telling me.
Her parents, or guardians, or whatever, seem real nice. They make sympathetic noises when she tells them what happened, and Mr. Barrows insists on driving me home. But he can’t find his keys, and Mrs. Barrows is making tea in the kitchen.
So for a minute we’re alone.
The lump in my throat feels like a watermelon. “Uh… Tina… I kinda’ wanted to ask you something, sort of.” I keep going while I can, ‘cause if I stop now I’ll never get another chance. “Do you maybe want to go out with me some time? The Drama Club has this dance coming up, and I thought maybe we could…”
She’s sitting on the couch just across from me. Actually, I sat down on the couch to be across from her. Anyway, she’s all curled up on herself and she leans forward on her knees. She puts a finger to my lips, and her touch is so light that I could be imaging it.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen her touch anybody on purpose before tonight, not even to shake hands.
And she says, “Jim, shhh.”
I stop talking, which is good, ‘cause I’m pretty sure I was about to say something stupid.
“God, this is rough,” she says. “Jim. I don’t want to go out with you…”
I knew that’s what she was going to say, but knowing didn’t make it any better.
And she’s still talking. “I don’t want to go out with anybody. Not right now, ya’ know?”
So I have to say, “Yeah, I understand. No big deal.” What else am I gonna’ do? Tell her she’s a bitch? If I thought that I wouldn’t want to date her.
“It’s not you, not at all. You have to understand that. My life… right now…” I can tell that it hurts her, and that she’s trying to make me feel better, but that just makes it worse.
It would be easier to hate her, to say something to make her hate me, but I say, “Yeah, OK, but we’ll still see each other in class, right? And maybe we can go out to a movie or something some time, just as friends.”
She says, “yeah, maybe,” and looks down into her lap. She leaves out, “and maybe a giant meteor will smack into Jersey tomorrow.”
Then Mr. Barrows comes out with his coat and his keys, and we head out.
Before we’re out the door, Tina says, real soft, “Jim?” and I look back at her. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
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