Archive for April, 2013

Storytime: A Hell of a Drug.

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

My name is Joe, and I’m an addict.
Damn, hard to say that.
Now, thing to understand about how I got this way, boys and girls, is that I’m a risk-taker. No, not just in my off hours – I’m a stockbroker. Risk-taking is my job, and I’m damned good at it. I gamble to make my morning wages, and I’m no vegas blowout, fuck no. I’m a guaranteed shoe-in, a money-flipping machine, the man to call when you want two fortunes for one at guaranteed odds within six months or your money back.
I love that job.
I love that job.
I really, really, truly do love that job.
But….sometimes a man needs to relax, you know? Even if his preferred recreation isn’t so relaxing.
Can’t calm down, you know. Nah, too small, too slow. Me, I need to calm UP. I change braintracks, I don’t change the speed, if you can get what I’m saying.
So I do drugs. Lots of different drugs. LSD, a bit of cocaine, PCBs, meth, whatever. I switch around a lot. Keeps it from getting stale. No pot though. Too mild.
Not an addict though. This was all strictly recreational, like I said. Business is business and fun is fun and I got my adrenaline highs just fine at work without sticking a needle in my eyeball or anything else, you know?
Then one day I end up with an actual weekend. An actual, honest-to-god, full two-days-plus-Friday-night weekend. For the first time in eight years.
What the FUCK am I supposed to do with that? I’ll be bouncing off the goddamned walls come breakfast Saturday. I needed a new thing, a new trick.
So I checked in with my dealer – never you mind who – and he tells me he’s got a new thing. Hands me this little tiny round pill.
What the fuck’s this shit, I ask.
Omnipotence, he says. Go on. Give it a try. Everyone wants it.
So I pay him, I take it home, I have a glass of water and put that pill in my mouth bottoms up gulp down it goes and woah woah woah.

I dropped the jar, by the way. First time I’d done that since I was a teenager. Took me ages to pick up all the pills afterwards.

Now, I’d seen some things. But nothing like I’d seen with that shit. I mean first things first, everything was pitch fucking black. BAM. Like someone’d hit the ‘off’ switch on my eyeballs. So I wanted light and then FWOOM, there it was. Holy hell.
At this point I decided this was maybe some sort of lucid hallucination, so I decided to see what I could get away with making, with screwing around. But first I’d need a place to put all the stuff, so I was ‘hell, let’s make the world.’
And bam, I made a world. Did the whole thing. Got the ground and the sea and the fishes and the birds and the skies and I made myself a sweet place to crash and then I just had a five-minute break before I got SERIOUS and bam, I woke up. Checked the clock, it’d been seven minutes.
Seven. Minutes. That’d felt like seven DAYS.
Well, of course I had to get more. There was a whole weekend left over, and I hadn’t done jack yet. So I drove back to my dealer and he was laughing his ass off. Knew you’d come back, he said. Everyone wants this.
Fucker. Bought a big jar, just to show him. Wouldn’t see me around again ‘till the weekend was over.
By Sunday morning that jar was down to the dregs and I was higher than an astronaut with six joints. And I’d been doing some serious work. Big-time serious. This was better than Lego’d been when I was six.
I made some people, and I told them to listen to me. No half-assed mom/dad wait-twenty-years-and-maybe-they’ll-be-okay crap, just made ‘em flat. BOOM. BAM. Of course, they still didn’t listen to me, but whatever. I kicked them out of my place and took a break for munchies.
I came back in an hour and shit, someone’d filled up the planet with douchebags. Worse than a cockroach infestation; stomp one, ninety million to go. Had to fumigate the whole place – went with water, yeah, douchebags drown like everyone else. Bit of overkill in retrospect, yeah, but what’re you gonna do?
But then everyone started asking me to do shit. Everyone. Eve-ry-one. And the ones that weren’t were making up stupid shit with names like Bool and Mersomargarine and telling their imaginary friends how lame I was.
After that…well… the weekend got longer than I’d thought it would be at first. A lot longer. Felt like years, and years, and years, and years. I think I shot bugs at people and turned things into snakes, turned the skies into a nosebleed and threw bears at people. Kicked the shit out of a guy and broke his leg for… some reason? I made a bet with a guy that I could ruin somebody’s whole life and he’d think it was okay or something, the details are a bit fuzzy. I can’t even remember if I liked the guy or not. Won the bet though; I think for a followup I made a fish eat the same poor schmuck too – unless it was a whale – or maybe that was someone else. Was it a shark maybe? Whatever it was, there should’ve been more of those and the seaside in general. Should’ve spent more time on the beaches; felt like I spent half my time wandering around some desert in the assend of nowhere, though I think I only did that because I was pissed off at the people that wouldn’t SHUT UP at me and wanted to show them who was boss. I think.
God those guys were useless. I gave them some basic ‘here are the rules of this house’ shit on rocks. Rocks. And you know what they do, no joke, right away? Like, immediately? They break them. I put them on ROCKS for fuck’s sake! And you know why they broke them? They got in a big fight over whether or not they should all just wander off and worship a cow statue made of everyone’s melted-down pocket-watches and wedding rings.
Damn. I mean, just damn.
Right. There I was, it was Sunday morning, and I had something like six shots of Omnipotence left. And I was sick of the shit, but I couldn’t stop taking it. It felt too good. I mean, sure I had to deal with petty little assholes whenever I was high, but at least I was in charge of them for once – beat work, I can say that much for it.
Now, I’d been a good boy ‘till then. No experimentation. No double-dosing. One pill at a time, dealer’s orders, nice and safe. But you know what? That was because Omnipotence alone felt crazy enough. And that had been yesterday. After all I’d done and seen and been it was starting to feel…boring.
So I took all six at once. What the hell, only die once, right?

Well, I woke up with a head that felt like there was a little supernova embedded in its base and a hardon that could moor the RMS Queen Elizabeth. And too many really, really bad memories.
I couldn’t tell if I was one or three people, I’d fucked off and left my worldful of crazy little people to their own devices, and I’d gotten some girl pregnant on her honeymoon. Also I think I’d waited for the kid to grow up, then nailed him to a stick. Unless I’d nailed myself to a stick. Maybe I’d done it first just to show him it was okay, you do that with your kids, right?

So I’m clean now. I think. I had to give it up. Had to give it all up. I can’t take more drugs because they aren’t Omnipotence, and I can’t take more Omnipotence because fucking hell that got messed up towards the end. And the middle. And the beginning. So no more. Not one more. Not even a little bit. Even if I had one more, which I don’t.
Yeah, this would sound a lot more convincing if I weren’t talking to the bathroom mirror. Hell, just one more won’t hurt. It was stuck under the couch, right? That makes it floor food, right? That doesn’t count. You have to eat stuff you drop on the floor anyways, finders keepers finders weepers or whatever.
Wonder what the kid got up to. I sort of wigged out on him there.
Bottoms up!

Storytime: Sample Simon.

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

His name was Sam, but everyone always called him Simon, always Simon. He asked them why, sometimes.
Oh Simon, Simon, Simple Simon, they’d say. You lovable goof. It’s who you are, Sam or no Sam, and that’s what we’ll call you.
I don’t get it, he’d said.
Exactly, they’d said. And then they’d laughed, but they did that a lot at a lot of things Sam didn’t understand, so he just shrugged and went on going on.
Oh Simple Simon, you chuckleworthy silly-billy, his math teacher had said in grade school, as he divided a subtraction problem and multiplied when he should’ve equalled.
Oh Simple Simon, you cheeky goofus, his father murmured when he came back from the pet store with a wild raccoon.
Oh Simple Simon, you hilarious dunderhead, his grade ten crush said when he gave her a single chocolate bar in a glass of water and a bar of crushed and congealed daffodils.
Sam persevered, and sometimes he wondered what all the fuss was about, but on the whole he thought life was okay. He did his things and other people did theirs and so long as that was the way it was it all made sense, was all fine.

Simple Simon, said his father one day, take the trash out.
Sam was thunderstuck. Trash? Trash wasn’t his job. That wasn’t the thing he did.
Oh Simple Simon, you ignorant ignoramus, it is now, said his father. My back hurts. Take the trash out.
Sam relaxed. Taking the trash out was now his thing. All was well. He’d just do it one step at a time.
Easily done. The garbage goes in the garbage bin, the compost goes in the home compost bin, and the recycling goes in the home compost bin.
Oh Simple Simon, you loopy idiot, said his father when he reported back. Now what’s going to happen to that recycling? Sometimes I wonder if the doctor dropped you on your head when you born over and over again.
Okay, said Sam.

Three days later, all the recycling had been composted down to a fine grey paste.
What do I do with this? asked Sam of his friends and family.
Oh Simple Simon, you dribbling dolt, just throw it away, said his father and all his friends.
Sam threw it away, but because it was compost he threw it away on top of other things, to help them grow. He threw it on the house and he threw it on his father’s car and he spread the leftover bits on his computer.
Overnight, Sam woke up and heard hissing noises. His computer was puffing up like a balloon, and steam was wheezing from its sides. He pondered this, shrugged, went back to sleep, and woke up to find that its RAM had doubled, it had a quintuple-linked processor that ran on small lasers rather than electricity, and was cooled with liquid nitrogen.
Sam walked outside and examined the house. It was 20% larger, 43.8% more attractive, and the windows smelled like peppermint.
Sam walked around to the garage and examined his father’s car. It was half the size it had been in the past, with the same amount of storage space and eight times the gas mileage, with a simple and highly effective electric motor sharing space under the hood.
Oh Simple Simon, you magnificent clod, said his father, shaking his head at what had become of their stuff. Wait’ll the neighbours see this. What did you do again? What exactly did you compost? What did you do to that garbage?
Dunno, said Sam.
Well, just keep doing what you’re doing, then, said his father.
And so that was why everyone watched Sam carefully around garbage day, to make sure they could get it done right.
Sam confronted the three bins, the three bags, and he searched his memory, and he searched deep inside himself, and he made his move.
The garbage goes in the recycling bin, the compost goes in the home compost bin, and the recycling goes in the recycling bin.

One week later, Sam opened up his garbage bin and found that it was already full of garbage.
Uh-oh, said Sam. He measured it: approximately 45% of last week’s garbage had been carefully recycled and returned to him. Uh-oh.
Got any more of that ‘compost’ there, Simple Simon? asked his father at that particularly inopportune moment.
I think there was some sort of mistake, said Sam.
Oh Simple Simon, you outright moron, said his father. This is not good.
And it wasn’t. Every single neighbour had been watching Sam, and every neighbour had told their neighbour, who’d told their neighbour, who’d told their neighbour, until everyone had run out of neighbours. 45% of the entire city’s garbage from last week had been recycled and reused.
Oh Simple Simon, you endless chump, everyone said to him. Why did you lead us so grossly astray?
Lead who what? asked Sam.
Never mind, they said. One more chance. And do it right this time!

So next week there Sam was in the garage. At least four million people were watching him from the stream his dad was running off his laptop. But he didn’t know about that so it was all okay.
He stood before the three bins, and he contemplated them.
The garbage goes in…the garbage bin. The recycling goes in… the garbage bin. And the compost goes in… the garbage bin.

That was the week the city’s dump was an overflowing cesspit. Disease filled the air, rats ran in the streets in broad daylight, shoulder-to-shoulder. The skies were grey with the fog and mist of decaying stench, and plastic water bottles bobbed in the bay. The mayor was trapped in his office, the dead were piled in the graveyard hurly-burly and willy-nilly, the police were battling the firefighters and the media was blacked, browned, and blued out.
Oh Simple Simon, you endless chump, his father chastised him. Now we are trapped in our home with hordes of angry folks beating down our door. You have truly gone and done it this time.
Done WHAT, asked Sam, who was getting a little annoyed with all of this.
Oh Simple Simon, complained the mob of neighbours beating on their door and bearing garbage-torches that had come to take them away and toss them upon the tire fires that had consumed the south end of the city, you pitiful chucklefuck. We put our trust in you, all our hopes in you, and all for naught. You have let us all down.
Fine, whatever, said Sam. Do you want me to take the garbage out or what?
I don’t particularly care anymore, said his father. Go away and leave me here with my alcohol to dull my miserable last minutes.
Okay, said Sam. And he went to the garage and he did that, as the doors rattled and shook under angry suburban fists.
I’d best get set to go away then, said Sam. So he took his father’s car keys and he examined his father’s car. He’d never driven before, but he knew the principles of the thing.
Easily done.

Oh Simple Simon, you bevelled shit-for-brains, pestered the mob of neighbours just outside the door. What on earth is that noise?
They never did find out where Sam went off to, though they found bits of peeled rubber for a few hundred miles. Most of the witnesses weren’t in much shape to say.
Still, I’m sure he’s out there, somewhere. He won’t cause much trouble, as long as he does his things and other people do theirs and it all makes sense. It’ll all be fine.

Storytime: Scal’s House.

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

New things happen, like it or not. And you’d better like it, because everything being the same forever gets boring, no matter how nice it was to begin with.
But if you don’t like it, the complaining is fun anyways. And that’s what Scal the sorry was doing as she wandered the hills and the trees by the sea, shivering under her oldest, tatteredest clothes. “I need a home,” she grumbled, “I need a good fine house with walls and a roof and maybe even a floor to be fancy on, and there I can keep myself comfortable. Not out here, in all this… weather. I’m sorry to say it, but this weather irks me sore. Where will I put my house?” And she carried on griping this way for three days as she wandered, driving all the creatures she passed sore irked with her.
Then Scal the sorry found a tree. And that’s what caused all this nonsense.
It was a good tree. Tall, firm-limbed, with a trunk both stout and tall. Its leaves were finest green, its bark truly brown, its hue lustrous and ruddy.
“That is the finest tree in all this forest,” said Scal the sorry, “and I’m sorry to say so of all you other trees, but that’s the truth. Why, if I were a bird and had feathers and beaks and all those things, I’d be happy as a clam to take up a perch in that particular tree and roost all I pleased, with twigs and with feathers.”
Then Scal the sorry stopped and thought for a bit, and laughed too much.
After she was finished with that, she took off her left glove and whispered to her palm and picked away at one of the fingernails she kept her magic in with her teeth, then spat out a bit of a word and a bit of a cough, wound tight together, and she set to making herself a house.
Scal the sorry’s house was round and squat and the walls were sticks. Its roof was a thousand feathers from old birds she’d eaten all year, and for a floor she used their down. It was cozy and smelly and on the whole she considered it pretty fine.
“No wonder the birds like this so,” she said, as she laid herself down for sleep. “A fine view, a good view, even if I must remember not to roll over in the night.” So she tucked herself in and snored.
No more than halfway through the night Scal the sorry was awoken loud and clear by swaying and moaning, a roar and a ruckus. Her home was bobbing in the high branches of the tree like a cork in a sea, and the wind was whining through all the cracks in her walls.
“Shush!” she yelled at the wind and the world. “Shush! I’m sleeping up here! I’m sorry that I’ve put myself and my home up in your place, but it’s MY place now and it’s going NOWHERE!”
The wind laughed and roiled at her and didn’t die down ‘till well past dawn, leaving Scal the sorry red-eyed with sleepless ire.
“Bothersome blight and dreadful vex,” she snarled as she drank the strongest teas she could mix (bear-paw and old vinegary apple). “It was one night. I will sleep twice as long tonight, and make back the difference.”
But the winds came back that night, and the night after, and so on and on and on all week, every week, endlessly. It was driving Scal the sorry ‘round the bend and straight off through the mountains, it was, and she was so grumpy that she could boil water with a glare.
“A fine home,” she muttered to herself as she sat, awake, and listened to the midnight gusts yet again. “I am sorry to say so, but I believe I just might have to do something about it.” And so she gathered those bits of her brains that hadn’t been shaken and spooked to pieces by the wind, and she thought all day.
That evening, Scal the sorry put on an old, old tattered rag she had, hunched herself up small and crooked, quivering and shaking, and she sat out in the doorway of her house, legs dangling over the edge and her face hidden away by the hood of her battered clothing. She waited past sunset, and just as she heard the wind come howling down from the west she began to sob and sniffle.
“Oh! Oh! Oh no! Why have you come again, wind, why have you come to hurt your mother so, why have you done this? Did I do a harm to you when you were small, poor wind? I am sorry for this; a mother’s sins are thoughtless ones, oh poor little wind! Take pity!”
The west wind was very confused by this. “Father in the sea never told me about my mother,” it said. “But you look very small to be MY mother. I am big enough to stretch all the way from here to far away over the sea, where there’s nothing but water for forever and ever and further. I can pick up more water than a thousand buckets with one hand, and I can shove the clouds away with my littlest fingers and toes. I don’t think I could do those things if such a little thing as you were my mother.”
“Maybe you’re big and strong now,” said Scal the sorry, with infinite patience and love, “but you’re still my little son, my little boy. And I’m sorry to say that if you do not believe me, I shall prove that I am stronger than you ever will be. A test then, son! Why don’t we see which of us can throw this stone the farthest?” And she pointed to a stone on the ground, far below.
“So small a thing?” asked the west wind. “Mother-maybe, you are a madwoman. I can knock over tall trees and send waves that eat shores. This is nothing, you watch!”
Well the west wind heaved and the west wind hauled, the west wind blew up such a flurry that it nearly pulled down the trees, but the west wind couldn’t shove that stubborn little stone. Finally it gave up, spent and exhausted, and Scal the sorry tsk-tsked in her most motherly voice.
“Well,” she said, “you’ve done your best, my boy, my little boy, but I’m sorry that I must see that you’ve lost.”
“Lost, but you’ve not won, mother-maybe,” retorted the west wind. “That stone cannot be moved at all!”
“I am your mother, little wind,” she said, “and I am stronger than you. Now you just watch.” And Scal the sorry plucked up the little rock that she’d sunk into the dirt that morning, where half its bulk lay buried beneath the surface. And she did it with one hand.
“Now listen to your mother, who is stronger than you,” she told the wind, “and leave my house alone! Never come back here, and tell all your brothers and sisters that I said so!”
The west wind left in shame, and Scal the sorry slept the sleep of the exhausted for a week and five days. She slept through breakfasts, suppers, and lunches, and finally woke when she felt a tip-tip-drip-drop on the back of her neck. Water was leaking through the feathered roof of her home, trickling down the walls, making a mess in her bedding and ruining her food stores.
“A million mice mangled in a meadow!” she swore. “Ah well, rain must come, rain must go. A day indoors patching leaks hurts nobody, though I’m sorry to admit it.” So she cooped herself up and mended the roof and walls, and brewed her latest, strongest yet tea (spiky thorns and the angriest stones she could find) to keep off the chill. She went to bed with the strum-drum-drum of raindrops in her ears, lulled to sleep.
The next day her neck was cold and wet again, splish-splash-splosh. More leaks had sprung up, and still the rain fell and fell and fell.
“Two in a row?” she nagged to herself. “Bothersome!” And she brewed more tea and patched more leaks and did this for all the week before she shook her fist at the sky and saw that the clouds weren’t moving as they should be. They were stuck fast, fat and soggy, held in place by a breezeless air.
“I find myself sorry that I have no wind,” said Scal the sorry, “but there must be another way around this! Eh, having a house is such a trouble – I will find a way, yes I will.”
So she tried covering her home in resin from the tree. The rain pounded and poured and in three days it washed it all away.
“Rabbit legs snipped by snares!” she swore, and tried covering her home with dozens of interwoven branches. Pound pound pour, in two days the rain had soaked all the leaves through and filled her home with their washed-out little scraps.
“Bear-carrion in a nest of eagles!” she shrieked, and chewed on her left hand’s fingernails, spitting and hissing. She put her magic hand’s power into her house, so strong and fierce that it chased all the water away, right down to the spit out of her mouth and the tea she was drinking. It took one day for her to stop coughing and wheezing long enough to undo her mistake.
“Dirty riptides,” she sulked, washing out her parched throat with (damned) rainwater. “Those clouds need scorching. Maybe I can ask for help.” So Scal the sorry put on her least-damp clothing and set off into the rain, looking and searching for help outside the endless rainfall that surrounded her cloud-clotted home.
“I’m sorry,” she asked of a passing deer, “but do you know any animals that might help with getting rid of all my rain?”
“No,” said the deer, twitching its nose. “Water on the ground we drink. Water in the sky is not for us.” And it bounded away.
Scal the sorry said harsh words, and tried again.
“I’m sorry,” she asked a spry young sapling, “but do you know any plants that might help with getting rid of all my rain, which is ruining my home?”
“No,” said the sapling, rustling cheerily. “But isn’t it most fine? A good drink puts green in your stem and bite in your bark! I’ll be in the canopy in no time at all, barely a century, just you wait!”
Scal the sorry said cruel words, kicked the tree’s trunk, and, limping, tried again.
“I’m sorry,” she asked the nearest mountain, “but do you know any other powerful big stones that might help with getting rid of all my rain, which is ruining my home and driving me to distraction and difficulties?”
“No,” said the mountain. “But I know who can. It’s the sun. Go and ask the sun to help. She can dry things right up, but she’s proud and prickly.”
Scal the sorry said thankful, kind words, praised the mountain, and went back home to her (leaking) house to think.
“I’d best get on asking him,” she said, and clambered to the top of the tree, right where the branches were so small that she had to turn herself into a little squirrel to stay aloft. “Hey sun!” she called. “Hey sun! Hey sun! I am sorry to speak to you so, but it’s your job to keep this sort of place warm and unsoggy, and you are not doing it!”
The sun slid around in her seat and stared down at Scal the sorry. She was indeed proud; the way she looked down her nose at her left no doubt. “What is all this racket,” she yawned. “I am busy, as I always am, with important things. Why is there a little mouse in a tree shouting at me? Go hide in a burrow or something like animals do, little tree-mouse. You are boring.”
“Boring?” squawked Scal the sorry. “I am Scal the sorry, and you are lazy and ugly and fat and downright unpleasant in every which way, all of which I know because your husband told me so! You couldn’t dry my home if it was the only place in all the world, you good-for-nothing soggy-ended weasel-faced bark-skinned moosenose!”
The sun flared up like grease on a campfire at that, and some of the words she and Scal said to each other next didn’t bear speaking once, let alone repeating. When all they had to say and do was said and done, the sun was shining bright as midsummer – in October, no less – the clouds were wisps of errant water frying in a searing sky, and Scal the sorry’s home was as dry and warm as the back of a buzzard’s wings in a thermal.
“This is fine and good,” she sighed to herself as she lay down for the night in a bed that didn’t smell one bit of wet leaves. “This is how a house should be, I guess, eh? This is better.” And she slept in for one week in a row.
When she woke up, her mouth was parched, her hair felt like brittle twigs, and the leaves of her tree had been crisped to a bitter brown. The sun still glared at her, bright and early in the morning, fixed at high noon.
“What a grudge-holding stick-in-the-mud,” grumped Scal the sorry, rehydrating herself on a tea made from burnt ashes and hurt feelings. “I am sorry that I said those things to her, but that was ages ago, and they needed to be said before she would do her job properly. Now she is just as bad, but the other way around! I’ll show her!”
So Scal the sorry walked outdoors – where she winced as her skin burned in the sunshine – and chewed her left-hand fingernails again. And as she chewed, so she changed – into a little beetle, a little burrowing beetle with a dainty black coat and a pair of digging legs and jaws. And that little beetle went straight to work on the ground, digging down deep and far. Topsoil, dirt, more dirt, stone, more stone, and then through and down into the dark places under the world, where the shadows had their roots and lived out their shadowy other lives. Her own shadow waved happily to her, stretched-out and huge in its proper home.
Scal the sorry waved back. It was polite.
Finding what she was looking for took time, a long time – there was so much dark and dim, so many shades without light – but finally she spotted it: the shadow of the sun, hiding away in a corner of the always-midnight sky, where nobody needed or spotted it.
“Hello there,” said Scal the sorry. “Feeling lonely?”
“Nobody needs a sun where the shadows live,” said the shadow of the sun, miserably. “And she never casts me – everyone else gets to go up and see the world above, but I’m down here forever.”
“Don’t you worry about that,” said Scal the sorry. “I am sorry, but you are talking nonsense. I’ve got a way out right here, you look at this. A tunnel all the way up top! Come on in! Stay at my house!”
The shadow of the sun was a little worried by all this, but in the end it allowed itself to be persuaded to be crammed up the beetle-tunnel face-first, squish squish squash. They got to near the surface when it halted fast.
“I am sorry to ask,” said Scal the sorry, who was lying, “but what is the problem?”
“I’m stuck,” whimpered the shadow of the sun. “It’s too small!”
Scal the sorry sighed rudely and loudly. “Shadow,” she said, “I could use your hand now I could. Because I don’t have any this moment.”
And Scal the sorry’s shadow, who was waiting down at the far-end of the beetle-burrow and listening, reached up, up, up to the world above, and then down, down, down into the tunnel with its thin fingers. It grasped Scal the sorry and the shadow of the sun both, and it yanked them free – pop! – into the bright-burning daylight, where it took refuge once again under Scal the sorry’s foot.
“Shadow,” she said, “I owe you a powerful debt. And speaking of such, look up there little shadow of the sun! Look up at my house! Set yourself above that tree and breathe deep and happy, under the sun!”
The shadow of the sun ran all the way up the tree and sprung into the sky with the eagerness of a fledgling eagle, and glorious, peaceful, cool darkness spread itself across Scal the sorry’s home, swallowing all those scorching sunrays whole before the last words had died from her lips.
“Sweet, cool, refreshing night-time,” she hummed happily as she turned in for bed that evening – although maybe it was morning, it was hard to tell with the shadow of the sun above her. “This is more like what a house should be.” And she drifted off, with only the creeeeak-eeeek of her parched tree to whine her to sleep.
She woke up some time later with her teeth chattering. She bundled on every bit of clothing she had, she put on her winter mittens, she tore down half her roof for use as bedding – nothing worked, she remained frozen, numbed, chilled to the bone-and-marrow in the pitch-black dark.
“Blast this endless shadeshine into blisters and splinters!” she spat. “Hey up there, old sun’s-shadow – can you take a break, give me a moment to warm up? You can take turns with the sun, eh?”
But the sun’s shadow was too happy to hear her, too busy looking at all the world around and below it to pay attention. Scal the sorry yelled at it for three days before she gave up and nursed her voice back to herself with some tea made from frozen leaves and desultory fumes.
“A warm I’ll need, but not a sunwarm,” she grumbled. “Best to go asking. I’ve got friends, I do, and I’ll see them right.” So she pulled out her left hand – just for a moment, for it was perishing-cold – and chewed the right nails for just the right amount of time in the right way. Scal the sorry was a crow then, and she flew around for hours and minutes and days asking and talking.
“Grow more fur,” said the animals.
“Or thicker bark,” recommended the trees.
“What is ‘cold’?” asked the mountains.
“Splosh-swissh,” said the ocean.
Scal the sorry grumbled herself nearly hoarse. “I am sorry to bother you with my anger,” she complained to a passing raven, “but I have asked every birch-battered thing and creature that floats, hops, jumps, skips, and stands in this little part of the world that is mine and not one little thing knows where one little me could find something to keep herself warm. Are neighbours always this troublesome when your house is out of sorts?”
“If it’s warm you need,” the raven advanced, clicking his beak, “then you should ask a favour of my great grandfather. He found something powerful warm a little time ago, and brought it back in his beak from a faraway man.”
“Then I’ll pay him a visit,” said Scal the sorry, and she did, and she found that the great raven had warmth to spare, warmth from this thing he’d found.
“It’s fire,” he said. “It’s so hot it burns, burns things right up. Now be right careful with it, eh? Be cautious.”
“I am sorry,” said Scal the sorry, picking up a bit of fire in her foot, “but I can only be so careful when my house is so cold.”
“Ow,” she added on the way home. “Ouch. Ow ouch ow ouch ow ow ouch ouch ouch.”
The fire was indeed hot, as her tender feet told her, but it looked sure fine right in the middle of her floor. And as Scal found out so quick, hot tea tasted so much better than cold.
“Warm,” she said, “is nice. And this is nice, and this is a proper home now. It was a lot of trouble, but I’m not sorry at all now, not one bit.” And she closed her eyes, and sighed, and slipped away to sleepland.
And as Scal the sorry lay napping, she slept so safe and so happy that she didn’t hear her tree complaining at her, poor thing. It had been scorched to thirst, and then it had been darkened to starvation, and now it was too warm, too warm. Dry as a torch and dead all inside, poor thing, it would have asked for an apology if Scal the sorry had been awake to give it. But she wasn’t, so it couldn’t, and the best it could do was bear its death with dignity, poor thing. Trees are used to such things, and used to silent suffering.
Because of this, the moment Scal woke up was when her house hit the ground, and a good thing too – the embers were sliding up her legs and trying to make nests in her armpits.
“Ow!” she repeated, yelping. “Ow!” She stamped and spun and rolled and ran and tumbled down hills and it took three whole days for her to put herself out, by jumping into the sea.
By then her house was just a big firepit, and long-burned-out when she made her way back to it.
“A pity,” she sighed. “And I am very sorry that this didn’t work. But on the whole, I think that maybe houses are too much trouble for me.”
So she spent her days down by the seashore once more, and forgot about most of her problems.
Though she did remember the trick with the tea. That was a good one.

The Life of Small-five (Part 14).

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Populism and Research often delved into odd projects together, an old partnership since the inception of the cities. An ongoing project of shared interest had been the bodies of the researchers themselves, and their sisters at large by extension. What made them work? What made them able to wonder this? Or that? How do we find out? How do we find out without hurting anyone?
Small-five’s education had included a healthy backing in her own biology. She had learned both the totally unexpected and the answers to questions she would’ve never asked. For instance, how does your mind rest?
A simple question that isn’t often asked. Ooliku slept – lightly, and quick to waken. Nohlohks slept; deeply, and for what seemed ages. Small-five didn’t sleep, or at least, not all at once. Each quarter of her brainstem would shut down independently as it reached exhaustion point. After extended periods of extreme physical overstress, two would go down in parallel and render her near-insensate.
Small-five didn’t sleep. Which made her most surprised, when the dreams came.
The first month-maybe of her and Pulsing-point’s time in the Ooliku’s glacial refugium at the bottom of the world was… right. They ate, and they changed – how she didn’t yet understand, but deep down inside her bones she could feel stretching, twisting. Her stomach twisted inside itself with fierce sounds, her proboscis itched like wildfire, and once she felt a ferocious tickle in her mind that made her think of when she’d chased after that male on the reefcolony long ago.
It was strange, but it was right. And then, without warning, it vanished.

She gained consciousness more than a day later by her best guess, with Pulsing-point huddled in fear against her side. Sister-safe? Sister-safe? she asked, all concern and glimmer.
Small-five nudged her back, and wondered. And worried.
It happened again, after a feast of Ooliku the likes of which she’d have given an eye for back in the great open sea – the aftermath of a great mating-jousting, with scores of exhausted, frail, dying targets still prime with flesh. They glutted themselves, she felt the trickle down the back of her throat, her spine, and then

the endless waves eating at her sawing at her she was stuck on top of them all, stuck above the water gills dry and cold, where were her sisters her lights couldn’t reach?
there they were down there! All-fin and Pulsing-point and Dim-glowing and all of her sisters were there why wouldn’t they wait they were swimming into a city the city
was a mouth and the mouth came out of the blue, the deep blue emptiness
eating them it was eating all of them it wouldn’t stop
the children stop the children


She awoke again, and the back of her mouth felt strange. Her face was numb, and she spent a confused hour rubbing it against ice before she gave up and accepted it.
Pulsing-point watched in confusion. Small-five tried to soothe her as best as she could, but keeping a slow, relaxed posture was growing harder. She felt as if her fins were trying to pull away from one another.
Time seemed to be speeding up somehow, although part of that could be that she kept spending so much of it

being forced through a ring of jagged shells backing water as best she could but the current was too strong and it drew her through row after row after row and
they shrunk down down smaller and smaller rings so small they fit into her eyes they were cutting out her eyes in rings, peeling them away so that the Gruskomish could eat them down on the bottom of the world because they were always hungry
hungry because faint-marks wouldn’t let them eat was holding all the food all so hungry all of them not Gruskomish all the
children so hungry all dying

dead to the world.
Her eyes had changed while she was asleep. They felt strange, sticky, almost-scabbed. She blinked her membranes to clear them, but felt searing pain before they could even twitch.
Sister-changing, shone Pulsing-point. She seemed smaller. Was she smaller? No, she was bigger. Her vision kept swaying. Bigger, definitely.
Sister-changing, shone Pulsing-point, again. She’d said it a few days ago, hadn’t she? It was hard to tell the time, with the sun stuck in the sky so. Always that light, that neverending light. Summer, evil summer, even here in this feast in the middle of a starving wilderness, even here it found a way to harm her, to bite at her sides.
Yes, thought Small-five. I am changing. And it’s too fast, too strange. She had expected the unknown, but not the unimaginable, and the feeling of her body, her life slipping out of her grasp tore at something deep down inside her belly. She’d let her mind wander loose in despair or loneliness before, but never had she felt it run away without her. And it was getting harder to tell how long it

she was jumping in the water stuck in a net stuck in a mesh a thousand cities around her formed a cage with a thousand bars and all the sisters and mothers in them were hungry and going to eat her but they wouldn’t have her that way they would die starving with her flesh in their
mouths from below the cities were a mouth in the blue
the blue all around her, forever, no black just blue no matter where she swam where was home where was real where was her


Pulsing-point was slowing in her eating. So was Small-five, but her sister worried her more, even if she wasn’t Small-five right now. She was something else, something following Small-five a bodylength or two away, watching as Small-five nudged her sister and encouraged her to eat, to feed. Look, look, an already-dead Ooliku. See it? Food. Good. Eat it up.
Hurts. Sick, said Pulsing-point. Her sides were sluggish.
No, thought the thing that was watching Small-five. She’s fine, she’s safe. Look at her grow, look at her skull swell, hear her words. Even in pain like this she can make new words, hear her sister-talk blossom. She will grow and she will live and she must not be Small-five at all, whoever she was, because Small-five’s education had included a healthy background in her own biology. She had learned both the totally unexpected and the answers to questions she would’ve never asked. For instance, how does your mind swelling? Her sister’s mind swelling not right she was tired again more rest would

Pulsing-point was swimming away again this time over the waves and Small-five was stuck in shallow water trapped in the reefcolony trapped as a baby as an infant as a child with no mind watching her sisters swim away together over the sky
the sky was blue the clouds were teeth and her sisters swam and didn’t care
the teeth were in Outward-spreading’s glowshine swimming in the fluid of her sides, swimming in her words, jumping out of her veins to bite and bite and bite and bite and bite and

fix this.
Maybe it was food. She slept more quickly after she ate. Maybe if she stopped eating they would leave her alone and let her be and let Pulsing-point grow up and grow her mind, like she had in the old days. She hadn’t grown sick, she had grown smart. Ideas. Remember when she, Small-five, had come up with ideas? That’s how she was special, that’s what made her important. She had ideas, good ideas like taking her sister to the bottom of the world to grow smart.
Pulsing-point’s sides were not dim; rather, they were curdled. Things oozed in her glowshine tubes that seemed more solid than liquid but less than both. The sickness spread from her head down.
Small-five must have forgotten that but it must have been real, unless this was another lie of sleep. A dream. A dream. Numbers jumping on a monitor measuring brain activity, it happened for all sorts of things. Nohlohk with all their legs and such. She was a Nohlohk now. Maybe she would grow legs and snip away Pulsing-point’s fins and then
there would be people who’d be sorry and they’d have to give her back her light or she’d pinch them and they’d make Pulsing-point smart and
then she’d (that’s Pulsing-point) be Outward-spreading except right and she would teach the juveniles properly and the infants she would eat and
then she’d eat Small-five before she did anything so terrible, rising from below and beaching them all on her belly, she’d be so strong there’d be only one of her
one of her was all there was one of them was all there was all of them were only one no
copies no other Small-fives Dim-glow wasn’t Dim-glowing was she? made sense

She woke hungry and confused and didn’t even know she’d been asleep until she felt the terrible, burning real fire in her guts. She needed to eat, needed to eat now, needed to eat hours ago while her brain drove her mad. How had she slipped under without noticing? She’d been halfway through a bite of food. Who’d put that there? It must have been Pulsing-point. Where was Pulsing-point? She was here just a moment ago. She must be there because it was right there and she couldn’t go far because she was little. She was getting bigger, wasn’t she? Bigger brains, she was going to be so smart. So smart. Small-five was smart wasn’t she? She must be smart and special or the reefcolony would’ve eaten her like it ate her sisters. But if Pulsing-point was alive then she was smart and special too. If she ate her then
small-five wasn’t smart and special anymore and it was all her fault it must be her fault that she was pushed out of the shell ring and
no she had to find her. She had to find Pulsing-point, she was sick and who knew what could be wrong with her. She was smart, and she’d be lonely. Small-five remembered being lonely, it was worse as an adult. You could think ahead, and be more frightened than an infant could.
Look for lights, look for lights, follow the lights. Pity you can’t shine your own but you don’t care anymore do you? It’s fine now, isn’t it? You’re fine now, aren’t you?
Pulsing-point was a displacement in the light, a larger-than-normal shadow. Small-five moved up to her and tried to stroke her forehead, but her proboscis was numb and wouldn’t move along with most of her fins except the one at the back. She knew what it was called until she didn’t, because Small-five’s education had included a healthy background in her own biology. She had learned both the totally unexpected and the answers to questions she would’ve never asked. For instance, she had learned that her sister was all right and fit as a school of Verrineeach because there were a thousand of her all growing inside her skull like a light that was glowing see the light was that a light glowing it wasn’t. it wasn’t because there was a light and Small-five had no lights she wasn’t Small-five because she couldn’t Small-five-point-burst-of-light. she was blank and she knew this because Small-five’s education had included a healthy background in her own biology and she knew that it was broken and she would never talk again and was worthless more worthless than an infant. she had learned both the totally unexpected and the answers to questions she would’ve never asked. for instance, she had included a healthy background in her own biology. she had learned both the totally unexpected and the answers to questions she would’ve never included a healthy background in her own biology. she had background in her own biology. she had learned both the totally unexpected and the answers to questions she would’ve never asked. for instance, she both the totally unexpected and the answers to questions she would’ve never asked. for Small-five’s education had included a healthy background in her learned both the totally unexpected and the answers to education in her own totally unexpected and the answers to questions she would’ve never Small-five’s for instance, she. for instance, she she would’ve never asked. for instance, she, she

She left Pulsing-point. She had to. She had no proboscis to hook her by the fin, to stroke her swollen skull.
So she left her sister’s body in the current, where it floated in the cold. And she swam straight forwards for some time.
She missed the sleep, and hated herself for it somewhere, underneath everything else she was feeling.
It never came back again.

The sun was gone, but still she saw. Forwards, mouth clamped shut. Without a proboscis to hunt, without the will to eat. Moving forwards because the alternative was to sink. She wondered how long it would take something to find her below in the dark, if she swam as far down as she could until she ground herself apart in the muck and stone.
Still she saw, still she swam. Why wouldn’t her eyes stop? The sun was gone, it was winter now. The waters were filled with life, she was swimming through it now, she could see it, could see the faint glimmer of juveniles as they clustered away from her, huddled in indecision.
She could see them clear as a bell, from far away. And then, then it was that she could realize that they could see her too.

The sun was gone, but the light was there. It streamed out of her body in a soft rain, turning the sea from black to clear, wiping the shadows from the ice.
She tried to dim it, out of automatic, half-frozen curiosity, and nearly sent the juvenile approaching her into a panic, her sisters huddled behind her like Kleeistrojatch on a Gloudulite three sizes too small for them.
Sister? asked the juvenile, lights careful, as careful as they could be at her age. The inklings of a pair of tiny barbels twitched at the sides of her mouth, looking for strange scents before they even knew how.
NO, thought Small-five. And as she thought it, for the first time in what felt like forever, she shone.
The light rippled around her in waves, turned her statement into a show. Light from the ice nearly blinded her before all three of her lens-lids, her eyelids, her membranes slipped over her eyes. Then two more. How many were there now?
NO, she repeated. FRIEND.
Then she thought, and then she shone again.