Archive for April, 2016

Storytime: Abram’s and Meek’s Complete Dictionary of Walking, 14th Ed. (Pocket).

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Arrhythmic: A walk that takes place over rolling, bouncy terrain. Carry a sturdy walking stick or can and wear a safety helmet to prevent whiplash. Distinct from tall.

Bag-along: Any walk on which you are accompanied by an animal that can and will produce fecal matter (e.g., dog, cat, parakeet, infant, spouse, etc).
-Bastard’s bag-along: A bag-along, but without any provision taken to collect fecal matter for later disposal.

Blonk: A normal, everyday walk around the block that is so relaxing that you add another block and another block and another block and.

Crunch: A walk after a heated argument with a spouse or partner, characterized by three distinct parameters: the unnecessary stomping of the feet; the ferocious pounding red behind the eyes; and the increasingly loud screams from inside the very depths of your throat.
-Chop: A crunch that ends with the walker throwing themselves into a nearby deep, cold body of water, legs still juddering and striding all the way down to the icy bottom of mortality itself.

Dent: An unpleasant stretch of terrain smack in the middle of an otherwise lovely walking route. Examples include: road work; open sewers; vicious dogs barely restrained behind rickety wooden fences; playgrounds.

Epilogue: The stringing-on of a second walk along a different route after the completion of an initial, intended walk.

Granny: A walk characterized by a mindless repetition of the same looping pattern over and over again rather than adhering to any sort of sensible planning.

Hike: A close cousin of a walk, taking place almost exclusively in natural surroundings and with far more uneven terrain. Unlike walks, hiking demands specific footwear, namely boots. Common hiking hazards include bears; aggressive landowners with shotguns; and Lyme disease. A fuller examination of hiking is beyond the scope of this book, but can be found in its companion piece, Abrams and Behr’s Complete Dictionary of Hiking, 3rd Ed. (Pocket), also from Blottoham Books.

Jaunt: A saucy sort of walk taken for the purposes of extravagant display of a walker’s adornment, adored by young upstarts, macaronis, gadabouts, and vagabonds. Common points of display include wristwatches, hats, artfully adorned hairstyles, and tattoos.

Jog: A kind of obscenity, practiced by the depraved, the deviant, and the under-sexed. Can and will cause obesity, bulimia, and genital shrinkage. Not to be spoken of in polite company.

Mangle: A walking route with gorgeous scenery (often natural) paired with gruelling terrain. Many mangles are perilously close to becoming a hike.

Murgatroyd: A walker who perishes in the line of walking. Named in honor of Marian Murgatroyd, the great Scottish stroller of the 1920s.
-Murgatroyd’s march: A solemn memorial procession along the favoured walking route of a Murgatroyd, conducted with black-heeled shoes and the attachment of little bells to the coats of the participants.

Pickle: A walk with a clear destination through unclear terrain that culminates in a state of being completely and totally lost.
-Half-pickle: A pickle, but upon becoming lost the walker finds a nice local restaurant and has a good lunch as consolation.

Plod: A walk undertaken as a favour to another against the subject’s will. Characterized by sullenness, silence, and excessive stumping.

Quibble: A walk conducted purely on a whim because it’s nice out there and the walker is restless.
-Quibbleplex: A quibble undertaken with such force that the walker leaves their coat/keys/shoes at home.
-Quobble: A quibble spurred almost entirely by alcohol consumption.
-Que Quibble Quibble: A quibble in which the walker never comes back. Also known as ‘the Abrams.’

Ramble: A walk over familiar terrain conducted in such a manner as to sway erratically from one ‘standard’ walking route into another with little rhyme or reason beyond personal whimsy of the walker. Also known as a ‘meander.’

Run: Don’t say that.

Sprint: you disgust me

Stout: A walk after a big meal, on the cusp of becoming a waddle yet defying it with every heavy, ragged-breathed step.

Stroll: A meandering walk for its own sake and for the purposes of intellectual and emotional fermentation. Can be sweet (country), salty (city), or sour (industrial park).
-Slog: A stroll, but taken between the months of November and March. Popular ingredients include mud, snow, and muddy snow.

Stumping: Walking with the shoulders high and the head tucked low and forward, an essential adaptation for inclement weather and moody humours.

Tall: A walk that takes place principally over vertical terrain, consistent in one direction (either up or down). Not to be confused with arrhythmic.
-Wide: A walk that takes place principally over horizontal terrain, with a fixed horizon, clear weather, a warm sun, a light breeze, no sooner in the day than eleven AM and no later than two PM. Also known colloquially as a ‘Meek special.’

Storytime: Heights.

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Neriss brushed the pebble with her toe and watched what happened.
It bounced off her left ankle,
down through a crack in the rock,
skittered over a smooth boulder,
and then it went off and down,
all the way over into the air where it got smaller and smaller until it was even tinier than the broad lazy Calo syruping its way along far away, so small that she could cross it by blinking.
Thinking of that made her blink, and in that moment her pebble was lost, making her swear and sweat.
“Language,” said a voice at her elbow, and Neriss nearly lost her footing altogether, as she hurled herself about to confront the speaker.
It was a burnt-up, shrivelled-up woman who was twice her age and about one and a half times her size in all dimensions. Just looking at her made you want a drink of water.
But Neriss was here for a reason and so she bit her tongue and gave her most apologetic bow and followed the burnt-up woman back to her home, which was an overhang with three inches of headspace and four inches of kneespace to either side over a three-mile drop, with a little rug made from the outside of a goat who didn’t need it anymore to keep out the wind.
There was a small fire. The burnt woman lit it, and Neriss tended it. The burnt woman made them some tea from frighteningly spiked plants, and Neriss drank it.
“I apologize for my words,” said Neriss. “They were ill-chosen.”
“As well you should,” said the burnt woman firmly. “You need to put a heavier accent on the last syllable. It crisps it properly and gives it a bit of a snap.”
Neriss spent a moment trying to decide how to process this advice and decided it was best to just barrel through it. “Illustrious and aged Ket, apothecary of greater note than any musician, there is an ill person down at the base of the cliffs, too ill to climb. I would beg of you that you-”
“You may beg, but you won’t get it,” said Ket.
“-give a-”
“Try again tomorrow,” said Ket. “Go back down and come back up in the morning.”
So Neriss bit her tongue again – it tasted like copper and frustration – and slid back over the edge of the Sor cliffs, which were so high that birds born on them would appear seasick if they were placed on level ground.
Then she climbed down, ate a very late dinner, and passed out for two hours before beginning the trip back up.

Halfway along, she kicked a loose root a little too hard, and watched ninety tons or more of rock slip away like a loose feather. It looked like it was about to start floating at any moment, but never quite managed it.

The overhang was empty. Ket was out and about.
Neriss hunted along the heights of the cliffs, through gullies and over rubble, finding all kinds of exotic plants with too many pointy parts – usually firsthand, or firsttoe – and in the end, exhausted, she sat on a rock and found a new and amiable kind of spider, which was about the size and shape of a full-grown thistle and eager to say hello.
“Shh, shh,” said Ket.
They stood there, side by side, watching the spider get smaller and smaller – though not small enough for Neriss’s liking – and by and large they returned to Ket’s shelter, which was somehow closer than Neriss had remembered, and they had a new kind of tea, which was made from plants which had no spikes at all but instead a kind of peculiar pustule all over their leaves which looked and smelt almost exactly like human blisters.
“Revered and illuminated Ket,” said Neriss at last. “I have a humble and meaningless request: a dear member of my family is down at the base of this cliff, too sick to move, and would you kindly –”
“Kind or no, I will not go,” said Ket. “Your request is denied. Return to the bottom of the cliff and try again tomorrow.”
This time Neriss sucked both her lips into her mouth and bit them instead of her tongue. It gave her a ghastly sort of white-and-red face, but by the time she stood on solid soil again the bleeding had nearly stopped and she was ready for her evening meal of whatever she could scrape together, just in time to go back up.

Near the top of the cliff, a bird flew by. It was a yard away but might as well have been at the other end of the world; hovering on air as if it were a trick even Neriss could manage, if only she would stretch out her cramping fingers and try hard enough.

Ket wasn’t home again, or the overhang wasn’t actually Ket’s home. Or both.
Neriss found one of the higher outcroppings – a little taller than her uncle Jenn on his tip-toes – and sat down on it. From up here she could see everything, but at such a size that it all looked like nothing. Hold up your hand and boop there goes home, there goes your friends, your friend’s friends, your enemies, your neighbours, your strangers, and everyone else you’ve even heard about. All erased in a finger’s-width.
“Careful there,” said Ket. “You could harm your eyes that way.”
Neriss hopped a little, but not too badly, and they sat there for a while on the slender stone, watching the sun grow and grow until they could see everything around them, everything everywhere, and still not see a fraction of it for what it meant.
“Ket,” said Neriss, “you will not help my family.”
Ket scratched her nose and cleared it for good measure. “No,” she said, “I won’t.”
“But from here,” said Neriss, “I believe I understand why.”
“You should,” agreed Ket.
“From up here we are all so small, smaller than even the tiniest bird on the highest flight,” said Neriss. “I could squint and stare and glare and stamp my feet and try as I might I would never see my home, never see anyone. What difference does one person make against this sight, however loved, however hated, however human?”
“Well, that,” said Ket. “But mostly it’s a damned hike and a half.”
Neriss stared at her.
“What? You’ve done it. Three times now, up and down, and that’s hard enough when you’re young and flexible. Who wants to travel that? Not me.”
Neriss stared at her, but only for a moment. A long, long moment.

Six feet and six inches is a small height, a very low altitude. Relatively speaking. There are few profundities associated with it.
But it’s still a notable enough drop, nonetheless.

Neriss took her time coming down again; her pack and every pocket was filled with every kind of spiky, angry plant she could find plus a few curious spiders, and her irritation was making her clumsy.
But it felt good, to watch the ground swell near under her, and the trees unclump out of the green mass. And there, so very near, was the little lean-to, with her mother making tea.

Storytime: Groceries.

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

280 Marston Flats
Apt. Shopping List



-toilet paper

-Tomato sauce

-Bell pepper

-2x ‘Smackles’

C: You haven’t finished your last yet. -G

-Bread crumbs
-Chicken breasts

-Unleavened bread
-Filtered water
-Light butter

-2x ‘Smackles’

C: Seriously? –G

there’s a prize for 5x box tops ok. i’ll eat it later.

-Olive oil
-Garlic cloves

-Raw milk

-3x ‘Smackles’

S: I think that’s illegal. You want to get TB?
C: If I find where you’ve hidden these I’m throwing them out. Stench is unbearable. –G

it comes tomorrow.

-Half-and-half cream

-Toilet paper x 2 3 4 5

-x2 milk
-x6 ‘Smackles’

C: I had to sign for your stupid prize this morning. The delivery man ran away before I could return it. I’m not buying another speck of that stupid cereal for you. –G



-Apple x1

-6 ‘Smackles’
-6 ‘elkcamS’
-6 ‘CklesSma’

C: I’m going to assume the predatory fungus sprouting through the kitchen floorboards is your fault. This is the last straw; I’m telling the landlord. –G

land rots
lords rot
you rot
Smackles endure
Smackles ERODE
Smackles erase

-Cream cheese
-40 oz. whiskey

-Bag chips (sour cream & onion) x6
-Box donuts (choc. dip) x3
-Chicken + wedges + fried sticks valu-combo
-Large 4-cheese pizza w/extra cheese
-Onion dip x5
-Tub ice cream (butterscotch) x2
-Choc. sauce x2
-Raspberry crate x2
-2L cola x4
-Choc. bar (any)


S: I’m not sure I can get all that in one trip; remember, I’m on a bike, not a car.
C: I’ve called the national guard and I’ve got the attic sealed off. Come and get me. –G
PS: I’ve burnt out the stairwell.


-Wreath (floral) x2
-Card (‘sorry for your loss’) x12
-500 ml mouthwash (strong) x3
-4L bleach x3

Cass Mushroom monster Smackles Cass

Im not really sure what happened this week but uhhh wtf guys.

PS: Can’t find landlord. 3 wreaths???

Storytime: Bony.

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

It was her phone.
Sam had tried everything else first. It had been a part of the background noise of the crowded bar, then a hum in the voice of the alligator pretending to be her aunt, then just another speck of the fuzzy static filling her ears on waking. But now she was opening her eyes and it was still there and now it had become Doctor K telling her to come up over to Vertebrates, there was a problem that needed her attention. Again.
There was a shower first, with water that smelled of freshly-scrubbed salt. It stung her skin and cleared her eyes but left her head fogged and thickened. Then she took a mug and filled it with whatever liquid dregs were still in her personal fridge and wandered there the long way, up the staircase, because it was better to be five minutes late when it also meant five minutes more awake.
The staircase was nicer, anyways. It had the windows.
Blackness fading into blueness as she went up and up and up the winding corkscrew, watching the pale sheen and shimmer in the water from the nutrients and hormones and bacterial cocktails the station was disgorging into the long-wandering currents of Thalassa.
Sam didn’t like the name. Regurgitating earth genes, earth organisms, wriggling, thriving, multiplying earth life into the planet’s waters was one thing, but shoving earth mythology on top of it seemed wrong somehow. She’d never mentioned this to anyone and knew she never would and she thought about it every third day or so.

Doctor K was waiting for her there in the lab, looking cross. Doctor K always looked cross; it seemed to be part of her face. Sam knew she shouldn’t think things like that and she knew she was too tired to not do it. She was too tired for a lot of things, including listening to precise words. So instead she nodded and bobbed her head and let her hooded eyes stand in for concern instead of confusion and let the information drip in through the back of her skull.
The new fish were reacting badly to the delta-stage planktons; their skin was wearing in places and flaking away into raw flash. It was unprecedented, but unsurprising.
So she nodded a little more, for good measure, and went to her station, and pressed a button and tried, really tried, not to vomit.

She’d long ago decided it was the eyes that disturbed her so much when she worked on vertebrates. It was unsettling, the way they didn’t follow you around the room. A black glassy sphere turned flat as a penny in her grandmother’s collection.
An eye – a proper, socketed eye, an eye in a solid bony skull – should follow you. Instead, it seemed like all her projects followed her with their mouths. Their little jaws hinging and unhinging, gasping for water that wasn’t there, that they didn’t need as they rested in the gene cradle.
Sam tried not to look at it, looked at her notes instead. Abrasion, that was the thing. Abrasion. Chemical, mechanical, but always abrasion. Thalassa’s waters were unkind; the fish were being wire-scrubbed just swimming.
Thicken the dermis. Harden it. Harden it. There, maybe.
She’d done this four times already, each for a different reason, and she knew there’d be a fifth.
File, save, pull over the wastebasket and heave until nothing came out at all.

Sometimes, in her more tired hours, she’d imagine a coworker, helpful and kind and with a nice cup of coffee (not tea; she hated tea) would stop by late at night when she was tired and alone and nobody cared about her as usual and they would ask her, Sammy, why DO you work on fish when you hate them so much? Why dedicate your life to something you dislike? And she, smiling despite the deep exhaustion, would explain the words she’d rehearsed a thousand, thousand times, about how DNA was DNA and ninety-per-cent-plus of any species was ninety-per-cent-plus of another species, and the tools didn’t change too much, and prior subaquatic living experience counted for a lot in these postings. She’d worked on corals, she’d tell them, admiring the suppleness of their fingers and the softness of their smile, and plankton. Small things, with well-defined borders and elegant shells. Clean things.
And then she’d remember the things that weren’t clean or small or elegant and she’d come crashing back in to the world as it was, with the little paralyzed fish lying flat on its side in front of her, its genome unzipping into her computer, and all her lunch trying not to rush back into her mouth.
Doctor K was standing there at her side. Sam could almost feel her there, resisting the urge to tap her foot. Trying to remember how to look concerned while not accidentally asking something like ‘are you through.’
“Yes,” said Sam. Her voice felt tight and tiny.
“It’s all done.”

The walk back downstairs was longer and slower. Her workday didn’t start for another three hours, and she needed the sleep. But her feet dragged as she went back down into the dark levels, and the bed felt too warm and too stifling and the floor was cold and so she sat in her chair and read her notes without reading them and let her mind drift instead while her eyes boiled in her skull. She looked out the window, at the calm clouds of invisible life, and she tried not to think about fish.

It was the end of the week and the end of the day and every single thing that had been in Sam’s gene cradle had a backbone. Her mouth tasted like acid and her coffee tasted like ash and all the base pairs were starting to look the same to her and all her subjects WERE the same, the same problem. Too thin, too thin, too frail, too ephemeral. Delicate flesh and wafer-thin scales rotting on the fin, bruising under life.
They shouldn’t be here, she thought. They shouldn’t be here. Why come hundreds of lightyears and put things somewhere they shouldn’t be. Let the planet sit here on its own for a billion years or so until it figures itself out. Let it make its own namers to make its own myths and name its own oceans. Let it make its own life, if it wants to.
Doctor K was telling her that she needed to try harder.
So Sam breathed deeply but a little too quickly, and she thought of corals, and shells, and calm, clean surfaces, and she looked a VERY long ways back through the genome of the little fish, and she retrieved a few things and improvised others, and when she was done they released a trial batch. Tiny armored plates glinted in the station’s lights as they swam away into Thalassa’s long twilight.
Harder worked.

It worked so well, they did it four more times next week.

Three the next.

Seven after.

Sam felt calmer after the eighth, the ninth, maybe. There was something about ringing the bulbous little eye in bone, about covering the softness with smooth plates. It made it farther, safer. Extra layers between her and it, farther away. Bulkheads. Bulky heads.
Some of the newer ones were so thickly armored it was getting awkward for them to move. Not a problem of the plating, she told Doctor K, but the gross morphology. Muscles had to be moved, bones reworked, planes of symmetry jiggled.
They looked like bullets, thought Sam. Or maybe torpedoes. Their sides were so encased she could barely see their muscles tense. It had been hours since she’d thrown up.

It was the end of the fifth week and there were spots in front of her eyes and shaking and finally she put down her computer and went to the bathroom and realized she felt fine. She felt so fine she couldn’t blink, eyes locked tight.
That night she stayed up late, doing anything but sleeping. Staring, coughing, shivering, making coffee and throwing it out again.
Finally she went for a walk. Late shift, an inch from early shift, when the last of the night owls had gone to bed and the early birds still dozed. The halls were quiet and in that quiet all the softly mechanical noises that kept the station full of air and warmth and humans were loud and hard on the ears.
The lab was dark, calm, and cool; thirty metres below the surface and feeling like it. Sam’s hands shook as she turned on her computer; maybe she should’ve put on more clothing. Maybe she should’ve taken off yesterday’s clothing. Maybe she should, maybe she shouldn’t.
Maybe she shouldn’t do this.
The gene cradle was empty, but its memory was full. Sam scrolled through, looking at familiar patterns, proteins, pictures, plans. It was amazing how far they’d come in just a few weeks. The seas were awash in infant neoplacoderms, growing fat fast and furious on the enriched waves pulsing out of the station’s guts. They would be obsolete soon; they were a holding pattern, a temporary measure. When the waters were made tepid and tolerable, they would be repurposed, reprocessed. Their armor would fall away and their bodies would wriggle and gasp in calm cool waters that rocked them gently in its grasp.
She’d seen enough here, not that there was much to see. The computer was just a little local terminal; its powers began and ended at formatting: a typewriter for organisms.
But Doctor K’s computer was far more than that, and its password was far less than it should’ve been, and it had the authorization Sam needed and more to pump the planktonic tanks full of a transgenic blend that had been sitting quietly, very quietly, at the very back of her head for what seemed like her entire life but had surely only been just now.

Sam sat in her chair – in Doctor K’s chair – and leaned back until the springs complained in strident voices, and she thought about clean things, about smooth angles of shell and bone and horn and eyes that were so small against a skull that they were pinpricks, barely there at all. About well-measured borders and the kindnesses of surety, and certainty, and the discreet masking of the indiscreet and grotesque underneath the coolness of calm steel.
She thought about the picture books when she was very small, with their pictures of octopi, and eel, and shark, and sardines that had made her cringe. And the one her sister had liked, with the dinosaurs and mammoths and apes that weren’t quite apes any more. At its very beginning, there had been squids with spiral shells and scorpions that swam and just after that there had been a fish. A fish with bony eyes and a bony skull; a body like a bullet with a mouth made of blades, all flat and blank like a mask.
The door was ringing. Security would be coming in. She wondered if she would go quietly.
She wondered how big they would be when they grew up.