Archive for December, 2017

Storytime: The Daily Grind

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

They smile.
I know they’re told to do it, I know they get fired if they don’t. But still.
It’s nice to see a smile in the morning when you’re a walking frown, isn’t it?
A smile, a speedy transaction, and a tiny mug of extremely potent pixee to start the day. I take mine shredded, with a double lemon. Cracks you wide open. The folks that use milk are cowards.
Thanks, GlitterPixee.
Your stupid rolls still cost too much though.

I stepped outside the building, stood under the filthy dank fog that crackled ozone and pissed power and reflected that although the world may run on miasma, the people definitely ran on pixee. What good were all those mechanisms and foundries and pipes and tubes and vents and sirens if everyone fell over exhausted on the controls and blew up the building?
Work transit was slow. The bus driver was cautious, and got into a fight with a man that wouldn’t stand behind the line. The bus intervened on his behalf and by the time I walked into work the scrying of the unruly passenger vanishing into the bus’s maw feet-first had already been dreamed into the households of half the planet. My had he been a screamer. I wished I had my orb with me to see the recording, but the stupid thing had chipped nearly in half when I dropped it a week ago.

It was a productive day. I had two lunches, two meetings, and speed-engraved two hundred and sixty secret names into a tablet of two hundred and sixty other names. Today this slab would be given to the accounting department, and used to issue forth spells of billing, to charge them for letting them know where to find people who could tell them where to find people who knew about the best ways to curse and counter-curse troubled metropolitan districts.
Tomorrow I would probably have to put all the names back again and pretend it never happened, but I’d burn that troll when I came to it.
I also spent a lot of time arguing with the guy in the cell across from me. He had the sort of face that demanded it; eyebrows set in a natural furrow and a lip built halfway to a sneer from a snarl. We never agreed on anything, and several times I’d had to change long-standing beliefs of mine to ensure this. Nobody could bear to agree with someone so disagreeable.

The bus home was better-behaved. Much duller. I passed the time staring out the window and counting advertisements. They seemed quaintly obsolete, those flyers and billboards. Screaming their product into the world in hopes it’d see that one-in-a-thousand who actually wanted it, who might be the one in ten thousand that’d buy it. Like the marketing version of a tree spewing seeds left right and center. Not at all the way it’s down nowadays, when your orb could just tailor them right to your tastes for a song and a dance and a hope and a dream.
Oh man. That was right! It was today!
And just like that the road home got eight times longer, right up until the moment when I got home, wrenched open the box, tore away eighteen inches of intricately mass-produced little pellets of cold iron and unearthed their protected, insulated prize: my new orb. Not the best model, but the newest, which was close enough to that to make it better.
Just needed to register it with the spiders.
Thumbprint. Brainshock. That nasty, tingling feeling like an ice cream cone just took a bite out of your forehead, and a small scream.
There we go!
I gripped it tight and rolled back my eyes and listened to the familiar whispers as the spiders scrambled in and out of my ears, pulling together everything they knew I’d want.
More fading reported from small towns in the eastern hinterland. Images of a starving dragon collapsed on a riverbank, too hungry to eat. More sages stating this was a direct result of miasmic corruption and that within the next thirty years half the planet would be a smouldering husk and the other half would envy it. More arguments.
I filed that away in the back of my head for the next time I was bored at work and wanted to pick a fight with the guy in the cell next to me. Not sure what side I’d take yet, I’d probably leave that up to him.
Used hope and dream-related byproduct from orb charging was being barred from shipment to the Great Lagoon, which had decided to start shipping its own mutilated dreamwaste to Far Asdy, which was burning it in special furnaces that had been connected to blah blah who cares.
They needed to fix the newsfeed settings on these things; it’d take ages to get this thing back to looking at what I cared about.
Seablight continued to spread. All that miasma that had been locked up low, leaking out and back up into the light again, stronger and angrier and fuelled by the rotting souls of millions of sickening and withering fish and corals.
I hid that one. Too depressing to look at. I wanted to go diving in Newdeep next summer.
GlitterPixee has been implicated in the underpayment of its workers.
Well, shit, what I had just said about too depressing? I’d have to get my morning wake-me-up somewhere else now. Maybe Ever-Dust – but that was two blocks away, no. Wakeman’s Ups? No, that was one block the WRONG way.
I’d tip the staff an extra coin, that was it. That’d work. I’d be helping AND saving myself an inconvenience.
Good job, me.

The cold iron pellets didn’t look recyclable, but they looked like they might’ve been recyclable. I asked the spiders who asked the world and got six of one and half a dozen of the other.
So I put half in the garbage and half in the smelter bin.

The next morning was another curdled sky. Seems like those are more and more common nowadays. Maybe all those sages they keep interviewing are on to something, I guess. I’m sure someone’ll sort it out.
But for now, grind as it may, as long as I’ve got me a hot cup of pixee I’m just fine.
It all must be fine.
They smile.
I know they’re told to do it, I know they get fired if they don’t. But still.
It’s nice to see a smile in the morning when you’re a walking frown, isn’t it?
A smile, a speedy transaction, and a tiny mug of extremely potent pixee to start the day. I take mine shredded, with a double lemon. Cracks you wide open. The folks that use milk are cowards.
Thanks, GlitterPixee.
Your stupid rolls still cost too much though.

I stepped outside the building, stood under the filthy dank fog that crackled ozone and pissed power and reflected that although the world may run on miasma, the people definitely ran on pixee. What good were all those mechanisms and foundries and pipes and tubes and vents and sirens if everyone fell over exhausted on the controls and blew up the building?
Work transit was slow. The bus driver was cautious, and got into a fight with a man that wouldn’t stand behind the line. The bus intervened on his behalf and by the time I walked into work the scrying of the unruly passenger vanishing into the bus’s maw feet-first had already been dreamed into the households of half the planet. My had he been a screamer. I wished I had my orb with me to see the recording, but the stupid thing had chipped nearly in half when I dropped it a week ago.

It was a productive day. I had two lunches, two meetings, and speed-engraved two hundred and sixty secret names into a tablet of two hundred and sixty other names. Today this slab would be given to the accounting department, and used to issue forth spells of billing, to charge them for letting them know where to find people who could tell them where to find people who knew about the best ways to curse and counter-curse troubled metropolitan districts.
Tomorrow I would probably have to put all the names back again and pretend it never happened, but I’d burn that troll when I came to it.
I also spent a lot of time arguing with the guy in the cell across from me. He had the sort of face that demanded it; eyebrows set in a natural furrow and a lip built halfway to a sneer from a snarl. We never agreed on anything, and several times I’d had to change long-standing beliefs of mine to ensure this. Nobody could bear to agree with someone so disagreeable.

The bus home was better-behaved. Much duller. I passed the time staring out the window and counting advertisements. They seemed quaintly obsolete, those flyers and billboards. Screaming their product into the world in hopes it’d see that one-in-a-thousand who actually wanted it, who might be the one in ten thousand that’d buy it. Like the marketing version of a tree spewing seeds left right and center. Not at all the way it’s down nowadays, when your orb could just tailor them right to your tastes for a song and a dance and a hope and a dream.
Oh man. That was right! It was today!
And just like that the road home got eight times longer, right up until the moment when I got home, wrenched open the box, tore away eighteen inches of intricately mass-produced little pellets of cold iron and unearthed their protected, insulated prize: my new orb. Not the best model, but the newest, which was close enough to that to make it better.
Just needed to register it with the spiders.
Thumbprint. Brainshock. That nasty, tingling feeling like an ice cream cone just took a bite out of your forehead, and a small scream.
There we go!
I gripped it tight and rolled back my eyes and listened to the familiar whispers as the spiders scrambled in and out of my ears, pulling together everything they knew I’d want.
More fading reported from small towns in the eastern hinterland. Images of a starving dragon collapsed on a riverbank, too hungry to eat. More sages stating this was a direct result of miasmic corruption and that within the next thirty years half the planet would be a smouldering husk and the other half would envy it. More arguments.
I filed that away in the back of my head for the next time I was bored at work and wanted to pick a fight with the guy in the cell next to me. Not sure what side I’d take yet, I’d probably leave that up to him.
Used hope and dream-related byproduct from orb charging was being barred from shipment to the Great Lagoon, which had decided to start shipping its own mutilated dreamwaste to Far Asdy, which was burning it in special furnaces that had been connected to blah blah who cares.
They needed to fix the newsfeed settings on these things; it’d take ages to get this thing back to looking at what I cared about.
Seablight continued to spread. All that miasma that had been locked up low, leaking out and back up into the light again, stronger and angrier and fuelled by the rotting souls of millions of sickening and withering fish and corals.
I hid that one. Too depressing to look at. I wanted to go diving in Newdeep next summer.
GlitterPixee has been implicated in the underpayment of its workers.
Well, shit, what I had just said about too depressing? I’d have to get my morning wake-me-up somewhere else now. Maybe Ever-Dust – but that was two blocks away, no. Wakeman’s Ups? No, that was one block the WRONG way.
I’d tip the staff an extra coin, that was it. That’d work. I’d be helping AND saving myself an inconvenience.
Good job, me.

The cold iron pellets didn’t look recyclable, but they looked like they might’ve been recyclable. I asked the spiders who asked the world and got six of one and half a dozen of the other.
So I put half in the garbage and half in the smelter bin.

The next morning was another curdled sky. Seems like those are more and more common nowadays. Maybe all those sages they keep interviewing are on to something, I guess. I’m sure someone’ll sort it out.
But for now, grind as it may, as long as I’ve got me a hot cup of pixee I’m just fine.
It all must be fine.
They smile.
I know they’re told to do it, I know they get fired if they don’t. But still.
It’s nice to see a smile in the morning when you’re a walking frown, isn’t it?
A smile, a speedy transaction, and a tiny mug of extremely potent pixee to start the day. I take mine shredded, with a double lemon. Cracks you wide open. The folks that use milk are cowards.
Thanks, GlitterPixee.
Your stupid rolls still cost too much though.

I stepped outside the building, stood under the filthy dank fog that crackled ozone and pissed power and reflected that although the world may run on miasma, the people definitely ran on pixee. What good were all those mechanisms and foundries and pipes and tubes and vents and sirens if everyone fell over exhausted on the controls and blew up the building?
Work transit was slow. The bus driver was cautious, and got into a fight with a man that wouldn’t stand behind the line. The bus intervened on his behalf and by the time I walked into work the scrying of the unruly passenger vanishing into the bus’s maw feet-first had already been dreamed into the households of half the planet. My had he been a screamer. I wished I had my orb with me to see the recording, but the stupid thing had chipped nearly in half when I dropped it a week ago.

It was a productive day. I had two lunches, two meetings, and speed-engraved two hundred and sixty secret names into a tablet of two hundred and sixty other names. Today this slab would be given to the accounting department, and used to issue forth spells of billing, to charge them for letting them know where to find people who could tell them where to find people who knew about the best ways to curse and counter-curse troubled metropolitan districts.
Tomorrow I would probably have to put all the names back again and pretend it never happened, but I’d burn that troll when I came to it.
I also spent a lot of time arguing with the guy in the cell across from me. He had the sort of face that demanded it; eyebrows set in a natural furrow and a lip built halfway to a sneer from a snarl. We never agreed on anything, and several times I’d had to change long-standing beliefs of mine to ensure this. Nobody could bear to agree with someone so disagreeable.

The bus home was better-behaved. Much duller. I passed the time staring out the window and counting advertisements. They seemed quaintly obsolete, those flyers and billboards. Screaming their product into the world in hopes it’d see that one-in-a-thousand who actually wanted it, who might be the one in ten thousand that’d buy it. Like the marketing version of a tree spewing seeds left right and center. Not at all the way it’s down nowadays, when your orb could just tailor them right to your tastes for a song and a dance and a hope and a dream.
Oh man. That was right! It was today!
And just like that the road home got eight times longer, right up until the moment when I got home, wrenched open the box, tore away eighteen inches of intricately mass-produced little pellets of cold iron and unearthed their protected, insulated prize: my new orb. Not the best model, but the newest, which was close enough to that to make it better.
Just needed to register it with the spiders.
Thumbprint. Brainshock. That nasty, tingling feeling like an ice cream cone just took a bite out of your forehead, and a small scream.
There we go!
I gripped it tight and rolled back my eyes and listened to the familiar whispers as the spiders scrambled in and out of my ears, pulling together everything they knew I’d want.
More fading reported from small towns in the eastern hinterland. Images of a starving dragon collapsed on a riverbank, too hungry to eat. More sages stating this was a direct result of miasmic corruption and that within the next thirty years half the planet would be a smouldering husk and the other half would envy it. More arguments.
I filed that away in the back of my head for the next time I was bored at work and wanted to pick a fight with the guy in the cell next to me. Not sure what side I’d take yet, I’d probably leave that up to him.
Used hope and dream-related byproduct from orb charging was being barred from shipment to the Great Lagoon, which had decided to start shipping its own mutilated dreamwaste to Far Asdy, which was burning it in special furnaces that had been connected to blah blah who cares.
They needed to fix the newsfeed settings on these things; it’d take ages to get this thing back to looking at what I cared about.
Seablight continued to spread. All that miasma that had been locked up low, leaking out and back up into the light again, stronger and angrier and fuelled by the rotting souls of millions of sickening and withering fish and corals.
I hid that one. Too depressing to look at. I wanted to go diving in Newdeep next summer.
GlitterPixee has been implicated in the underpayment of its workers.
Well, shit, what I had just said about too depressing? I’d have to get my morning wake-me-up somewhere else now. Maybe Ever-Dust – but that was two blocks away, no. Wakeman’s Ups? No, that was one block the WRONG way.
I’d tip the staff an extra coin, that was it. That’d work. I’d be helping AND saving myself an inconvenience.
Good job, me.

The cold iron pellets didn’t look recyclable, but they looked like they might’ve been recyclable. I asked the spiders who asked the world and got six of one and half a dozen of the other.
So I put half in the garbage and half in the smelter bin.

The next morning was another curdled sky. Seems like those are more and more common nowadays. Maybe all those sages they keep interviewing are on to something, I guess. I’m sure someone’ll sort it out.
But for now, grind as it may, as long as I’ve got me a hot cup of pixee I’m just fine.
It all must be fine.

Storytime: Neighbours.

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

Once upon a time there was oh about a ton, a ton of troll, and that troll was named Lod. She lived on the hill, under the crag, under the crag her mother had lived in – she was the youngest child, and to her had passed the hearth. Every six years or so her siblings came home and they ate and sang and swore at each other, and had a very good time. Other than that, she was much on her own.
It was a pretty good life, for a troll. They’re solitary folk. Days drift by fast enough when routine’s at their heels, and as the body thinks its way through the chores the brain (the least essential organ in any animal) is free to waste its own time on its own dime.
The downside with routines is they make ruts. And you don’t see those until you step in them, as occurred to Lod one fine April when she stood up walked out her front door and fell six feet down onto screaming, bleating softness.
“Huh,” said Lod, scraping herself upright. Someone had removed a lot of dirt from the base of her hill and replaced it with some kind of scraped path, then filled it with….little terrified clouds? She picked one up – the one underneath her posterior – and gave it a snort. Smelled like food.
“Huh,” pondered Lod.
A chittering noise turned her thoughts outwards again. A very small and hideous creature was in front of her. Its eyes were bulging great fish-goggles; its skin a thin, stretched thing like a frog’s hide. Its mouth seemed soft and toothless, and its claws appeared to have been removed. Uneven patches of hair decorated its head only; the poor thing seemed mangy.
“Want some?” asked Lod.
The chittering continued, and Lod realized it was coming from the creature’s mouth. Clearly it was half mad with hunger.
“Poor sucker,” she said, and she tore the little cloud-animal in half and handed the other half to the small hideous creature only to watch it run down the path as if its feet were on fire.
“Strange,” considered Lod.
And that was the most words she’d said at once in three years.
Damn fine dinner, though.

The next day Lod was cleaning her hearth when a fearsome ruckus appeared outside her stoop – at midday, no less – a time when most folks are waiting for the sun to die down.
Lod stuck her nose out and sniffed. It smelled of fear and rage and petulance, and then her face followed her nose and oh look it was more of the little hideous things.
“Crud,” she said. “Can’t feed you all.”
They chittered most fiercely at her. They were brandishing sticks and things. Some of them were on fire, and some were pointy, and some were just sticks. Were they trying to build a nest or something?
“Try the hilltop,” she suggested. “No birds there for years.”
“T FRS S, KLL T,” howled one of the shaggier creatures.
“Cripes, quiet,” said Lod. “Take ‘em and go.”
And she rolled a few good fire-starter-stones down the hill at them, but the creatures ran away and just left them there. And they WERE good ones, have no doubt.
“Strange,” complained Lod.
All that strange was making her hungry, too.

The next day Lod lucked out. Wandered a little farther afield than usual – easy, too, with these weird paths everywhere – when’d THEY show up? – and found a whole bunch of those little cloud-animals. She took two (lunch and dinner) and was annoyed to find herself watched once more by the furtive, smelly, and heavy-breathinged creature she’d met two days before.
“Come on,” she yelled at it, waving a portion of cloud-animal leg above her head. “Feel free. Lots here. I can’t fit it all in.”
And it skedaddled again.
But not all the way. It followed her all the way home and hung around as she ate and finally she gave up and chucked the bones at it and it ran away squeaking.
“Strange,” fumed Lod.
And then.
“Nah. They’re being assholes.”
Lod had fourteen older siblings. She knew of what she spoke.

The fourth day was odder still. Once again Lod was awoken rudely in the depths of day the shrieks of the squishy creatures, but this time it was one making the noise of sixteen. It had covered itself in shiny rocks, and it wielded a very small and tremendously ineffectual stick that was so thin it was practically two-dimensional.
“Oh fuck off,” said Lod, whose manners, often-eroded since the death of her mother, were now exhausted.
“HV T TH,” hollered the thing, and it ran at her squeaking and waving the stick around.
Lod smacked it one and it fell over and stopped breathing.
“Oh SHIT,” she said, and she quickly applied the traditional troll medicinal remedy for a stopped heart, which was to tear open the patient’s chest and squeeze it until it started up again.
However, it transpired that the creatures had unusually bony ribcages and unusually soft hearts, and so the thing staunchly remained dead.
“Shit, shit, shit,” muttered Lod as she chewed this over.
In the end she dismembered the patient (reserving the longbones), placed it together with its complete skull in a small cairn on top of the crag, and hoped that by the end of the century it’d have slept it off and be able to walk home by itself.

For three days Lod enjoyed somewhat restful sleep.
And on the seventh day she was woken, and this time there were four of them and they had larger sticks.
“Hell with this,” said Lod. She stomped her feet three times, gave her tormentors the finger, and stepped into her hearth, which ignited instantly and consumed her down to a thick wisp of smoke.

She’d go visit her sister over the sea, maybe, or her brother in the forest. Tell them about whatever nonsense this was, tell them it was their problem now, and walk out. Mom’s house was NOT worth this shit.