Forever winter (Part 20)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


Dropping of veils

There is a sound that can scare you and at the same time, wash you with peace.

Silence.

The blissful, fearful sound of nothingness. Not even the blood coursing through your own body can be heard in your ears. Though, for the girl from Europa, she did not really have blood as it appears on earth (hers was more like powdered crystals).

In the void of the nothing, she opened her eyes. She felt a piercing sting as something flooded her vision, like cold air on wet skin. She could see below her a vast blue jewel, throbbing in rotation. She knew it was the earth, this planet she had come to. It rotated slowly, yet assuredly beneath her, her feet almost skimming the topmost atmosphere. Her skin prickled, the scales of shapes fluttered an array of colours, but no one saw them. She was alone here, watching it all from space.

It began then, a tiny flickering. With it came little static crackles of sound. She saw it emanating from a point on the earth, a point she knew where she had just left. The flickering built more intensely, a tiny thread of white and blue light snaking its way up towards her. She felt safe here and knew no harm would come here. Inside this was what she had longed for, and now it was occurring she felt nothing but a kind of joy in her heart.

The thread of light found its way up to her, it touched her gently, little sparks spluttering off into the darkness around her. Then, quick as a flash it sped around her entirely, encasing her in a brilliance that felt magical to her touch. Slowly it began to pull her downwards, back towards the earth. Images began to be projected in her mind; her home, her mother, the creatures she had encountered on earth, her journey from Europa, and the lady of the jars. They mangled themselves into one another, a mixed dream of colour and movement. Her eyes closed and she felt herself falling, deeper and faster; descending again towards a planet she had not yet called home.

Ezra was walking around the stone, looking for something, though he did not know what. All looked the same to him, yet something felt different.

“So, what do we do now?” He called to the lady, inspecting the stone a bit closer. She stood with her bag open, digging inside for something.

“Well, to be honest I’m not sure. But perhaps, something will come to us.” She said, casually. Ezra shook his head in frustration.

“We can’t just sit around and have tea you know. Something needs to be…” He started but had noticed a tiny crack at the base of the stone. He stepped closer, almost fearful to touch the giant mass before him. As his fingers met the cold stone, a little electric pulse jumped from him and slithered into the crack, illuminating it in a blue light.

“I think this is something…” He called off to her. The lady peered around the stone to see him; her bag still clutched in her hand.

“See, I told you something would come along.” She smiled.

“Yes, only because…. oh never mind. Come and look.” He said to her.

She walked around the stone, coming up next to him. Out of her bag she pulled a little glass vial. Inside it a crackling lightning bolt hummed.

“Excellent Ezra, you might have cracked this.” She said, knowing he would love the pun.

“Just get on with what you’re doing.” He said, tautly.

She pulled the stopper out of the top, and the crack in the stone seemed to illuminate. The little lightning bolt zipped quickly out of the vial and into the crack, crackling and spreading through the stone like blue veins. It travelled up to the top, pulsing and humming. From a distance the blue veins made the stone look like a giant eye, the neon light glowing from the surrounding snow.

“So, what is this doing?” Ezra asked, watching the light dance and ripple through the stone.

“Well, years ago there was….” But Ezra cut in.

“We don’t have time for any of that. What is it doing and how can we get the girl back?” He asked. Ezra was very loyal and protective, an aspect of the Lady of the jars which seemed to shine strongly within him. He was the course of agency manifested from her, and he hated dithering or waiting around for things to happen.

The lady of the jars looked up at the stone, which shone with the blue light veins.

“Well, this Reppaehi; it’s a bit complicated, hence the explanation, but basically it is remembering the before, and repairing where possible and restoring.” She said, proudly.

“But how is that going to help when she is gone? The stone isn’t broken is it?” Ezra asked, uncertain.

“No, the stone cannot be broken, but the connection with the girl seems to have given it a power charge that has moved things to another plane. The light will repair the realms, allowing her to return back to the form she chooses.” The lady said.

“Wait, so the stone didn’t destroy her?” He asked.

The lady of the jars shook her head. “No, it didn’t destroy. The stone only ever wants to give, it cannot take. The girl I fear, was holding on to something much bigger than we knew. Her power, her need to change was stored inside her, like a huge well of energy. The connection with the old magic intensified and took her away, off this plane to a place where the worlds can find a balance. That is what I’m guessing anyway.” She said, touching the stone herself now, caressing the blue light that streaked through it.

Ezra gave her one of his sceptical looks.

“But how is this going to help us, how is this going to make things better?” He asked her. He hated not knowing. The lady then turned to him; her eyes looked suddenly sad.

“There is much darkness here, this world that I try to blanket in white lighted snow, there is still much pain and imbalance. It gnaws at me; I feel and see it still in my mind. I may have escaped my own pain, but that suffering, and sorrow still goes on elsewhere, hidden behind doors and buried under ground. Self-serving creatures, those people who have turned away from the light, those only caring for themselves. This darkness can be transformed. It was once light; it can again be restored.” She said, tears coming suddenly to her eyes.

Ezra stared at her, her heart and his were the same, and he knew what she meant and how her own pain had its own little reservoir. She wanted balance and equality; this world was still very much out of balance.

“So, she will change this?” He asked her.

“She is here to shed a veil of herself. And by doing that, will bring about a power that will be the balm to this world’s pain.” She replied.

“We are lucky she came to us then, I guess it’s been written that she would?” Ezra asked.

The lady nodded.

“For some time. This cycle is not new. But I hope this is the last time we need for it to happen. But yes, we are lucky she came to us.” She said.

“Came to me at least!” Said a voice from behind them.

They both turned quickly, to see the gentleman of the boxes standing tall before them, his arms outstretched, two little boxes in his hand. In a flash he flicked the boxes open with his thumbs and out poured a black smoke which covered them both in an instant. They hit the ground before they even knew what was happening.

The girl descended back towards the earth, the thread pulling her back towards the Mondol stone which glowed like the giant eye on the land. Her mind was racing, the images and thoughts blurring and fuzzing into one another still. Time was suspended and she had conversations there with her mother. Beautiful flowery words of hope and direction. She felt a veil begin to be pulled away, revealing another world that lay beyond space and time. She could feel and touch the wonder and was charged in the knowing that she would bring about a change of such importance. Her decline down towards the stone filled her up more and more with the knowledge she needed, whilst jettisoning what she no longer did.

She suddenly came down through the thick clouds that still hung with snow, despite early efforts to dismiss this weather, and touched her bare feet onto the summit of the stone. It felt warm and welcoming, like the Olpie rock pools they had back on Europa. Her feet even gripped to the stone like a suction, binding her to the material as the energy coursed through her. The steam which had welcomed her return dispersed, and she long fully looked for her friends. But she found the clearing empty of anyone. At the brim of the woods however, she saw a mass of green light and energy. She knew the Dimian were there now, gathered and hungry. But where were Ezra and the lady of the jars?


snowflake up close

You’ll see

You will see, said the little whisper.
The sound within.
A distant whimper.
From the voice inside the cracking skull.
The quiet reasoning.
The heart’s strong hull.
That sails beyond a galaxy.
Down here on earth.
In complexity.
These defiant words did manifest.
Into action.
And I must confess.
That I was able to walk away.
From all that trauma.
And sad decay.
And close the book of you and me.
A tired old tale.
Which you will see.

BOOK RELEASE – Four by tara caribou

Raw Earth Ink

I’m happy to announce the release of my second poetry collection, four. Four is 185 pages of black-and-white photography and poetry by me. This book will only be available in paperback through me directly and on lulu as well as in e-book format on Kindle. The e-book releases December 1st and the paperback is available right now.

Back copy:

Wherever there is number, there is beauty.’ -Proclus, Greek Philosopher

Four. Four seasons. Four elements. Four phases of the moon. Four is the number of humanity in the physical realms and represents the now. It is a foundation in calmness and being grounded.

Within these pages you will discover fresh perspectives on love in its many forms. You will see the earth through the eyes of nature. You will feel the despair, the horror, of dark depression. You will feel the green tendrils of new love. Inside you may even…

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After the Party

Ivor.Plumber/Poet

My new book“Tullawalla”, has been released and to order the book, here are the links

Barnes and Noble.. Tullawalla by Ivor Steven, Kerri Costello, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

Amazon.. Amazon.com: Tullawalla eBook: Steven, Ivor, Costello, Kerri, Harris, patricia: Books

www.books2read.com/Tullawalla

After the Party

I’m wallowing here at my desk

feeling spent and exhausted

and I hear the day’s echo’s resounding

as my pulse rate is pounding

and like a fish out of water I’m floundering

flipping, thrashing, and blundering

I’m waiting here, beached and pondering

what is to become of my words that are slumbering

Ivor Steven (c) April 2021

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Something to stay awake for – Stain

Listen to this episode.


It had begun to rain, a light drizzle that peppered the people as they walked along Bradley Way. Not the prettiest street in the world, and today it was overcast with a churning grey cloud that dampened the mood and made things ever more ordinary. People walked up and down the road, seeking out the local small supermarket that had opened just last year. It was housed in a former pub, the Bull and horn; the cigarette stained walls and beer marked floors long since ripped out. Outside, the faux Tudor design was kept, hoping the inn-like appearance would entice more customers. But people shopped here anyway out of convenience. The newsagents across the street had closed a year ago also, the owner packed up and moved away after a red Ford escort had rammed into his shop and robbed him late on a Sunday afternoon. Unless you were willing to cross the giant playing field at the back of Ashen road to go to the giant superstore, the pub-turned-metro shop was the easiest option.

Just near to the store was number 46, and though it was starting to rain, Mrs Taylor was found scrubbing the pavement. She had swept and tidied already, and now she was striking the wet brush across the path like she was toiling the earth. She worked with determination, scraping and scrubbing the ground over and over. She never dressed for cleaning. She was made up in her Sunday best, as if she had just gotten back from church. Though the fine rain had settled on her hair, giving it a web like crown, her hair was in place as if she had spent an hour on it. She was an odd sight to those making their way down Bradley road. After a while, she packed up her cleaning materials and went back into her house, number 46, the one with the red door.

It was grey again. It had rained in the morning, and the streets glistened like slumbering snakes. It was Sunday again also, and the local football club had finished their practice over on the giant field. A few kids had wandered off on their way home, stopping in at the local store to grab a drink and some much-needed sugar.

Mrs Taylor watched them as they walked down her road. She was scrubbing again, hot water and bleach burned away at the pavement. The added soapy suds flowed down the kerb and washed up to the drain, down into the darkness. She watched them, and they stared back at her as they walked by. She did not frown; she did not glare. There was no smile on her face either. Just a determination to scrub and wash, and get the job done. By the time the kids exited the store, Mrs Taylor had finished and returned inside her house. She had gone to make herself a cup of tea, her hands stinking of bleach and had become pale. The kids thought no more of her, and carried on their way home, their hands a healthy peach and holding the chocolate bars like tiny swords.

​-

The whole street knew of course. They watched her every week. She used the same bucket, the same brush. She would start by sweeping up the dirt and leaves that had fallen from the huge oak tree that loomed over the garden from number 38. Joyce, who lived with the tree, had never cared form Mrs Taylor. Joyce was a generation away from the woman, and tutted and shook her head to her antics in private. But if she saw her on the street, she would always nod her head in quiet recognition. To which Mrs Taylor would always nod her head slightly back.

It was Sunday again. No rain today. Just thick dark clouds above threatening the worst. A nasty cold breeze blew in from the south, ripping through Bradley Way like an arctic arm reaching from the poles. She resigned herself to a coat today. She had lost more weight than she would care to acknowledge, and her frail body would shiver in the conditions now. Underneath her plum coat, she wore her Sunday best again. The pearls her mother had given her hung over her dress, little eyes gleaming out into the cold. She had also decided to use some gloves, not because of the cold, but because her hands were now so raw from the bleach. She sat at night picking at the loose bits of skin around her fingers, peeling away the hangnails that had appeared, paled underneath from all the toxins. They stung and hurt.

But she did not care. She wanted to carry on, so she used the gloves to keep the feeling in her fingers to get the job completed. To feel the work.

And she scrubbed and rubbed and washed the pavement.

Bundled up against the elements, Mrs Stokes, and her daughter Ivy were walking along the other side of the road. Mrs Stokes lived down on Humber Way, but she knew Mrs Taylor from the primary school morning mums run. She had seen her at the gates with the others, a gaggle of women with their precious little birds waiting for the gates to part.

Ivy watched her as she scrubbed on her hands and knees, the warm water cascading over the lip of the pavement. Ivy broke free of her mother’s hand and crossed the street without looking, going over to Mrs Taylor. Her mum called after her, following her onto the street.

It was quiet that day, few cars littered the road and there was a peaceful calm.

​“Hi.’ Ivy said to Mrs Taylor, who looked up from the floor. Her eyes were glassy and tired.

“Hello.” Mrs Taylor replied, friendly. Ivy’s mum came up to them, grabbing her hand.

“Ivy, don’t bother her. Come along, we have to get to the store. And don’t run off like that. I’m sorry.” Mrs Stokes said, looking down at the woman. With that, Mrs Taylor looked off slightly, as if searching the road for something.

“Why are you cleaning the path?” Ivy asked suddenly. They all shivered there in the cold. Ivy’s mum began to pull her away.

“Don’t bother her. I’m so sorry, she’s always curious. Come along Ivy.” Mrs Stokes said, eager to get away.

Mrs Taylor stood then, much more agile than her demeanour would suggest. She popped up like a dog ready for a walk.

“Its fine, kids are curious. I’m just doing a spot of cleaning. The council seem to neglect this part of town, and the road is filthy.” She smiled then, a warm smile as she looked at the little girl. She turned her head slightly, as if she heard something, then turned back towards them.

Mrs stokes, eager to get going smiled back, hoping it would be the end to the conversation.

“But, no one else cleans the pavement. I’ve not seen anyone do it like you, scrubbing away.” Ivy said, determined to understand. Mrs Taylor was silent for a minute and then replied.

“Well, you see there where you are standing; I just can’t get this bit clean. It’ll take some time, but it will lift.” She said, reaching back for her scrubbing brush, having looked more at the spot where the two stood.

Ivy looked down at her feet, seeing nothing but the black road.

“But there is nothing there.” Ivy replied.

“Come along now Ivy. Leave her to her cleaning.” Mrs stokes said, vigorously pulling the girl. Mrs Taylor laughed a little. A small laugh, brittle from its long hibernation.

“You kids think everything is already clean. I bet your room at home is a mess and yet you think its fine. No no, the stain there, it spreads up and across the pavement. I think it is oil, but it’s taking ages to go.” She sighed suddenly, as if reminded of the huge task in front of her.

“There you see. Sorry to bother you. Come now Ivy.” Mrs Stokes said, and this time successfully moved the girl who walked on still puzzled.

They made their way to the store and Mrs Taylor watched them for a few seconds before scrubbing a bit further and then packing up her things and heading back into her house, closing her red door behind her. She took off her coat and went upstairs. She always did this. She went into the front room of the house, the second big bedroom. Hers was at the rear and was slightly smaller, but she liked the view of the back garden. She liked the green. She went across to the window and looked down at the pavement.

“It’s still there.” The little girl said.

Mrs Taylor pulled at the sleeves of her dress.

“I know. I’ll buy the super strength bleach next week. That’ll do it.” She said to the empty room.

She looked up the street as a few people came out of the store. The old newsagents across the road had been turned into kitchenettes. She looked in through the ground floor window, a huge TV screen the size of the wall flashed away in blues and reds.

“Maybe in time, it’ll fade on its own.” The girl said.

She looked down at the spot again. A huge stain on the floor seemed to pulse before her. She closed her eyes and watched the red ford escort zoom away noisily like thunder down the road. She hoped she would never see it again, but she knew she would.


MORE FABLES HERE

Published Works

Raw Earth Ink

Hello friends,

This morning I woke up to over a foot of snow (when 3″ was forecast) and the FedEx driver calling me to say he would not drive down my road due to the deep snow. He left my package (proof copies of a client’s books) in a plastic bag in the snow bank and continued on. I, on the other hand, put my pants and boots on and headed down, down, down my driveway in snow up to my knees to collect my excitedly anticipated books.

Huffing and puffing aside, it’s all worth it to me, to open that box and pull out a beautiful book which an author has entrusted to me to edit, format, and ultimately publish. What an honor; I am blessed beyond words.

Recently, Hidden Bear‘s second edition book of poetry, Moleskine on a Coffee Table, released. I was delighted with not…

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Hentan House – The Beat Around The Bush

HARLEY HOLLAND

They tore at my clothing from all directions. Pinching my skin and ripping the vest from my back. Before I could react, three hands were already gripping my arm. They pinned to the oak dining table as I heard scissors snip the air. I screamed as the cold metal ran up my ankles and down my back. My trousers slipped off with little effort. I shut my mouth in preparation for the searing pain of the blades they had sliced across my legs but I felt nothing. Rosemary twisted into vision and placed the scissors on the table like a doctor showing the child the needle before the prick. I clenched my legs together in one final protest at the hand curling into my pants. I bucked and pulled away as Rosemary watched the whole thing. I was not going to lay down and wait for this to be over…

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Hentan House – Three Cheers To The Hunt

HARLEY HOLLAND

I picked at the last shreds of the meal almost numb to the flavour. After a day of drinking the preparation and delicacy taken in creating the banquet had been wasted on me. All I wanted to do was fill myself with as much bread and offerings in the vain chance it would soak up any alcohol that had been stewing. I was pickled and buzzed. I pressed my forehead down onto the dining table and closed my eyes. The wood was cool and refreshed me more than any glass of water could. I hadn’t seen one glass of water the entire afternoon. Every time I requested one or reached for a jug it was always the same aniseed alcohol. A few cheered in the background as I kept my eyes shut. They were playing some game and I needed to rest for a brief moment before it was my…

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Gravity not holding

To lift into a dream.
A sky that fits into your hand.
Let loose like the heartstrings of a melody,
that taps at your soul.
You breathe the air I need to survive.
Blown backwards like a northwest gale.
Billowing underneath these feathered sails.
Crystalize the weight that hangs heavy like the edge of space.
Skimming the clouds of your floating world.
To dive into the air of thought that passes between us.
That leaves me shaking like a night terror.
A heartbeat like a sleep kick.
These strings are made with each joint decision.
Tasselled and tied the rigging of a wandering star.
Leaving my hands covered in stardust.
And lungs of love full to burst.
I go silently into that pastel sky.
Watching the moments as I go.
Lifting off deep into your soaring kingdom.
Lifting once more into a dream.

Lonely tree

In the forest, all alone.
My lonely tree feels cold as stone.
Surrounded everywhere by its branches.
That bend and twist to their own advantage.
They shake in the wind, and shiver in sadness.
Sunken in a disturbing madness.
Until one day you came into the woods.
Scared the animals and riding hood.
Yet the wolves they ran, and hid like rabbits.
Convoluted out of their own bad habits.
And into my glade you stepped so proudly.
And struck a match and yelled out loudly:
“Love is a flame that burns us under!”
And as quick as lightening, you lit me like thunder.
So my lonely tree, burned quick and sadly.
And I faded away, into death quite gladly.

Hentan House – Feast Preparation

HARLEY HOLLAND

I finally felt like I could relax and not worry about how others saw me. These women had lifted me out of the ice chamber with praise and encouragement. They all smiled when I said I wanted to do it again because they too felt the same way. And just as I had been dunked into the ice it was me now who held the wooden lid shut as the rest took the plunge. “Hold down with all your weight.” A few said as I placed my palms on the wood in bated breath. I was pressing down with all my strength as the old lady scratched against the lid. I could feel some sort of exhilaration building in me, heavier than the fear I felt in the well, that lingered on the edge of my mind. Pushing me to think unnatural things; hold it just a little longer, just…

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Beauty lost at the Heron house

The world collapsed in thirty seconds there.
A beauty aged in a moment while the rose petals died.
Who faded into the future, without the knowledge of the past?
We all did.
We came once to that spot, to watch the herons dance.
To see how they cast their wing’s against a backdrop of stars.
Through tears we watched them fly, soaring along our fingertips.
But we did not know, or care to wonder;
if they’d ever return.
And the days folded into years while the crows walked across our faces.
Milking our eyes to the blurred canvas before us.
Sight dancing into all but silhouettes.
What was destroyed there, at the Heron house?
Was it love? Was it power to hold in the wells of your hand?
Surely love never dies. Love always saves the day.
But beauty was lost forever there.
When it was valued more than gold, in hearts that feared to fly.


click to watch
heron in the snow


More video art at markryan

Artificial sweeteners: Free eBooks (Poetry, Fiction)

To celebrate of the release of Dislocated: Short broken tales, enjoy some of my other titles for free. Full descriptions here.

Available at no cost from 11-13 September

mark ryan books

 


Be sure to check out ‘Dislocated‘ and also ‘Nothing but i am‘. New titles from 2020.

dislocated

Horror comes in many forms. It can creep at the door, surprise us in a truth or dwell within our very bones. To escape and flee is a natural instinct. But what if the horror never disappears?

Dislocated is a collection of 28 short stories which cover the need to escape, and the horror of remaining. Tales such as ‘Folkroot’, where something dark is lurking in the hotel pond. Or ‘Nemesis’, which takes us to another world where still a darkness dwells. This collection shows you the road to freedom, but warns you with a cold hand, that you may not travel alone.

nothing but i am

She left the earth how she wanted, walking into the ocean as the stars above sparkled in their preciousness. She hoped to join them, to transform into something that burned with a power a million miles away from here. Her departure may be one of sadness, but it was by her own choosing. It was her own way to transform.

‘Nothing but I am’ follows the life of Eleanor, as read through her journal in her final days on the planet. It washes over her hopes and dreams, loves and despairs at the hands of fate and the disturbance of states that begin to corrode her life. Her death imprints itself on a police officer trying to unpick meaning in her demise as she goes through her words and thoughts left in her journal.


Smartly Dressed Violence (Part xxii)

Click here for previous entries


Part xxii

Stefan picked up the glass of water, looking at the remnants in the bottom. Dark particles and flecks of green swirled in the glass, sediments that Aiko had dribbled back into. He took the glass away from the dimly lit room in which Aiko was resting within on a raised bed. He still wore the suit which he had used going across into the Altered, the helmet placed to one side.

Stefan returned moments later, the glass now devoid of the contaminants and refilled with fresh water.

“What else do you need?” Stefan asked, placing the glass down by the side. Aiko quickly reached across for it, his arm a mangled piece of flesh now, riddled with what looked like heavy burning but scorched black. Little flecks of green, like those in the glass, peppered his flesh like little emeralds.

“To hydrate, quickly.” Aiko spluttered, his mouth sparking little green sparks. “The hydrogen water is suffice, but for now I just need to recover.” He added, emptying the glass hurriedly.

Stefan reached over to take it from him.

“What else can I do?” He asked him, unsure of how to proceed. He had found Aiko slumped unconscious when he’d come to his home to collect some contracts. Aiko occupied the top few floors in one of his buildings on the Southbank, his main city residence. He preferred this one to his others as it was close to his business and could operate efficiently within the city.

Stefan had found him lying on the floor, surrounded by a small area of blackness, like powdered charcoal. He had got him into his bed just as he had regained consciousness. Aiko had ordered him to administer a medical robot to scan him over, checking his vitals and any signs of damage. Stefan had watched silently as the robot had done its magic, injecting and reporting until Aiko was more comfortable. He had placed the helmet near to the bed, noticing the scorch marks on it and the damage also to Aiko’s body. At first glance his injuries seemed to be burns, but the strange glows and the fine powder had troubled him. The most disturbing aspect to Stefan however were Aiko’s eyes, which now shone with an inky blackness covering the sclera.

Stefan was not an idiot, he knew of the Altered, in whatever form it had been known to him. Hearsay and whispering, subtle hints at another world and little tales of magic. He knew this was where Aiko went, this was also what he put some of Aiko’s power down to. How he was able to operate so successfully in this world. We all needed little aids. Aiko had never discussed this with him before, but he had guessed something of this sort. He had seen the machines and the technology the company produced, Aiko’s future plans and especially his latest venture, which relied so heavily on an ambiguous element. Discovering him how he did, he assumed something had gone wrong perhaps over in this place.

“What is the time-frame for EDEN?” Aiko stammered from the bed, ignoring Stefan’s question.

“Sir, you may need further medical….” But Aiko interrupted.

“I’m fine. What is the time-frame now?” He asked again. Stefan tapped at his wrist, files and images illuminated into the air, harshly in the low light.

“Six hours until we begin initiation of the final phase. Dependent on source deployment which has yet to be confirmed. Resettlement phase has completed, and operations are functional at full capacity. Two hours until the west side lock down comes into effect, as discussed; the disaster procedure framework will initiate the lockdown.” Stefan reported, his voice dry in the cold air.

“The source has yet to be contained, I need to handle this myself. It will require a four-hour window. Please factor this in.” Aiko said, sitting up slightly.

“In addition?” Stefan asked. Aiko looked over, the dark eyes revealing nothing.

“No, in unison.” He replied. He tapped some buttons on his suit, and this seemed to melt away; the textures caving in on each other like tiny bricks folding away. He moved the small disk to one side, the compacted suit now reduced down to the size of a playing card.

“Very well. Anything else?” Stefan asked, eager to get away from the room, which was now creeping over him ominously, like dark hands now scratching at his legs.

“I need to get some things together. They are here, but I will need your help. So don’t leave without telling me.” Aiko wheezed, as if struggling to talk.

“Perhaps….” Stefan began, but caught himself.

“I’m fine, the recovering will take about an hour. I need for you to begin the isolation solution, shift the power from site Het to initiate. The stockpiles should form within the time it takes for me to heal.” Aiko said, closing his eyes.

Here Stefan seemed to straighten up, eager to share some good news.

“These have already been done and finalised. The isolations have migrated the conflicting pathogens across. We did this as a test for the system, but they took such little power due to the new cells at the facility that we went ahead already.”

“What?” Aiko said, he voiced veiled any anger that may have been present.

“Well, we needed to move ahead with the timeline. And as we hadn’t heard from you, it was agreed to continue as planned.” Stefan replied, unsure now if this was the right thing to have done.

Aiko remained quiet, processing this information. He sat forward, looking at his arm now and the markings that were riddle up and down it. He turned to Stefan.

“Were there any by-products?” He asked.

Stefan nodded, as if expecting this question.  “Yes, there were, but we’ve isolated these away. It was as you said, anything in flux would be captured.”

Aiko then smiled, sensing a victory.

“How many?” He asked. Stefan tapped again at his wrist. Little lights danced out, projecting some images.

“Three individuals, one of which died through re-alignment.” Stefan said, unfazed by the information.

“Is one of them Levon?” Aiko asked suddenly, a strength coursing through his words.

Stefan looked again at his information.

“Yes, a Levon Wexton and Samuel Wexton.”

Something in the room changed then, though Stefan knew not what.

“What did you say?” Aiko asked, almost as if he’d been insulted.

Stefan repeated, checking the information as if searching for an error.

“I’m assuming father and son.” He added, hesitantly.

It was the first time Stefan had heard Akio Tsutsumi laugh, he who was closest to him had rarely seen him display any great emotion. It was the first time, and he hoped it would be the last as it slithered and coiled around him in the room in a disturbingly maniacal fashion. Making the space a place he longed to leave quickly.


The Guest House (excerpt) by Chris Nelson

Raw Earth Ink

The following is an excerpt of the short story: The Guest House by Chris Nelson, which you can find in the anthology Static Dreams Volume 2. Inside you’ll find nine dark and twisted stories written by him and other amazing authors. I hope you enjoy this little snippet.


When Duncan turned around and stepped out of the room he found himself on a jetty. He checked behind himself and saw that the jetty was long and jutted out almost precariously over the ocean, its wooden planks weather-worn and tired. With one footstep Duncan had found himself almost at the head of the pier, although, by now, he had given up trying to fix logic and reasoning to the day’s events. It was early morning once more: a warm sun had already burned the clouds from the sky and a prickly heat had begun to creep over the land…

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Quiescent

She tried to save him on that day.
That day, when the coffee stained sky folded.
She reached out in her own way.
Only for her hands to turn to stone.
And her mind to dust.
A cruel trick of fate positioned her.
To watch his demise from such a vantage point of safety.
Silenced in an eternal knowing.
While a tempest raged in her eyes and mind.
So she threw it all back in time.
Crouched under her bed until the voices left her.
With bangs on the door and within her heart.
Which now thundered to a singular beat.
Then the vines crept up around her veins,
and she erased her broken kingdom.
At least she tried to.
Then disappeared into the rains that then came.
Leaving no trail in her wake, only questions.
And the angels covered her in mercy.
As she chased the dragons by the flooded lagoon.

Surviving is the best revenge

Into the bath he jumped fully clothed.
The water boiled and curled his toes.
It shed his skin, his hair, his eyes.
But acid, not water burnt away both his thighs.
A ghastly end, but one incomplete.
For his bones remained from head to feet.
So out he jumped, forgetting his pride.
Down the plug the water went, with his thoughts of suicide.
And in the mirror glaring back.
Was his bleached white skeleton, from front to back.
He saw his skull, the sockets so deep.
Out of his mouth a little whimper did creep.
But not one to dither, or dwell in his state.
He ran down the stairs and out the front gate.
And he came to the house that had made him so morose.
And he slipped through the door as quiet as a ghost.
He crept up the stair, to where he knew he would find them.
And he brought out some rope and some tape so to bind them.
Both lovers were sleeping, intertwined while they dreamt.
Their hair and their clothes, all wild and unkempt.
So he tied them together, then he set fire to the bed.
He watched as the flames roared up to their heads.
But before they departed, before their own bones were charred.
He slipped off his fibular to play a tuneful bon voyage.

Silent shores

4am as the world whispers me awake.
All is calm as the night travels in my veins still.
I slept the day away.
Rubbing the tiredness and memories from my eyes.
Half a world resting in my heart from where I started.
Right where I belong.
The veil is yet to be lifted from my shaded stay.
Talking to me still from the past in a language familiar.
Talks of entangled vines and harkening songs.
A call of the kookaburra who rests on my eyelids.
The red land beneath my feet.
Sticking to me like sand on wet skin.
Rub away these English oaks. This chitter of festivity.
Don’t lead me blind with your patriotic tales.
Colour me sunlit gold and let me sleep.
Crying into the night and drifting away on the tide.
Waking on shore I pray I do not recognise.

Persistence of the unforgetting

Sunken deep like forgotten wrecks.
A hate that broods, contorts and flex.
This grudge is old and just like oil.
Black with time, and within me coils.
Staining my soul with its heartless rind.
Unforgotten, despite the passage of time.
But time has come to break the bond.
That swirling hole, that stagnant pond.
I will no longer give food to the beast.
It is to the wolves I throw this feast.
A stinking blood drool of unwanted flesh.
Cut from my heart, and so refreshed.
Then wrapped in a tourniquet of letting go.
With hope that in that hole, some love will grow.

Smartly Dressed Violence (part xix)

Click here for previous entries


Jess had a story like many others, a cataloguing of moments in her youth that pushed her to the side of rebellion. She had watched for years how those with and without S.I.N were treated differently. How the great gap between the two seemed to be widening. It was assumed that Jess was a sufferer herself, tainted by the genetic mutation that kept some in the lower bowels of society.

But she was not.

Jess had always had a distaste for discrimination. Her very soul had rejected the nonsense and justification of how and why society behaved as it did now. She felt everyone was equal, despite of where you came from, what your were or how your cells formed and grew. She had be called an idealist with much of her ‘radical’ thoughts put down to her youth. But it was her youth that bred the rebellion within also, the mutinous feelings she had for how she was told to live.

When she discovered there was another way, and others who felt the same as she; Jess poured her effort into undoing the pain that the past had normalised. She craved to know more of the Altered and the magic, to do her part in righting the wrong. Her path had crossed Levon’s, a ghost like being in the revolution. His skills and gifts were well known, but also his allusiveness and reluctance to fully engage in the fight. Now Jess knew a little better the part he played. The veil had been lifted on the The Order and she had gotten what she had wanted, a true part to play in the war against the unjust.

Aiko had long ago become a target for her rage and contempt. She knew all about his upbringing of course, she had done her research well. She knew the secrets he kept and the hypocritical state of his youth. He may be smartly dressed on the outside, but inside he had been just as ‘unclean’ as the many he and his fellow appraisers shamed and kept persecuted.

All her efforts it seemed had come to this, to this tipping point where finally she had a real shot at correcting.

“Jess, are you in?” Nina asked her, tapping her knee slightly as if to rouse her.

“What, oh yes…of course.” Jess replied, her mind turning over the plan that had been hatched.

“Do you have your companions?” Nina asked, holding her own little book before them.

“Always” Levon said, producing his own.

“Yep.” Jess said, reaching inside her jacket and taking out her little black book.

“Good, then we have no time to waste. Levon…” Nina started, but was interrupted by a murmuring sound.

“Answer.” Nina said, turning to face a floating hologram behind her. The Gustave Doré rendering suddenly transformed into the giant head of Dr. Winkoski whom they’d been with not long before.

“Karen, what’s up?” Nina said, she was calm and polite. Karen seemed on edge.

“Ah, good. You are all there. There has been a development.” She said. In the background the lab they had been in earlier was a bustle of activity.

“What’s happened?” Nina asked.

“It’s Aiko, we found him in the altered. He was trying to get through the gates of Asher.” Karen said.

“Found as in apprehended, or found the remains of him?” Nina queried.

“We found him, but he escaped back into the material realm. When he tried to get through the gates, he was stopped. The exchange seems to have banished the darkness too, for it no longer swirls around the Altered. Our members are reporting it is not showing anywhere.” Karen said.

Nina was a quiet for a bit, thinking over what he had heard. She looked to the giant globe that was in the centre of the room, and noticed the blackness had gone.

“Was it he who stopped him?” Nina asked, her voice almost a whisper now.

“Who else.” Karen replied, before continuing. “We know Aiko still has his companion, and we must assume he was able to return on his own. Our disturbance trackers show entry and departure points that match his movements.  We are waiting for word to come from his Atone industries to confirm if they are still on course.”

“We must assume, like you said, he returned. He will follow his plan, he believes in it too much. But we need it confirmed before we act.” Nina said.

“Agreed. We’re trying to get this information now, but I would say we must proceed with our time-frame if we are to stop him.” Karen added.

“And what of his holiness?” Nina asked.

Karen looked away momentarily at this, as if uncomfortable slightly.

“We’ve yet to contact him.” She said, slightly embarrassed.

“Not too surprising. I’m sure he’ll appear just at the right moment, he usually does.” Nina said, looking across to Levon.

“Well, we’ll update you when we know more. I’ll continue to organise the final stages from our side, and transferring of our reversal pathogen. Awaiting confirmation of its success from you still.” Karen said.

“Right, and we are about to start the test so it will be with you shortly.” Nina said to Karen.

“Speak soon.” Karen said and logged off.

“He’s been busy.” Levon said to Nina as the hologram changed back to the Dore prints which spun and moved in classic beauty.

“The Pope has his reasons, I’m sure he’ll appear soon.” Nina said.

“Well, he was always an absent father in my life so I’m not surprised he’s doing the same thing to others.” Levon said, his face showing annoyance.

“Your father is the Pope?” Jess asked, this day seeming to offer her a new surprise after the next.

“Yep. And for all his goodness, he never sticks around long enough to be of any real benefit.” Levon snapped.

“He has his calling, he is doing what he knows is right.” Nina interjected.

Levon sat there, thinking on this.

“Maybe, but he’s never there when I need him.” Levon replied.

“I’m sorry for that, but if the world is better for his actions, then you have to deal with your own issues and selfishness. There is more at stake right now.” Nina offered in her quiet calming fashion. This seemed to do the trick as Levon seemed to shrug off his annoyance as he moved on the chair, perhaps seeing the bigger picture.

“So, what do we do first?” Jess asked, trying to get into action.

“We need to test the reversal pathogen. We can only stop Aiko otherwise if we don’t know how it will work.” Nina said.

“But I thought there wasn’t enough time to check its effectiveness.” Jess asked.

“There is a way. There is a place between the Altered and the material realm. A purgatory if you will. It seems to react intensely with anything from the Altered, but also stabilises things from the world below. We believe if we test the pathogen there on a group, we can gauge the potency of the agent and its success.” Nina said.

“So, we need some volunteers?” Levon said.

“Some brave ones I’d say. That is quite a risk.” Jess said.

“All or nothing at this stage. Can you gather some people who suffer with S.I.N to go with you to this place and test it?” Nina asked Jess. Jess looked away, taking in the vast room and all the words that were continued in the books. How many of those books continued stories of hope, of overcoming? She turned to face both Levon and Nina.

“I think I know just the people.” Jess replied.


 

Go slowly

The second guessing, the never knowing;
Framing the mistakes we make.
Blessed with an ability to undo me.
Take me down, feel your way.
Leave nothing on this body to explore.
Don’t sit there motionless because you know the answer.
Discover.
Over and over again.
This skeleton underneath.
This heart that beats.
A sweat that runs for you.
Mind your step as you flee the room.
(Please wait while I undress).
[Re-dress.]
Address your intent.
We all want to play in traffic, but this is serious now.
Break me like a three year old would.
Love me like you were meant to.
Hold it all in your hands like i’ve come from the land of gold.
Such precious illusions as I hold my breath.

Lost in the faraway

The conjuring dreams.
Of moments in time.
Love lost on your lips.
Your hand in mine.
Kicking this cactus heart around.
Fresh like mint on my tongue.
Calling you out of the clouds.
Out of my bones that feel as heavy as China.
One of those falling dreams.
Like you’re here.
But still gone.

Burning feathers

Taken from Nothing but I am


What scrapes at the inside of this skull?
Trying to break free from mirroring misery.
A bird trapped, or a candle with no flame.
Fighting against something that isn’t there.
Inside these reflections, dwells a silent creature.
Bound in feathers, but fearing flight.
Waiting to breathe, to fly, ignite.


Ignite

Smartly dressed violence (part xviii)

Click here for previous entries


The Altered, the other realm. A place only known by those who had ever been there. It is easy to imagine another fantasy world, one which moves on an axis of magic and mystery. Yet it is a place that defies true understanding. Most technology fails to operate there, simple mechanical devices or computers are redundant in the atmosphere that swells and whispers spirits. This adds to the mystification and fascination of the place; throwing up questions of origins and beginnings as much as endings. Did we crawl out of this land on our bellies? Did we rid ourselves of the magic and lore like flicking away the fins and gills of our ancestors?

The magic has continued though; transported through doorways and openings, brought back by the brave and knowledgeable who understood and hoped to help the world with it. Mystic passages and symbols scrawled out by something that echoes in our own history. It has its own essence, its own living and breathing being that moves to the thoughts and the whims of those in possession. Magic, though dangerous and dazzling, can truly reflect those who wield it. For good or ill. The magic from the altered is a mirror and an enhancer of the one who handles it. The incantations, the essence from the physical place can be used in such wondrous ways. Which is how the Order have been handling it. Respectfully. Treating it as a living entity that, like anything loved, is handled with care.

Aiko stood now in the Altered, himself covered in a black suit as if travelling through space. He wore a helmet which was transparent, giving him a 360 degree view of everything around him. That everything now though was clogged in a thick black fog which was beginning to swirl and descended upon him, blotting him out entirely. Something kept the fog at a distance however, a little green flame in his hand he held before him like an offering. The little fire was a concoction, a breathing into being of the magic that hung in particles all around him.

He was not stupid, he knew the construct of this place and how delicate the system could be. He knew how it reacted and contracted to other people’s presence. The Order. He had seen them here many times. Slithers of white and blue light that would transverse the plains; not so much as meddling, but going by their own designs. Aiko had once thought they could work together, their plans not so different. He had come there once too as a student, eager to learn, eager to overcome this place which had at first inspired and frightened him. But as he grew, both here and back home, his mind and resolve became hardened and addled. His thoughts of others evaporated and his intent became clearer.

There was much power here, one he could harness. Not just to rid the city of those who he wished to teach a lesson to, his great flood so to speak. But to capture the essence and magic of this place, to bridge it over to the other world. He would then be able to control more than he could ever imagine.

The fly in the ointment however was the organic nature of this place, this Altered where each action had a seismic reaction. His pillaging and raping of this place had resulted in this darkness, this fog which was withering and unstructering all. He could see it, he knew what was occurring. He wondered if the damage could be undone. He knew the Order were trying to do just that, but each time he came here he seemed to make it worse. He had delved into the books, the lore and the mysticism and to him it spoke in riddles. There was something he didn’t quite understand.

He came now to a place, the one he had been fearful to go to if he were honest with himself. Before him giant metal gates loomed up into the sky. To say it was forbidden to go there was not a true reflection of what the writings said. What they actually told of was a place in the Altered where those with heavy hearts feared to go. Where the gates we closed to hearts and minds that could never be opened. There was always danger in the altered, missteps and mistakes had taken people. Snatched them into a trapped existence tangibly in view but forever lost.

The gates loomed high before him, the blackness covering much of it now above out of sight. A quiet heavy sound of silence was slowly being punctured by a tap-tap, which was beginning to build somewhere off behind the gates. His little green flame flickered, reducing slightly and threatening to go out. A blue light moved beyond the gates. A flash and flicker, the tap became more prominent.

“Who is there?” Aiko demanded, his little green flame growing with his command.

Only silence returned.

He looked above him through his helmet, through the suit that protected him now from the fog that he had found corroded flesh. The fog above the gates was dispersing, blanketing off to the sides as if cleared by a giant hand.

“You cannot enter Aiko, you know this.” A voice came from beyond.

“Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do.” Aiko replied, definitely.

“This is nothing your heart isn’t telling you also.” The voice said, seeming to creep about him now like its own miasma of eeriness.

“Be that as it may, I will be entering.” Aiko said. His plan rested on what was beyond the gates, his own bridge to the world below.

“If you do that, there will be no world to bridge to.” The voice came back, almost mockingly. Aiko was not surprised; he knew the nature of the Altered, how it revealed things you may never speak. But it had annoyed him nonetheless.

“That is a chance I’m willing to take. If you take me for a fool, then it is your mistake.” Aiko said, taking out his little book that he always kept on him.

“I do not think you a fool Ai, I know you too well.” The voice said. This did surprise him. No one called him Ai anymore, few even used his first name so casually. Ai was his childhood name.

“Stop it.” Aiko said, yet showing no signs of surprise. He found the page he was looking for and tapped the symbols on the page. His own little green fire died suddenly, but before the darkness descended he muttered an incantation and beneath his feet little green particles began to emerge from the ground. On his left arm he swivelled a dial on his suit and the particles flew towards it like a magnet. They bubbled in place, building to a sphere in a split second before exploding upwards into the darkness above and around him.

The flecks of green light seemed to cling to the darkness, haltering its movement.

“You’re like the little child who dipped his dirty hand in honey to have a taste Ai.” The voice came again, followed by a flash of blue beyond the gates momentarily.

“I warned you.” Aiko said, now angry. He turned the dial on his arm which seemed to energise the particles, he pushed forward with his hand and the darkness contracted around him, beginning to move forward at his command towards the gates. As they touched them they began to steam the metal, hissing the bars like a million serpents escaping a nest.

“I still think you can be saved Aiko, you just keep choosing the hard way.” The voice came, this time from behind him. Aiko turned quickly but the light blinded him. A Blue and white flash engulfed him; swallowing everything, including the darkness. He fell to the floor in a daze as the voice dissipated everywhere, an incantation he had never heard melted everything away.

It was a long time before Aiko awoke. He lay there in his custom made suit as the blue light washed everything it touched, bringing a gleam to the gates and the Altered he found himself in. When he did wake, he could still see the darkness fogging his vision. This was not because it had returned, but because it now resided inside him; forever staining what he saw.