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#30 Mia

| November 30, 2011 | 0 Comments

Had she drowned?  She did not think so.  She had been told that if she was good enough, and pure enough and kind enough of spirit that she would not drown, that she would instead be taken by the little gods who watched over the pond, and she would become their princess.

Mia did not feel dead.  And she was sitting, muddy, on the edge of the water.  One would not be muddy in the afterlife, not even if one was to pay for their misdeeds.  So she must not have drowned.  But she was so very cold, and it was not a sort of cold that she had ever felt before.  It went deep, curled up inside her like a knot, and it felt like hunger.

She was so very hungry.  But she was not hungry for any food she could think of.  She somehow knew that she was hungry for something else entirely, only what that thing was she could not say.  She could not say until a foolish boy came wandering to the water’s edge, close to the reeds, not far from where she had hidden when she had heard someone approach.

Mia knew the boy was foolish.  Only a very foolish child would approach these waters alone, without a priest, without some sort of sacrifice.  Some sort of living sacrifice.  The gods of these waters were powerful, but they were greedy, and they took what came near.  And as the boy came close and Mia could feel his heat, she suddenly knew a few more things.  And once the boy was cold dead by the edge of the bank, she knew all that she needed to know.

She was no princess.  There were no gods.  There was only the water, and the cold, and the heat that living things could bring to her, wether they had been meant as a sacrifice or not.  The cold knot uncoiled from within her.  She wore it as a cloak, and waited for the men to come and take away the body of the foolish boy who died instead of her.

#29 Clara

| November 30, 2011 | 0 Comments

She hadn’t always been like this, this cruel and unforgiving.  At one point, she had actually been a kind an gentle soul.  She could have been a loving mother.  Could have, if the world had not become the blackest version of itself.  Could have, if she wished to be weak and at the mercy of the merciless.  But she was never a sheep.  And let’s face it, wolves do not raise sheep.

Which wasn’t to say that she didn’t have a crystal clear understanding of the wounds she was inflicting.  In the quiet secret hours of the night, she catalogued them meticulously, carving into her own heart her own version of the pain she knew her children would most likely carry with them throughout their days.  Hopefully those wounds will have served their purpose, honing their reaction time and survival skills, helping them to understand that if mercy was a choice, it couldn’t always be the right choice.  And sometimes the greatest mercy was in cruelty.

She called them her children and they called her mama, even the ones who had come to her old enough to know that they weren’t of her blood.  This day and this age details like that hardly mattered.  Times were beyond tough- times were do or die in very short order, and none of these young ones were beyond understanding it.  They had been born to it, and had found their way to her in one way or another, with or without her help.

She was making of them a tribe.  A group which stood a chance of surviving by their own hand, and not at the mercy of all the cruelly wanton souls which seemed to be roaming the earth in hordes.  She fought for them, tooth and nail, and taught them how to fight for themselves, and damned if the older ones, some who had come to her old enough to be well familiar with the way the weak could be used, knew just how lucky they were for the chance she was giving them.

Which didn’t make it any easier.  She watched them sleep, huddled in a great mass for warmth when the coals died down.  When the wounds she carved into her young ones were sharp enough, she took a knife, made a little cut upon her wrist and rubbed dark ash into it, so that she would not forget.  Even as she knew that the world she was trying to remember would be little more than a fanciful lace of words when she was dead and gone, she vowed that she would not forget.  It seemed important not to.  It seemed important to remember, most of all, that mercy was a choice.

#28 Brian

| November 29, 2011 | 0 Comments

Brian had a favorite game he liked to play.  He called it “cruise chicken.”  He’d take his dad’s ridiculously expensive sedan out on the winding roads that curled their way around the hills and valleys he still couldn’t call home, drive so fast he could barely manage the turns, then set the cruise control.  The mayhem that ensued, especially when there were others in the car, would fill him with a breathless rush that was as good as nitrous.

He never did it when someone said no, he made everyone strap in first, and he always stopped the second someone said so- that’s why it was called chicken, after all.  And it wasn’t like he had a death wish, not really.  Sometimes he was the one to call stop, even.  And the car was so damn full of airbags and crumple zones that it was good money they’d walk out of it even if the car flipped, which it most likely would never do, not being an SUV.

It was more like he had a kill wish.

Not that he wanted to kill anybody.  He really just wanted to kill this world he was in, that he didn’t understand, that he never wanted to understand, that he’d never asked for.  If anyone had asked Brian, he would have said that he had been happy enough living out of a cheap rental and eating ramen too many nights a week.  Before one of his dad’s crazy inventions had hit the fucking motherlode of jackpots.  Things seemed to make sense then.

Now, he wasn’t sure what was real.  He had thought that maybe it was some weird animal brain thing, that they were recreating the rental units they had left behind by occupying only a few spots in the monster house they lived in, but then when he visited other kid’s houses, he realized that everyone pretty much lived that way- taking up residence in one or two places, leaving the rest of the house empty and grand for whatever mythical socializing no one had the time to do.

He wasn’t exactly sure who was real, either.  He was still lost to whatever social games the kids played, but he had enough of a clue to feel like maybe he was almost always getting played in one way or another.  Someone had the graces to fess up to him, in a half-drunk moment, that it couldn’t be helped, since he was both the newest and  the richest of them all.  And that these kids should know that- well, that was just creepy to Brian.  Apparently that was all part of the public record.  One of those things he never wanted to know about.

And his old friends, well, they had gotten awkward, trying hard as hell not to be jealous, not to gawk, not to react, and failing miserably.  It didn’t take most of them long to just stop coming around altogether.  Part of it was as simple as the fact that he just wasn’t around.

He couldn’t even go to his old school anymore, since the private defense contractors which now owned his father’s soul stated “issues” with the school’s safety.  Now he went to a school that was public in name only, funded to the gills not only by the local property taxes, but also by private donations.  No doubt hugely fucking sizeable donations, so that the folks who had a vested interest to seem populist could still claim to send their kids to public school, without them having to get any sort of public school taint on them.  At least that was how his dad explained it.

Brian didn’t care.  He just lived his life feeling like he was on the top of some huge mountain somewhere, and that no matter how hard he tried, he could never really get enough air.  Except for maybe in those moments right after the car spun out and sat shuddering like a horse, stereo still blasting like nothing had ever happened, dust wrapped around the car thick enough to hide the world outside.  Right then he’d take a deep breath his lungs would fill and he’d feel, for the tiniest of instants, like maybe he was touching something real.

#27 Baby

| November 29, 2011 | 0 Comments

Considering herself a seasoned ship-hand, having long ago left behind what planetary ties she might have had, Baby had a very short list of needs.  The first was, and would always be, having a crew she could trust and work with.  That was a given, seeing as you were going to be in a tin can a damn long time looking at the same bastard’s faces shift in and shift out.

That was a secret a lot of station and planet-bound folk didn’t really realize.  Skills didn’t matter so much, long as you had a couple brain cells you could rub together, you could be trained to fit where one needed you.  Getting along, well, that was a talent in much more high demand, and one that wasn’t half as easy to drill into a person as mass distribution in a zero-g cargo hold was.

But Baby had a nack for sniffing out team players and trouble makers, and ever since the cap had started trusting her nose as much as he did the fancy sensors and scanners in his interview room, she’d been able to help piece together a well oiled machine.  Which was the first of her necessities.

Her next, most personal need, was decent deodorant.  She had the right not to have to smell herself, and those dry showers might get you clean, but they never really did get out all the smell.

For down time, what there was of it, what she needed was a good story.  Vid, book, whatever, just something to get her somewhere way out past the airlock.

As for the rest, it was basic, four ship suits, (always in varying states of abuse, one always pristine, for those rare moments when she had to represent),  five or so sets of underthings, one nice outfit, and the box of little trinkets which reminded her of the best memories her life had had to give.

The only thing she was out was the nice outfit, Trisha having spewed all over it on the last leave.  Not that Baby had held it against her- those drinks had been laced with something fierce, and it was probably the vomit that had gotten them out of some deeper predatory trouble.  Baby had sensed it circling, too fucked up to do much more than notice it.  But when Trish coated them both, the trouble coming vanished like bad air down a mech-room scrubber.

Not that they couldn’t have handled whatever idiots were coming, even trashed they knew how to throw down and push their panic button implants at the same time.  And anyone, at any time, throws the panic switch on her ship, all hands come running.  That same implant being embedded with a state of the art tracker, and stations being limited in size as they were, no one would get far with a mate, even if he was out cold.  That was a dead man’s switch when a body was at port, since a knocked out mate was clearly in distress.  Most of the time.  They tended to go out in groups when getting fucked up was the plan, so that any accidental passing out could be called in before the sober half of the ship mustered.

So she guessed she could say the was another on her list of her needs- some way to keep her crew safe, and some way to know that they could do the same for her.

The fancy dress, well that would come with the next civilized docking.

So, all in all, she could say she had everything she needed.

#26 Jack

| November 29, 2011 | 0 Comments

At some point in his past, Jack had gone by another name.  He didn’t doubt this, as he was only one Jack of many, and it was understood that the name was more of a title than a proper name.  There were numbers attached to it to add specificity when necessary, mostly with admin, and the meds didn’t even bother with the name, just went with the digits, since a med tech with clearance to treat a Jack no longer had clearance to do a damn thing else, given the sort of work they were doing.

Among each other, the Jacks and Jills tended towards nicknames, if they knew each other well enough, or they just went by call-signs, if they were on a basic op that required no deep cover.  Not that they really socialized all that much, down time being rare.

Most of the time when they weren’t on an op they were training, calibrating all the nifty bio that had been implanted in their high performance bodies, and spending untrackable hours in deep trance, prepping for whatever op came next, learning whatever it was they needed to become, completely repressing what didn’t fit the profile they needed to match, exaggerating the characteristics necessary to create whatever persona they were to become once the op went green and they dissociated completely with who they were and became that profile so completely that it took very specific triggers to pull them back into their own minds.

Supposedly they came back from that shit, supposedly they integrated back into themselves fully, but no Jack was stupid enough to forget that once upon a time they had another name, and this upon a time they, none of them, had a clue what that name might have been.  Sure they had memories, after all, memories were a part of what informed one’s self, but they had been burned into a vague collection of events, with all specificity of faces, locations, even languages erased somehow.

If one were a wise Jack, (and no Jack survived long that was not wise) one never asked how the forgetting had occurred, and one prayed to whatever powers he wished that none of those details ever somehow surfaced.  Those were the sorts of details you couldn’t hide in debrief, the sorts of slips the techs looked for, and when you were as fucked to high heaven as you were in debrief, you couldn’t lie, not even to yourself, not about a damn thing.  And remembering the details of your buried past was one of those things that led to retirement, which, when you were this damn deep down the interplanetary special ops rabbit hole, only meant death.

But since one was a wise Jack, one had long ago come to terms with the idea that one lived in a state of perpetual mindfuck.  You sort of lost the need for a well defined identity that went beyond whatever parameters were required of you at any given moment.  You sort of lost the need for a specific name, having taken on so many with so much conviction, only to realize, in the end, that the name signified only some small part of a whole, some sort of self-created caricature, a very well-played imitation of reality.

He took it on faith (mostly because he had no other option), that at one point, when he had known the name his mother had given him, he had signed up for this.  And Jack could see why.  He was a killing machine.  Death in the night, an undetected surgically precise plague, and hell, who wouldn’t find that kind of power damn sexy?

He’d recruited a Jack or two in his day, they all had, so that they had some sort of comfort in the legitimacy of the process (and let’s not be virgins here, that wasn’t an act of kindness, that was just killing off whatever fight they might have found themselves having when doubts began to surface.  Nothing like doubts to fuck a mindfuck, as his favorite psych tech used to say).  He could see himself in the young men he had pulled under, or at least he thought he could.

Hard chargers, one and all.  Prone to hitting hard when and where it counted, with no need to give off warning shots.  Not exactly interested in asking a whole hell of a lot of questions, either, taking it on faith (even before they’d signed the dotted line), that greater minds had already pondered the whys and wherefores, painting green dots on the innocents long before they entered the room.

And Jack could understand the need for men such as himself.  Space was just too damned big, with too many dark corners for a man to get stuck in and caught out on a lie.  Too many damned substances floating around that could rip through any conscious deception like water through tissue paper.  And one hell of an organized and easy to hide black market.  With way too many ties in legitimate worlds keeping the predators afloat.  So if you wanted to put it in a pretty frame, you could say that a Jack was a pirate hunter.

But for himself, even if you had to sneer, he’d prefer to be called death in the night.

#25 Jasper

| November 28, 2011 | 0 Comments

Jasper was nothing if not righteous.  How could he be anything but, having forsaken not just the things an everyday monk would be required of, but also forsaking the blind ignorant bliss that most modern man hid behind?  No, he was righteous to the bone, looking, truly looking at the world as it still stood, with its dangers and pitfalls around every corner.

Its heathens, given over more and more into the hands of evil, walking blindly and willfully right into hell.  He was fighting a losing battle, of that he was certain, but he would fight it nonetheless.  Because it was right, because when he died he wished to be able to look his maker in the eye and tell him that, yes, he had fought with every ounce of his being against the darkest foe.

And if that fighting had resulted in death, the Holy Father would understand.  He had killed little more than evil, pure and simple, releasing the souls of those touched by dark powers so that his Lord may chose their fate.  And if that battle had involved the use of powers, these were sanctioned powers, made holy by the See he answered to.  And if those battles ended with an increase in Jasper’s powers, well, it was only right that he should be able to absorb as much of the transgressor in question, that the evil they had participated in should be purified in the use of holy actions.

Jasper had no doubt that he did right, not even when the witches he dispatched begged him for mercy.  Mercy was the Lord’s to give, and not any of Jasper’s concern.  The only vice  Jasper knew he had to be wary of was that of pride.  But as he did the good Lord’s work, he did not doubt that he was righteous.

#24 Marcus

| November 28, 2011 | 0 Comments

Marcus had a knack for telling things.  He knew when things were up, he knew when things were coming, he knew when things were… happening around the people that worked for him.  Take Pierre, for instance.  He knew Pierre had something going on, something floating around him, some sort of push of events coming, he could smell it, like a storm coming.

What he could never figure was if that storm would be good or bad.  But he also knew that Pierre had a little something of a sense, a gift, even if he wouldn’t ever admit it.  So Marcus figured he’d at least pay him a bit closer attention, figured that the man had enough self-preservation to duck and run if that coming storm was a shit storm.

And anyway, Marcus knew to trust his instincts- those he saw as an animal thing, separate form the other gifts he had.  In all fairness, it was his instincts, and not those fucking sensings that had gotten him as far as he had gotten, with this club for a cover and all the classy whores and drugs the neighborhood needed for a real cash enterprise.  And his instincts were pushing him like crazy to hone in on whatever Pierre was getting carried into and lay a claim, hard and fast, making sure the man didn’t for a minute forget who the boss was on this corner.

That’s all he really asked for, in the end.  Nothing huge, no fucking empire spread open for a ricoh case, no fucking cartel wars, just his block.  This little block, and every person on it.

#23 Zeke the Angel

| November 28, 2011 | 0 Comments

Zeke the Angel.  Not that anyone knew him as that, at least not most anyone save perhaps for a wet-brained little bum who gave him everything he could just for the fuck of it- not even because of what Zeke was, refusing to hear any offer Zeke had to make.  It was because of that bum that Zeke could still roam the earth as more than some otherworldly vision.  It was also why his current manifestation tended towards lumpy, hairy and weird-smelling.

Which was just as Zeke preferred things.  He had no use for being beautiful.  Once, eon ago, he found it necessary, back when he believed it was his calling to seduce as many souls into the mutually blissful relationship that symbiosis with an angel offered.  Back before he started to believe in his own PR.  Back before he came to the conclusion that doing some good when and where he could mattered a whole hell of a lot more than feeding off of what humans gave so freely anyway.

Now he took their happy and their love when and where he could, when it came to him freely and beyond any subtle coercion on his part.  Hence the ugly and smelly.  Stacking the deck against himself, and he didn’t care.  He still got more than enough to get along, especially since he stayed right there in the muck and the mire, so his ugly body could process regular food too.  Truth was, compared to what the average joe had to go through to get along, he had it pretty easy.

Being an expert in, well, no, let’s call it like it was, having a huge hand in creating the theological binary mindfuck that humanity would most likely never be able to extricate itself from, he could pretty safely say that he wasn’t acting out of guilt.  He was an expert on guilt, and had no use for it whatsoever.  That was a demon gig, pure and simple.

No, it was something bigger, what drove him.  Maybe a sense of responsibility, the need to clean up at least some of the mess he had made, even if that mess going as viral as it did was not something he had imagined.  Or maybe it was absolutely simple.  Maybe it was just love, pure unadulterated love for every damned tom dick and harry that managed to get up in the morning and drag himself across the surface of the planet, knowing the cards were stacked against him, knowing that this pointless day might just be the last, and going about his business anyway.  Who the hell couldn’t love that, anyway?

#22 Pierre

| November 27, 2011 | 0 Comments

He never quite knew how to answer when people asked him if he was French.  Maybe, somewhere along the line, he guessed he must have had some in the gumbo that was his swapland bloodline.  A little French, a little Seneca, a little African, and yeah, maybe eve a little Anglo for good measure.  Who knew?  His people weren’t exactly the type to keep tidy records, anyway.  His name, well, apparently one of his grandpaps carried it- and on up the line to who knows what unlucky frenchie got hisself stranded with the gators and the spanish moss, knee deep in the muck that was his family legacy.

Not that he should speak so ill of his roots.  His granmama would tan his hide, she heard him talikn’ that way, but he was miles from swamp, and planned on being so for the rest of his natural life.  Blame the teaspoon of Anglo in him, but he’d had about all he could handle of the hot and humid.  He liked winters, places that had weather, land that was dry enough to track on easy as you please, with predators you could hear walking up to you.

But there were times when his past caught up with him, when he could hear his grams talking in his ear like she was standing right there beside him.  Like every time he laid eyes on little Mouse.  I spite of that, or maybe even because of that, he hadn’t been able to stay away from here ever since she set up her little table across the street from the club he worked at evenings.

He’d scoffed the first time she set up, with her little palm reader’s sign and trinkets laid out over tattered a tattered velvet cloth that did little to hide the wheeled trunk under it.  He had been prepared to walk right past her, maybe even told her to take a hike on personal principle, but then he did walk up to her.  Walked up to her, smelled the cheap liquor on her breath, and was about to lay down some hard local law on her when he looked in her eye.  And picked up one of the little square cloths tied to a string, and was frozen dead still for the space of a couple heartbeats.

“That’s for love,” she said, words softened but not slurred.  “Not what you need.”

She shuffled trough some of the little scraps and picked up a different one, trading it for the other.  Pierre hoped she didn’t see his hands shaking.

She didn’t seem to when she answered.  “Here- this is what you need.  Makes you hard to spot in a crowd.  Won’t hide you in a room less than three, or if someone knows you and is looking, but even then it can fuck up their aim.”

He’d taken it, swallowing, not saying a word, and handed her the five she asked for in return.  He wasn’t that surprised when it had come in damn handy.  He’d rolled in on and broken up a shakedown in a corner of the club that night, the fuckers acting like they never seen him coming, one bastard swinging wide and loose with a broken bottle that should have by all rights ended up in his gut.

He knew it was more than just luck for a variety of reasons.  He’d known she was for real the minute he made contact, grams had passed at least that much of her skills down into his blood.  And the little scrap disintegrated like ash right after his men had dragged the bastards in question out back for some serious talking.

The next day, he showed up with a bottle of something quality, as was proper, but the girl wouldn’t drink it alone.  She held on to it, uncorked, until he got done with his night, and they shared a drink, watching the sun come up cold and bright in the steel blue sky.  From then on they had an arrangement.  She gave him the heads-up when she had what she called an inkling, handing off trinkets like they were baseball cards, and he kept her in cheap liquor, since she refused to drink the good stuff without him.

Even though he might have thought it, he never told her she seemed awful young to be a drunk.  And even though sometimes he could feel the questions on the tip of her tongue, she never asked him how he knew what she was at.  She never even asked him if he was French.

#21 Mouse

| November 27, 2011 | 0 Comments

Mouse was certain that at some point in her life she must have had another name, but this was the one that Bear and the Old Lady gave her, so that was the one she figured she’d stick with.  The Old Lady liked to argue that it was the name she had given herself, as she had been found nibbling away at their larder for weeks before they finally took her in, daring those fuckwit parents of hers to go ahead and try taking her back.  They didn’t try, just as happy to keep collecting welfare on her and not even have to see her little face.

Mouse had been four at the time.  She didn’t remember much of that, but when she was old enough to ask questions answered, the Old Lady gave her the honest truth.  What mouse did remember of the time before was Cold and Hungry, so as far as she was concerned it had always been the Old Lady and Bear.  They kept her warm and never hungry.  They shoved so much love into to her that she had no choice but get to know it, and in time, get to loving back.

But that was before, and Mouse was a full-grown woman now, by anybody’s reckoning, although for the past year or so, Bear would probably argue that she wasn’t acting in any way like one.  But they weren’t here, were they?  And that was the problem.  They had sent her off on her own after a lead on some top-dollar truffles that had turned out to be a gold mine, worth the shitty weather that holed her up in a cave for a few days.  And by the time she got back home, they were gone.

Well, not completely gone, they’d left their bodies there for her to find.  But the parts that mattered they had taken away, both holding cups half-full of overkill whose bitterness she could smell from across the room, even over the odor of rot.  She left that minute, locking up the beautiful hand built home they called the shack tight enough to serve as their mausoleum.  Safe enough that no hungry critters could come in and tear them apart from each other’s arms, but easy access for all the bugs that would come in to send them back to mama earth, as they would have wanted, as was right and proper.

That they took their own lives didn’t burn- that was their right, she believed that as much as they both did.  That they didn’t let her know it was going down, well, that’s what had her grabbing the gallon of cheap whisky the Old Lady kept for making tinctures.  It was the only thing she took with her.  She was good and drunk by the time she hit the town road, and she stayed that way, not quite drunk enough to be mortally stupid, but drunk enough not to give a fuck about much of anything.

Bear would be frowning at her something fierce, she could almost see it out of the corner of her eye, telling her to get her head out of her ass.  But why, she figured?  Not like he was really there anyway.  Not like he was really there at all, she thought, drowning it out with another deep swig.  Burning out the tears before they had a chance to fall.

#20 Hessena the Mermaid

| November 25, 2011 | 0 Comments

She took another painful step.  One of most likely thousands she had taken.  One of millions she was willing to take.  It wasn’t as though she had been ignorant of the pain she was to feel if she was to walk on land with legs like men- she had been warned, shards of glass and the like.  Being trapped on the ground, incapable of floating upwards, however, had effects she had not considered.  Although Hessenah was well familiar with the rules above the water, having spent more than enough time on outcroppings and seashores, she had not realized quite how confining it would be.  And carrying her own weight- she was fully capable of it, the muscle form needed for it came with the spell which gave her legs and feet- but she had not expected it to make her feel so pinned down.  So constantly trapped.

She knew that she had not been the first to take the offer, to take the spell and walk upright and on dry land.  But she honestly could not understand how the others had not returned within the hour, realizing that no affection or interest could overshadow the fact that they were better off swimming free and unfettered.  She would not compare herself to them.  Her cause was dire, her reason for leaving the waves drove her with deeper pain and heavier weight than any her counterfeit form could assault her with.

Hessenah would not compare herself to her foolish little sister, impulsive and careless, who had allowed herself to be lured onto land by the smooth tongue of a handsome fisherman, into the hands of a ruthless love which in the end had killed her.  With a smile as sharp as the pain of her steps, she wondered what that fisherman think when he realized that he had once again drawn a maiden from the sea.  Before he realized that what he had called up this time little more than vengeance.  Little more than his own slow and painful death.

For a mermaid was just as capable of killing a man with her own bare hands as she was capable of luring him off of a cliff.  the old stories were true, and they were right.  It always ended in blood and tears, and a wise fisherman should count himself lucky to have never met her kind.

#19 Danor

| November 24, 2011 | 0 Comments

Danor did not think that he would ever shake that mild unease, that tingle of awareness that he always felt walking in the wood.  It was not enough to make him leave or find shelter somewhere else, but it was always there, keeping him on his toes.  In fact, he found he rather liked this little nudge that daily sharpened his awareness.  It made sense, as not much since he left the war ever had.

He had spent so much time on the front lines and often well into enemy territory that all sense of what it was to be loose, relaxed and off his guard had been burnt out of him.  Only one of the may things the war had burnt out of him, the last of which was the will to keep fighting.  Unfortunately, well-armed skittish man was not exactly welcome in peaceful lands.  His commander had tried to warn him, had ridiculed his wish to leave, asked him where he thought he would belong.  Danor had responded that perhaps assassins made good butchers, but his commander had responded that behind a flag to hide behind, civilized society would never see him as more than a thief and murderer.

He had been right, but still and all, Danor was glad he had left the service.  He could no longer fight.  This was no crisis of conscience or higher moral choice.  He simply could no longer fight.  But his instincts could not leave him.  So, in the end, he found himself much at home within the confines of a wilderness which, although it sustained him well enough, never exactly made him feel welcome.

He was glad of those instincts on the day the wolves came for him.  Those instincts kept him calm as he spotted first one, then another, and so on until he realized he was surrounded.  Those instincts kept him from leaping into a mad and hopeless struggle with the beasts who could overpower and kill him handily.  Those instincts were the only thing which led him to understand that they were intent on herding him and not simply making a quick meal out of him.

Halfway disbelieving, the grayed and broken man of war let himself be led, let himself believe this daydream or folly, ran with them when their pace seemed to insist it.  Followed the wolves all the way to the girl.  The lovely flower of a creature lay in a pool of her own blood, skewered mercilessly by the fresh green shards of a blown out tree.

He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw her.  It wasn’t the massive black wolf that sat at her hand that had frozen him, nor was it the keen awareness in her eyes as she looked right past him and to the pack.  It wasn’t even the nature of her wounds.  He’d seen worse.  He’d treated worse, having no recourse for medics days away from any territory which could be considered remotely friendly.  It was just that he had never seen this sort of wound on such a delicate thing.  She seemed little more than a child, really.  And even from the short distance that he had kept, he could tell they were serious.

He was in no way certain he could bring himself to move.  In his weakest of moments, had he been forced to admit it to anyone, this was exactly the sort of thing which had finally shoved him out of uniform.  There was just so damn much blood, blood which meant pain, blood which was unfair.  Blood which may well mean loss.  Yet again, another loss.  He had doubts that he could do it, but he stepped forward anyway, ignoring the wolf and placing a gentle hand upon the young thing’s forehead.

#18 Calli

| November 24, 2011 | 0 Comments

She could call the whole wood down if she so wished, she could bring out any threat known to thief or hunter, and eliminate any foe she faced before they even knew she existed.  Foolish to think that it made her invulnerable.  Because she couldn’t ward herself against rain slicked ground, a broken tree, and a careless blind dash.  And she should have been well aware by now that she could not ward herself against the foolishness that came of thinking oneself invulnerable.  But she was young.  She knew herself to be young, careless, foolish, and most likely soon to be dead.

A sudden and massive early snowfall days ago had caused trees to nearly burst from the unexpected weight, cold and pressure.  The rainfall which followed had made the fallen leaves as slick as ice. The combination left her on the ground, impaled, struggling for breath, and slowly starting to loose her senses.  She knew of no animal or spirit who could help.  No beaver could pull loose the branches within her in such a way that she would not bleed do death immediately, no swarm of spiders could bind her shut well enough to stem the flow.

Although she was terrified, now that the initial shock had worn off and the pain had begun to ebb with her stillness, she had become resigned to dying.  At least she knew she would not have to die alone.  Those creatures closest to her, who were often present with no call from her, were there with her, giving her their heat, their gentle touches.  They knew exactly what was happening to her.  It was not as though any animal in the wood was unfamiliar with death, even violently accidental ones.

But there was only one wolf with her– the old man, who spent his life on the fringes of the pack, shunned for his unpredictable ill-temper.  It was odd, really, and it stung a little that her closest of companions had not seen fit to give her their company, but she would not hold her hurt against them.  After all, their concern should be with living, anyway.

Calli dug the finger of her still working hand into the old man’s thick coat.  The large black wolf whined low and licked her gently.  As if to comfort her.  As if to ask her to hold on.

#17 Marina

| November 23, 2011 | 0 Comments

She could feel the demon approaching her, could feel his intent zeroed in on her just as much as she could feel the interest in him the rest of the room was trying to hide.  He was smooth, it was obvious from the way he slid towards her, and clear in his intent.  So, most likely he’d been sent.  And she could well imagine by whom.  She’d been none too gentle with Jared.

But this demon was in for a few surprises, the first of which being that she wasn’t what Jared had led him to believe.  Not who, but what, because ‘human’ would only describe her in the barest of terms.  She wasn’t even certain if, at this point in the game, it would be appropriate for her to use that term at all.

Certainly she looked the part, even though her long black hair and pale skin gave her an ethereal quality, but she had long lost the important parts, those delicate and sensitive places in a soul that were the corner stones of both the strength and weakness of humanity.  She was cold and maybe even dead inside, she wasn’t sure, she was no necromancer.  She was only lost, trapped on dry land, and cursed to live.  She had no idea for how long.  She only knew that she had not aged, even though by all rights she should be dead and rotted out by now.

And even after all these years, she still craved the company of men enough to play these games, to become the story they wanted to hear.  And she would play her part so well that there was no parting that was kind.  But her kind were never exactly masters at gentle leavetakings.  It was traditionally their role to cut and run, if not the minute they saw fit, then the minute their captors let down their guard.  Because inevitably the longer she stayed, the harder it was for her lover to let go.

She wished she had been so wise when she had been young, and the city had been young, and the coast was still a wilderness.  When she had fallen so hard for a man that she had willingly given him her pelt, so that he could keep her with him, so that the sea no longer had a hold over her.  She had been exceedingly young and exceedingly stupid, and for all she knew the man she had thought she loved had been buried with her pelt beside him.

It would have fit the pattern.  It went along well with the curse he somehow laid upon her when she left him, if not for the sea, then at least for somewhere away from him.  She had thought that maybe time would have loosened his grip, his obsession, his anger.  But he died without giving her the one thing she wished for.  Her freedom to return to her home.  What she had too late come to realize was her true home, far off the shore, in the unforgiving depths that ranged the coastline.

She wondered idly, as the demon sat before her and speared her with his beautiful eyes, if he would like to savor her true agony.  She wondered if he would be another of many, incapable of letting her go, therefore incapable giving her the happiness that only her freedom could provide.  But he was a demon, so her happiness would never be an issue.  And without her pelt, she was but half a creature, her soul lost in the depths far off the shore somewhere.  She doubted she would ever let him deep enough to taste the sorrow that beat within her, as unrelenting and salty as the sea which daily called her down.  She wondered, though, if she did– would it be enough to drown him as it did her?

#16 Blade

| November 23, 2011 | 0 Comments

#16 Blade


Smooth as silk and as sharp as glass.  He knew this was what he was, he knew this was what he looked like when he walked across a room.  He had it on good authority, and even if he may have been an utter failure of a demon, he could still feel the want, fear, and hunger he inspired.  He’d have to be dead not to, and half-starved as he always was, he was always ready to soak in what energy got thrown his way, even when it was little more than a vague unsettled irritation that he was not for them.

There was one who would give him far more than that, he knew.  She didn’t stand a chance. His next meal, his next treasure, his next masterpiece.  She had never met him, but the knew more about her than she probably cared for anyone to know at the moment.  But that’s what happens when you confide in and then brutally tear apart a boy who knows a thing or two about vengeance.  And Demons.

He was Summoned, as was proper, and the young man in question made his deal, the same deal that all of them make when they summon him.  Or summon an idea and get him.  for the rest of his life the man would relive all his torments, his personal tragedies, his agonies, upon Blade’s request.  It was a good deal, considering.  Most demons have far simpler requests- your soul, to torture for an eternity after death.  Although most of the time the detail about torture was left out.  In Blade’s opinion, one would be a fool not to expect it, though, when dealing with a demon.  Pain was, after all, their favored form of sustenance.

In exchange for the young man’s pain, Blade would exact a precise and vicious form of vengeance upon the girl in question.  Simply put, over time, he would destroy her.  Systematically.  Until the young man balked or the young woman died, most often by her own hand.  He would make the vengeful party watch, make them witness the fruits of their labor in excruciating detail, as these memories would be some of the most agonizing, and the guilt that came with them was one of Blade’s favorite flavors.

Fair?  No, it was not fair.  It might have seemed fair in the beginning, vengeance always does.  But one was a complete fool to think that calling upon hell for satisfaction would ever end gently.  Even when one was playing with a demon so far removed from his vicious origins that all he fed upon was the pain of justice meted out unmercifully on careless creatures who called out for hell itself to do a job they should have done for themselves in the first place.

And he was not so broken a demon as to ever consider mercy.

#15 Tumbleweed

| November 22, 2011 | 0 Comments

It had gotten so that he could only vaguely remember what not being tired felt like.  He knew it wasn’t age (he was only in his twenties, after all) but every joint in his body ached.  Most likely sleeping in ditches would do that to you.  Or not sleeping at all, depending on the town he was passing through.  Truth was, it was getting so that he could only vaguely remember anything.

It had gotten so that he couldn’t tell the difference between the parts of him that were crazy from sleep deprivation and the parts of him that were just plain fucking crazy.  But he could still remember when it started.  That memory was crystal clear.  That memory burned his eyes like a sharp wind on a below freezing night.

He had kissed her.  He could remember what she felt like, small, not as soft as most girls he’d held.  She seemed so small, so delicate that he had thought she would feel fragile when he held her against him and their tongues slid soft against each other, but she didn’t.  She felt small, hard, and strong, but she kissed soft and tasted like something green and fresh.  He remembered the feel of her warm skin under his fingers.

Then she stopped.  Everything in his world stopped, and as far as he could ever explain it to himself (and never out loud), that was the moment he caught the Crazy.  It was the name he gave it, the Crazy, because it felt a lot more like a disease than some sort of mental fracture.  And it wasn’t like he fell apart completely.

He just felt this need, a burning, pushing, impossible to resist need to go.  He had no idea where it was that he needed to end up.  But he did know what direction he needed to move in.  Only, he couldn’t feel it if his feet weren’t touching the ground, so it was walk, and keep moving.  Sleep on the ground ‘cause he’d long ago ran out of enough to pay for a room.  He was living off kitchens and churches, but it was weird, because whenever he was hungry- really hungry, weak from it, food would show up.  He hadn’t even had to sort through a single trash can.

So he kept moving, and jumped at the sight of himself when he caught his reflection.  His hair stuck out matted and crazy.  And his face was covered in scraggly hair.  His clothes had lost any sense of color, even the blacks had faded to some version of brown, and what skin on his body he could still see was either weirdly tan or weirdly dirty.  He couldn’t tell.  Not like he’d had prior experience in being a bum.  He was supposed to be a market research analyst, for chissakes, not the crazy walking guy.

Funny, he remembered the title, but not the work.  Whatever he had been doing, it had not only been boring, but it had been so pointless as to leave no trace of itself in his brain.  He remembered what the smoking area looked like.  Remembered the faces of his fellow tobacco loving refugees, even if he couldn’t remember their names.

What troubled him most was that he could not remember his family aside from very vague images and uneasy feelings.  He could not figure why that should be.  And he knew that he wasn’t going to figure a damn thing out until he had slept in a bed.  Most likely for a whole week.

#14 Old Noona

| November 20, 2011 | 0 Comments

#14 Old Noona


Old Noona is as nutty as a fruitcake.  She’s one of those round little old ladies, gray hair sticking out all crazy, walking in little shuffling steps everywhere she goes.

If she can help it, she won’t walk on anything other than dirt.  Even if it means trampling through the spruce hedges in front of the bank or shuffling like a tightrope walker on the little line of dirt that collects in the crack between the curb’s edge and the sidewalk.  Grass is okay, and any other plant matter is fair game, but she hates having to walk on concrete and asphalt.  She grumbles to herself, shuffling along at her top speed every time she has to cross the street.

And she won’t set foot indoors, not even to sleep away the winter chill.  She’ll sleep next to a heating vent when it gets below freezing, and townsfolk dread the morning they might find her, not having made it through a night that got a little too cold for her old bones.  But she doesn’t seem to mind.  And lots of people look out for her.

She has the cackle of a cartoon witch, and a vocabulary as florid as it is frank, and she’ll gladly talk to anyone who’s looking interested.  Funny thing, she never talks about things you’d think the crazy street lady might talk about.  Instead, she always talks about things that the other person might find interesting, if a little unexpected.  She has this skill.  She calls herself a people person.

But a very few who stop to talk to her know a deeper truth.  When you stop, really stop to look into her eyes, you’ll see they glow with the bright passion of a child’s.  If you bring a hot cup of something with you and sit with her a minute, you might just find her talking about things you never really had the guts to say out loud but carry in your heart.  There’s only a few who could tell you why that is, why any of it is, why she is the way she is.

She made a deal, you see, once, very long ago.  She gave up houses, she gave up the world of built things, in exchange for which she got two things, the skill to sleep outdoors in any sort of weather, and the skill to grant any who would cross her path, not the wishes they would make out loud, but the quiet ones, the ones they didn’t even know they had, but needed more than any others.

#13 Bone Man

| November 19, 2011 | 0 Comments

#13 Bone Man


Bone Man, Bone Man with his box of chains, rattling along the darkest alleys in the cold and empty nights.  He shakes his wooden box, and the rattle clank and clink echo up and down the building walls.  If you hear that sound, you can’t help but shiver.  If you see the man, you can’t help but want to run.

It’s not that he’s all that scary.  Short, with a mess of jackets vests and coats hanging stiffly down his sides.  He’s got hair that sticks out like kindling held together by old bird nests.  He’s brown, but not the decent kind of brown that comes from your bloodline or the sun.  The kind of brown that’s soot and grime and grease and road dirt, soaked into the pores, into the molecules of his skin so that once you might have known where he was from but nowadays he only looks like miles of dirty road had run right over him.

If you weren’t the type to run, if you were the gambling type, the type who played games with loaded guns, you might ask him to stop.  You might reach into your pocket, find something there to give him- a button, a wrinkled up receipt, a buck or two, a knuckle bone, half a smoked cigarette, he isn’t picky.  After all, it’s your funeral.

If what you got is good enough for his mood, and he doesn’t just spit at your feet and call you something fit to make a trucker blush as he rattles on down the road, he may just stop and look you up and down.   Look real deep into your eyes.  And after hacking up something that looks like a dead baby bird, he might just drop his wooden box and sit on it.  He might just tell you a little story.

You might think yourself lucky, puff your chest a little, pay extra attention, shaking the cold, the night, the fading cheap beer buzz out of your ears.  You might really think you want to hear what he has to say.  But you never do.  Because the bone man only ever has one thing to tell you.  And before you hear it, you might think that being forewarned is some sort of a good thing, but once he says his piece, you got nothing but empty to contend with.

Because what he tells you is the precise, exact, absolutely unvarnished moment of your death.  Down to the day and the color underwear you’ll have on.  You might have thought this would be cool, to loose all that uncertainty, but once you know it’s not something you can un-know.  And you always knew you were going to die, right?  But now that you know, down to the second, just how little time you have left, well, then, the clock starts ticking down, right?

And your life might go on its way, you might be bored out of your skull or fucking your brains out, but there it is, tick tick tick, grinding down every pointless minute into that one pointless moment, that brick wall, that game over.  And see, the problem is, with that much knowing, well, it just ain’t a gamble anymore, is it?  And isn’t that what you were?  A gambling man?

See, now all you’ll ever be is dying.

No, no, you’re better off just letting the old shadow fucker walk on past.  You’re better off pretending he was never really even there.  You’re better off not even stopping to wonder what the hell it is he’s got that box of chains for.  Just get on getting on, spit at his feet for good measure, rattle the change in your pocket, and count yourself the luckiest fool that ever lived.

#12 Mean Lady

| November 17, 2011 | 0 Comments

She comes to the store all the time, almost every day, and in her opinion, that should give her a special status around all these other not-so-regular shoppers.  It certainly should get her top-notch service, regardless of the fact that she returns half the things she buys.  Sometimes she even uses the stuff she buys before she returns it.  She knows it, and the cashier behind the returns desk knows it, but she also knows the little bitch wouldn’t dare accuse her of lying.  They’ve been through this before, and she’s perfectly willing to occupy every single manager’s time until she gets what she wants.  That is, after all, how to get exactly what you want.

Never mind wether it’s fair or not.  Nothing is fair, and besides, if any of the people working there had an ounce of dignity they’d find a different job.  No, these people were all losers, and she never minded getting one over on a loser.  It taught them a lesson.  Made sure they didn’t forget that they were the losers, and not her.

Some days she wouldn’t even buy anything.  She’d pick things up, put them in her cart, walk a few aisles over and set it down in entirely the wrong spot.  Makeup with the bleach.  underwear on the shelf with the twinkies, a six-pack of socks tucked behind the magazines right next to the cashier, almost daring her to say a thing.  But they never did.  They knew their place.  She made sure of that.

On days when someone wasn’t quite as cheerful and humble as they were supposed to be she’d be a little naughty, and do things like leave a quart of ice-cream on top of the DVDs, biting her cheek at the thought of that guy who was too busy to help her, finding it hours later, when he was finally done with that massive cart full of boxes he was trying to empty.  Since he didn’t want to do his job by dropping everything for her, well, she’d make sure he had plenty of work to do.  Life was like that, after all.  Not fair at all.

She never went out of her way to be nice to any of these losers, either.  After all, if they couldn’t find a better job than that, they must be mentally deficient and should be watched.  Carefully.  And sometimes, well, no, often, they needed to be directed.  Forcefully.  It wasn’t that she was unkind, it was that she didn’t have to be, not to these little ants scurrying around her.  She could be as mean as she liked, and they still had to kiss her ass.  She loved that.

#11 Wolf

| November 17, 2011 | 0 Comments

It was the name that stuck.  Even after all these years, still seemed to be the name that stuck.  Even after the wolf in question had been dead and buried for hundreds of years, never mind the fact that the galumphing beast had been more of a huge black dog far too fond of licking your face.  Sure, he’d brought down a bunny or two in his day, but he was hardly a wolf.

The name had been given to the dog, more of a joke than anything, but within days it slid right over on to him.  Which stood to reason, given that pet and master were almost always at each other’s side.  So, the dog remained dog and he became Wolf.  Had he known it was a christening, he might have fought it off with a bit more force.  But perhaps it was a blessing of sorts, in that it both separated him from the bloodline he came from but still kept him connected to his past, before the inception of the creature he was to be.

He wondered idly sometimes if perhaps his creator had played a hand in his naming, had left him this anchor as a parting gift.  He never knew who had made him into a vampire.  Among the current creatures of his ilk, much was made of the master-spawn relationship, but back then you were surrounded by people who both believed in your existence and had far fewer reservations about throwing a person or two on a pyre for no damn good reason.  Indeed, in those first days he didn’t know what he was or what he was to do about it, but he learned right quick.  The body knows, the body teaches.  The blood speaks, and contrary to so many ridiculous movies and tv shows, the hunger gives the soul enough time to learn how to hide before it rips all thought from the mind.

He had little more than glimpses, brief memories of his master from the hours, or perhaps days of his transformation.  And he could not remember his face as little more than a shadow.  But he remembered a voice that called him Wolf and told him he could live forever if he could manage to stay out of the sun.  The casual way that young man’s voice said it somehow made a deeper impression than any dire waring would have.  So, he stayed out of the sun and survived.

Hundreds of years later, he would not admit that he was still searching for that voice.  He liked to believe himself a more pragmatic creature than that.  The nature of his creation had demanded a realistic point of view, something which he felt younger vampires, so coddled and cared for in their early years, might benefit from.  It made them weak and prone to beliefs and flights of fancy which were little more than impediments to achieving the full and terrible glory of their true nature.

But perhaps, he mused, he was just a creaky old man with a downright childish name.  He didn’t know.  If there was one thing he had learnt in all his years was that none were more foolish than those who thought they had the answers.  If there was one thing that his unnaturally long and violent life had taught him, it was that there were no answers.

#10 Althea

| November 16, 2011 | 0 Comments

This is the 3rd character in a story I’m tossing around about an oppressively matriarchal culture.  Because unlike many feminists would like to believe, men aren’t the only ones capable of despotism, oppression, delusions of grandeur, and warmongering.


Coming from a House of such renown and stature as House Bear, Althea knew that it was hard to get an honest assessment of her person.  But she prided herself in being a realist, a trait which her grandmother Tante Nameh put a lot of emphasis on.  And so, realistically she could say that she was beautiful, but that beauty didn’t amount to much outside of brood mares.  She could say that she was passionate, but many in her family used that as more of a criticism than a compliment.

What she would not say out loud was that she believed herself to be shrewd and a good judge of character, even though she was still, by all standards, quite young for an adult.  Like her grandmother she could cut to the quick of a matter, disregarding details which were unimportant and merely served as distractions.  People’s machinations did not slow her down, she had the skill of assessing not only what was being said, but the reasons why the speaker would say them and the things they would prefer not to mention.

She had been sitting in chambers at what council meetings she could for years, and had found that her reactions and decisions mirrored closely that of the women whom she most looked up to.  Tante Nameh had even been willing to take her in confidence, noticing (as little ever escaped her notice) the diligence with which Althea attended all affairs of state, paying attention to every detail so as not to miss those little cues that people so often betrayed themselves with.

This was the main reason why she would not disclose quite how aware she was of the world around her.  Best to leave others underestimating her, judging her a careless prankster, they gave so much more away to her than they ever did in her grandmother’s presence, and this information had proved useful for her Tante more than once.  And in this, she knew that one of her shortcomings was most likely arrogance, even though she always behaved in a demure and humble manner.

She had another fault.  One she knew and did her best to hide.  And most likely failed at keeping from her Tante, who had eyes in every corner of the world the Mother Sun shone upon.  She was weak with boys and men.  This was a critical flaw, she knew it, but she was powerless to it.  She would have liked to pretend that it was due to some deeper observations on her part, but she had long suspected that it had far more to do with the heat between her legs.

She craved their attention in an unseemly way.  She yearned for the day she might be a Chief, with a fistful of strong bucks answering to her, bowing down to her.  She fantasized of moments where her wisdom earned their honest respect and her canny support earned their undying loyalty.  She could picture herself asking a pit boss what his thoughts on the matter might be, could picture the hush that would fall in the room as she made show of carefully listening to what the man would have to say.  Wether or not he would have useful things to add was nowhere near as important as the affection it would engender in those who served her.

Embarrassing as those thoughts might have been, they paled in comparison to her other flights of fancy.  She would find herself wondering, at the most inappropriate moments, what it would feel like to be touched by this man’s calloused hands, or what it would feel like to run her hand down that other man’s well-muscled arm.  She would catch herself almost panting at the thought of their heat and weight pressing in upon her as they lost control and she let them.

Which was the stupidest thing to do, she knew, but her mind would go there anyway, disregarding all the warnings she had heard her entire life about how dangerous a man became when he was allowed to unleash his passion on a woman.  She wanted it.  That was the sum of it.  She craved a strong and dangerous man to call her own the same way some of her sisters craved drink or smoke.  Her fatal flaw.  And one which she suspected Tante Nameh was more aware of than she let on.  She could feel the woman breathing down her back, she could almost feel the swish of a whip in the woman’s hands, and Althea hoped that whatever Tante had in mind would finally break this spirit horse which ran wild within her.

#9 Niko

| November 14, 2011 | 0 Comments

This is the 2nd character in a story I’m tossing around about an oppressively matriarchal culture.  Because unlike many feminists would like to believe, men aren’t the only ones capable of despotism, oppression, delusions of grandeur, and warmongering.


Niko was no fool.  Although it was an honor to be chosen as house guard for the Bear family, he knew that he hadn’t been chosen out of merit.  And the old men could damn well stop reminding him of this.  Not that it injured his pride- he was simply to young to have been tested in any remarkable way, had never seen action, had never done more than patrol the city nights.

He knew himself capable, had earned his scant titles, if not dramatically then at least fairly, having worked his way through more than his fair share of drunken disputes.  It was no mystery why so many of those problems landed on him.  Not since he had overheard the sector chief tell his pit-boss, “Send in the pretty one.  The only thing more powerful than a drunk sister’s pride is her lust.  He’ll be able to make them see reason.”

It didn’t smart half as much as it might have.  Niko knew the chief was a sensible and crafty woman, more willing than most to bring justice down on a Lady.  Even a Lady of a House.   And as far as he was concerned, he learned a lot in dealing with these situations with an equal measure of severity and tact.  He could never understand how these perfectly civilized women could become such petty beasts, then wake the next day contrite and shamefaced.  It made him glad that drinking was forbidden for men.  If creatures as adept at self-control as women were reduced to screaming and groping beasts, he could not imagine what he or his kin would be like with one too many under his belt.  Some of his brethren had tried it, once or twice.  It was not a trespass of the first order.  But for himself, he would never.

But he doubted that even this type of experience got him the post.  He suspected that it was another case of “send in the pretty one.”  Suspected, hell, it didn’t take a woman’s brain to tie a few facts together; the first being that he did not rightfully qualify for a post of this magnitude in a House as prominent as Bear was, the second being the much touted coming of age for a Lady who was rumored to be Elder Nameh’s favorite grandchild, the third being that Elder Nameh had not ever been known to make fickle or senseless choices, and the fourth and final fact– that he and the four other guard chosen were young, inexperienced, and good looking.

No mistake, his coming here was a test.  Not of himself, he would never be so arrogant as to think such a thing, but of the young Lady in question.  His Brethren had confirmed his suspicions.  There was little doubt but that one of them was to be that pretty thing that she must see daily but must not touch.  It was a test that he and his brethren were well familiar with.  These sorts of tests were given to every boy long before puberty so that he may learn self-control before his urges began to impose their heavy toll on mind and soul.  But this was not the sort of thing a woman was usually subjected to.  Not even a spirited potential heir.

Then again, this was house Bear, and Elder Nameh was renowned for her ruthless dealings, not only with the men her House claimed, but with every living soul under her care.  Niko was not so proud a fool not to admit that this particular confluence of events was filling him with an unexpectedly heavy level of dread.

#8 Tante Nameh

| November 12, 2011 | 0 Comments

#8 Tante Nameh


This is the 1st character in a story I’m tossing around about an oppressively matriarchal culture.  Because unlike many feminists would like to believe, men aren’t the only ones capable of despotism, oppression, delusions of grandeur, and warmongering.


Tante Nameh was strong.  But of course, she had to be to lead a House the size and power of hers.  She followed the teachings of the mothers before her and found no cause to doubt any of their tenets.  After all, it was a strict adherence to the Ways that had brought her people as far as it had, and none of their neighbor nations could dispute this, even those that claimed serious grievances against the Seven Sisters Dominion.

Those nations might have even gone as far as criticizing Tante Nameh, although not publicly and not to her face.  Which was really, in the end, all she could ask.  Calling to task those who called her a bigot would only bring to light the fact that her presence reached far deeper than any of her enemy imagined.  And if they wished to believe that her mindset was one of delusion, all the better for her.  After all, believing your opponent deluded would inevitably lead to overconfidence, a fatal weakness and a trait she always described as exceedingly masculine.

As if it were bigotry not to ignore the physical evidence which was daily presented before her.  Evidence as simple as that soft and delicate sack which males carried prominently between their legs.  Evidence of their inability to hide their feelings, their passions, their… arousal.  Clearly they had not the skills to control their urges, shackled as they were by their own physiology.  Even their superior physical strength was evidence of how far the male body had to go to compensate for its vulnerabilities.  Strong as a man may be, he would never be strong enough to bear a child.  And it was no terribly complicated task to convince a man’s body to plant its seed, even when the man in question might not wish to.

Tanteh Nameh did not fear men any more than she might fear a draft horse or an elegantly turned weapon.  The trick was to ensure you were the one wielding it.  And being the head of Bear House, she should be the one to speak of weapons.

Being the Elder of Bear House also meant that she had no room for weaknesses, either in the powerful blooded men who kneeled to her or in the spirited daughters who carried her name.  Or in herself, which meant that although she may not have hid her silver hair she carried herself ramrod straight regardless of how strenuously her joints may ache.  She did not make a single move without purpose and she could still take down a fighter half her age, be they male or female.

On the days she felt all her years bear down on top of her and her bed tried to keep her down past dawn, she gripped tightly to her Purpose.  She who knew, more than any other House might, exactly how serious that purpose was.  Crow and Bee may think that she acted in order to bring more goods, wealth, and land to the Sisters, but one need not be Crow to know that the Sisters had more than enough coin and supplies.  And Turtle may rail as much as she wished, arguing at every council that Bear House was bringing fire upon their doorstep, but none of this would blind her.

Most Houses were so lulled into complacency that they forgot their deeper History.  All the reasons why the Sisters came to be were conveniently ignored in the name of civility.  House Turtle might remain starkly vigilant in their defense, but Bear House were the only ones still willing to admit the truth.  No House of the Dominion would ever be safe while any Man walked unclaimed upon the earth, willing and capable to pick up arms against whomever He may wish.  Dominion.  Dominion from sea to sea.  That was her Purpose.  Not in the name of gains or power, but in the name of total security for all the Seven Houses.  And nothing, not a single living thing that was capable of bleeding was going to sway House Bear from this one course.  This was the fire that glowed behind Tante Nameh’s icy gaze.  This was the truth that caused all but the strongest willed to drop their eyes when dealing with the Elder of House Bear.

#7 Guero

| November 7, 2011 | 0 Comments

#7 Guero


Damned if he didn’t get a ration of shit when they heard his name.  Not like it wasn’t appropriate, what with his blond shoulder-length hair and bright blue eyes.  But it was all he could do not to spit back when they started calling him from across the street, grabbing their dicks and telling Guero what to suck.  Something about the half-legitimacy of it just lit a fire under them, the pun that came of his name being exactly what they would have called him anyway was just too much damn fun.  The corner boys were in rare form by the time he got past them.  Their token neighborhood white boy was actually called Blondie.

Guero knew from past experience that this was going to go on for quite some time.  He considered moving, but the old man in the drug store parking lot had the best tamales in town, and that was worth anything the local rowdies could dish out.  He figured he might as well enjoy the irony of the moment.  Odds are, he spoke better spanish than any of them.  Odds are he’d spent more time south of the border than any of these third generation vatos ever would.  And it was an absolute guarantee, because he knew who these guys claimed to represent on the block, that if they knew who gave him the name they would be shitting bricks.

And really, on a good day that shit was just amusing.  If they knew the circles he ran in those boys would be calling him patròn.  If they knew anything about him, those two tough little fuckers on point would stop flashing their pieces.  That right there was some rude shit.  If they weren’t in the land of the free and recorded on tv, he’d have let them know just what he thought of fools that showed off their heat without a mind to use it.  Last time he’d given lessons in etiquette, the dumbass in question had ended up shot in the foot with his own gun.  Guero hadn’t even bothered to pull the gun out of the idiot’s pants.

But that was Then and There, and this was Here and Now, and he would do well to remember the difference while on his way to a meet with his handler.  Differentiation.  Sam loved to harp on his “problem with differentiation.”  Guero would argue that it was what got him results, but Sam would just snap back that he wasn’t the only agent in the field, let alone the best, so he could stop thinking his fucking hangups were what made him special.  Guero could admit to himself that Sam might have a point, but he’d never do it loud enough that Sam could hear.  And it sure as hell didn’t mean he was going to change his name back, either.  After all, he was fucking branded and in so fucking deep he doubted he’d ever see the light of day.  The next time he wore a uniform would be when they were putting him in the ground.

#5 and #6 She and He

| November 6, 2011 | 0 Comments

#5 She


She sat in her darkened living room and knew herself to be lost.  She could say, without equivocation, that she had no idea why or how she got to the point that she was in.  She knew the road she needed to take to get out.  Almost as certainly as she knew the trail of disaster she would leave in her wake if she were to walk away.

So she sat in a dark room and waited.  She wondered daily what the hell it was going to take to make good enough okay.  What the hell was wrong with her that she couldn’t be happy with the things that everybody said should make her happy.  She simply couldn’t figure which was more disloyal; to stay when your heart wasn’t one hundred percent in it, or to call it quits on something just because it was less that perfect.

But these moments would come up, no matter how hard she tried not to let them happen, where the air became tense and uncomfortable with the things she wouldn’t say because they were unkind and the things he wouldn’t say because he always wanted to say the right thing and had no idea what it was she needed to hear.  And she couldn’t help but wonder, in those awkward spans, if there was really anything he could say to fix this part of her which she suspected was and had always been fundamentally flawed and irreparably broken.

She dropped her head into her hands and perched her elbows on her knees, thinking of silence.  Nothing but silence.


#6 He


His heart ached to make it better.  It drove him nuts that she wouldn’t just tell him what the problem was.  If she would just tell him what he was doing wrong, then he could stop.  He could make her happy.  And the truth of it was that he’d gotten himself so tangled up in her that he didn’t entirely feel like a man if he couldn’t make her happy.

If she would just look up at him and smile, thank him and slide her little body into his arms, he knew he would be happy.  Or, at least a lot happier than he was.  But she wouldn’t say, and that left him guessing.  Worried that the next thing he said was going to be the wrong thing to say, all the damn time.  As nervous as a virgin in a room full of cheerleaders.

And there was no use asking.  He had, one too many times, and it had become the wrong thing to say entirely.  He watched her fold herself up inside and put on a clueless face like some women put on makeup.  Her performance was flawless, impeccable.  Everything was fine.  Except that they both knew it was a lie.  Somedays it made him want to hit things.  He would walk around with his hands in fists, wishing he could just figure out how to break through that silence she was carrying.

Even though he asked himself, almost every day now, why the hell it was she didn’t leave, he didn’t once, not for a single moment, as himself why he stayed.  He stayed for all those times she would smile in that bright little way, or lean against him in a crowd, or moan his name with a quiet little whisper, and he felt like he was… real.  He wanted to be inside her.  Inside her heart, inside her mind, and inside her body as much as he possibly could because that had become… home.  In those moments, he felt he was no longer lost.

#4 Whisper

| November 4, 2011 | 0 Comments

#4 Whisper


Whisper dreamed of being left alone.  She knew many people said as much themselves, but she also knew that mostly they were exaggerating.  Most people really had an inner need for some sort of communication, some sort of connection to be made with another soul.

For herself, she was tired of it.  It wasn’t that she didn’t crave company.  It was just that no one could just be company around her.  It wasn’t any fault of theirs.  It wasn’t even her fault.  She could lay the blame at one soul’s feet, and she’d already killed him.  Strangled him with his damned stethoscope.  Now she just wanted to be alone.

Except, of course, for the fact that she couldn’t exactly survive on her own.  The bastard that had enhanced certain features, like her pheromonal output, hadn’t seen fit to enhance her in any way that helped with wilderness survival.  Sure she was stronger.  She could keep going and going just like that little pink bunny, without the need for rest, stop, sleep or food.  Her endurance as off the charts but she guessed that good ‘ol doc frankenfurter had had other uses for that in mind, because she couldn’t see it doing more than expanding her life expectancy by a few days out in the wild blue yonder.

She was supposed to have been the perfect honey-trap.  She was supposed to have been irresistible with little to no effort on her part.  She was supposed to be capable of “rendering” her targets incapable of defending themselves.  The doc had high ambitions.  Except the doc got careless with her.  He’d thought her properly “trained.”  He’d thought that his mind games had broken her.  He’d basically totally underestimated her.  And it was Whisper’s personal goal in life to enlighten those who underestimated her.

At least she’d like to think it was.  She didn’t actually know much of anything about herself anymore.  Sure, she had specific personality traits, likes and dislikes, turn-ons and turnoffs, but she had no idea why she had them.  She couldn’t remember much of anything from before the “procedures.”  It wasn’t like she couldn’t remember anything at all, it was more like all of her memories had lost specificity.  She had no names, no faces to pin on to vague watercolor images of moments from before.

Not that she was sure she really wanted to try to go back there.  She wasn’t that… whoever she had been.  And there was no possibility for a warm family reunion, what with her dad most likely popping a boner as soon as he got within smelling distance of her.  She shuddered just thinking about it.  She’d already had one too many moments with good-hearted men mortified at their bodies’ uncontrollable reactions towards her.  She could picture exactly what dear old dad’s trauma would look like.

Hence the wanting to be alone.  But since she had not the skills, she guessed she’d stick around the city, keeping to herself and cleaning empty office buildings at three o’clock in the morning for a living.  She would remind herself of what her mom had always said, that it beat sucking dick on a street corner.  In truth, she had no idea what kinds of things her mom actually said, and it didn’t seem like a wholesome mom would say such things, but she liked to pretend her mom was some kind of badass shoot-from-the-hip mom.

Whisper kept to her routine, and sank into the closest to normal she could pretend to be.  But she could feel something in her bones.  Like someone was watching her, or something was about to happen.  She couldn’t say why, but she kept looking for the high vantage points, expecting at some point to see the glint of a scope aimed in her direction.  And why the hell she thought she knew what that looked like, she had no idea.

#3 Shadow

| November 3, 2011 | 0 Comments

#3 Shadow


The name was supposed to be ironic.  At least it was, in his mind.  Ever since the agra-factories stripped bare the topsoil in a harried response to the latest bout of famine, the dust began to blow.  And ever since the ever-present dust hit the air, no one had shadows.  So that was the name he took.  No more Ted Franks, high school physics professor and amateur biologist.

That man had evaporated.  To be fair, he knew he couldn’t just blame careless large-scale farm companies for the dissolution of Mr. Franks.  No one could have predicted the massive storm that riddled the bible-belt with class five tornadoes during Easter Week.  Or the genius wack-job who would take it as his sign and blow his dirty-bomb masterpiece all the way up and down the western bank of the Mississippi.

Even then, “Ted Franks” could have survived.  He could have gotten out even after the contagious biological component to the bombs had been discovered and the steel wall had been raised, closing in what was now referred to as the “Q-Zone.”  Q for quarantine.  He’d spent months trying to come up with some other witty meaning for it, but he was a science-guy, not a word-guy, and he wasn’t about to try and track down the English department.  They had been bossy bitches even when the world had been normal.

Shadow didn’t doubt that he could have gotten out.  He’d had proof positive of it when a contingent of hazmat-suited special forces types had come to his door.  Well, they didn’t quite make it to his door.  They stopped in the driveway where Shadow waited for them, shotgun not aimed but well in hand.  They didn’t bother saying much, just handed him a cell phone and walked back to their hum-vee, leaning against it with arms crossed, letting him know real clear that they knew they weren’t out of gun-range and they didn’t give a fuck about it.  Letting him know they were backing off so that he’d un-wad his panties, and not because they thought he was in any way a credible threat.

He didn’t blame them.  Shadow knew he didn’t have a chance against these bastards, but he wanted them to be certain that he wasn’t going to go down easy.  He could hear the drone flying somewhere way, way up there.  Things had gotten so quiet around that that kind of thing was impossible to ignore.  As was his sister’s voice, coming out tiny but insistent on the phone he was gripping, having somehow almost forgotten how to use it.  Until he held it up to his ear and remembered exactly how much he hated these tiny bits of plastic you could never wedge between your chin and shoulder.  He caught himself upraising his pinky, the effeminate curse these little machines always had on him.

His sister told him, in no uncertain terms, that he was to get in the damn truck and leave with the men.  She mentioned his children.  His family.  His health.  The average life expectancy of a Q-zone occupant.  As if she knew.  As if he’d ever run into a census-taker this side of the wall.  And then she made the stupidest mistake she could have.  She mentioned his ex-wife.  He offered, in response, to be her correspondent instead.  Which was met with frosty silence.  Eventually he got a cell-phone with a solar recharge-pack out of the visit.  And some rations, and even a promise of a cold beer if he stopped by the soldier’s checkpoint.

It wasn’t really his ex that kept him inside Q-zone.  It was everything she represented, that average fucking soul-numbing life he had been leading.  Spend the day saying the same damn things year after year to the same kids too busy trying not to give a fuck to be able to hear anything he said, then going home and watching the same bullshit tv, numbing himself to sleep with a couple of drinks.  And weekends? Whatever.

His skills, his knowledge, amateur though it may be, was useful here.  And everything he’d learned in boy scouts and ROTC made him some sort of an asset.  He could talk to kids, too, which was a surprisingly useful skill, given how many young people had decided to stick around.  And he didn’t blame them.  They might have found themselves immune to the indecencies of the “shakes” disease, but many members of their families didn’t, and refused to go into the quarantined refugee camps on the other side of the wall.  So the kids stayed.  And when the sickened families died within months, after watching them die and burying them with their own hands, those kids simply couldn’t see themselves living “on the other side.”  Just like him.

He tended to forget that he wasn’t much older than them.  They just seemed so damn young.  And his own kids had a whole massively overbearing huge family to take care of them.  These kids didn’t.  So he stayed, not out of sheer mule-headedness, like he liked to pretend, but because these kids needed him.  And he needed them.

#2 Madrigal

| November 2, 2011 | 0 Comments

Madrigal liked to sing.  No surprise, really, since he was named after a song.  Not that he ever told anyone what his name was, much to his mom’s consternation.  But hey, it was bad enough being the son of the music teacher, let alone having to carry a name like that.  So he would tell everyone his name was Rick, his argument being that the sound was in there somewhere.

He didn’t tell many people about the singing, either, and he wasn’t really sure why, except that it was a secret special thing.  His grandma used to say it was good to have a few special secret things in your life.  And anyway, he didn’t like to sing in front of people.  He liked to sing in the woods, alone, with no one to answer to about the moments when the song went kind of… sideways.

It wasn’t like he got teased a lot in school, which he would have thought would happen, what with being one of the charity cases, or rather, a faculty member’s child.  Nobody really gave him a hard time in the small private school he went to.  It wasn’t like he was totally noticeable, either.  Brown hair, average height, average build, average personality.  Or maybe a little above average, since he did seem to get along well with just about anyone.

Madrigal had a knack for putting people at their ease.  He’d like to think that it was because he was well trained in the art of human interaction by the generations of performers that ran in his family, but a much more cynical voice was just as quick to point out that coming from a long line of gypsy con-artist grifters probably did more to influence his gift of gab than any man prancing on a stage did.

That cynical voice always sounded exactly like his uncle, and no surprise there, since his uncle was just about the only person on that side of the family he had any dealings with after his dad was shipped off to… wherever it was.  Madrigal’s guess was that his dad was in jail, but he couldn’t say for certain.  No one would say.  It was just “Shipped off,” or on a rare occasion when his mother had too much to drink, it was “Taken.”

He thought maybe it was important, the way his mom talked about his dad.  She never put him down, like some of his friends told him their divorced parents did.  And she never seemed in the least bit interested in carrying on with another man, not even after Madrigal’s uncle– the man’s own brother– let it be known that no one would hold it against her if she were to move on.  She assured him that she knew he wouldn’t ever return.  But, she would say, if she couldn’t have him she wasn’t interested in having anyone.

Madrigal swore to himself that his mother was the only person he would ever sing to until dad came home.  He’d made a lot of similar deals with himself, or god, or whoever might listen.  He knew damn well (goodness knows, enough people had told him) that his dad wasn’t coming back.  His uncle had even given him the odds on his father’s return and they were dismal enough to be unmentionable.  But he wasn’t going to let go.

Even if he was the only soul left in the universe that could remember his name, he was going to wait for his dad.  And even if it was the stupidest thing to do, he was never going to stop thinking that the man was going to walk through that door any day now.  That was who he really sang to when he was wandering through the woods.  In his secret heart of hearts, he was singing to his dad, calling him home, leading him back into their open arms.

#1 Calliope

| November 1, 2011 | 0 Comments

Calliope sat on the curb in the parking lot next to the liquor store, beer in one hand, cigarette in the other.  She had that look on her face, an intense glare aimed at the whole wide world that made people think twice about hassling her, even with her delicate five-foot-nothing frame dressed in a washed out tank top and cutoff jeans, or what she would call her dirt poor hooker look.  Anyway, people in this particular neighborhood didn’t hassle her.  And since it held the city’s highest murder rate, the cops that did spend their time around there didn’t give a single fuck about open containers, unless it looked like you were about to shove a broken one into someone’s eye.

She always scowled.  That was just her natural face, she’d tell the few people who had the guts to tease her about it.  Then she’d smile.  And no matter how well they knew her, no matter how hard they believed she had their back, every single one of them would get a little second of panic in their eyes.  It was just who she was.  She’d gotten over it a long time ago, especially when she realized that the fear-factor and all those other little quirks she had were an excellent way to get people to see things her way.

She had no idea where her crazy skills came from.  She had no wise grandma telling her about her mystical people from way back.  Didn’t even know exactly where her people came from.  She called herself an American mutt from both Americas, North and South, although one of her cousins swore there’s some Philippino blood in them somewhere.  She had no clue.  All she knew was that no one could explain why it was that she could do the things she did.  Like get people to back down with a single word.  Like kill them, if they pissed her off enough.  Not that that had happened.  Much.  And anyway, that was a long time ago.

She kept herself in check, not for herself so much as for the people who had come to count on her.  People who had no power at all, who could easily wind up dead or wishing they were, stuck like she was in what she swore must have been the asshole of creation.  But it was getting harder and harder to keep it all in check.  She was starting to think it might be high time she tried living alone for a while.  Or at least until she was sure Spike’s bring-him-to-his-knees, put-tears-in-his-eyes migraines weren’t some kind of side effect of her desire to shake some sense into the kid.

She never was sure, when people got sick around her, wether it was just a regular human biology… whatever, or whether it was just what came of getting too close to her particular variety of crazy.  She really, really hoped she didn’t make people sick.  She liked people.  She might have even said she was a people person, if it wasn’t for the fact that she was a walking talking mindfuck.

Howdy 30 Days

| October 30, 2011 | 0 Comments

This is a test to see if I know how to do this properly.  I am Vendetta Lee, and I suppose that if I wanted to get maudlin, I could say I am my first character.  But It’s not even Nov. 1, so I think I’ll give it a pass, for, like forever.

I’m a storyteller.  I wouldn’t call myself anything as highbrow as an author. And this sounds like fun.