A fairly large animal, I picked her up outside, maybe to get her out of the rain. When I grabbed her she tensed up a bit as if to claw me, and turned her head ’round with threat to bite, but soft words and good intentions calmed her down. I took her inside a nearby house where a small party was going on. The partygoers said that my dog was strange looking. I didn’t contradict them, and they seemed satisfied, so I put the possum down to roam. More importantly, the owner of the house had a little dark dachshund that was running about and when it came close to my possum, all the dog’s hair– which up ’til this point had appeared classically short –stood on end like a startled cat’s. At this point it occurred to me, both for mine and the dachshund’s sake (but not for the partiers), that I should be worried about getting fleas from my possum. I started to itch.
Drafted this several weeks ago, publishing it before that clock strikes 12! The idea was to document my notable (citation needed) dreams, and then as soon as I started writing them down… my dreams got boring.
12 December 2020
The first dream begins at my dad’s house where we were watching an animated science fiction comedy. Had to take my cat home ’cause she was starting to yowl and I figured she needed the litter box. That I even had brought her along involves a massive stretch of dream-logic, as my dad is allergic to cats something sever. Anyhow, when I went upstairs to try to find her I instead found a wolf, which bit my hand (thinking about it, being in the same house as a wolf is a very good reason for my cat to be screaming). I grabbed it by the jaw instead of freaking out as I’d usually do and yelled down to my father that there was a wolf in his house. Now this is funny on multiple levels, as I’ve always had some phobia towards wolves and werewolves and the like, but my father also is known for having lots of lupine paraphernalia. I’m surprised the that he didn’t call back “There are lots of wolves in this house!” My sleeping mind was sadly not clever enough to find the humor in the situation.
When I got her home, was there someone trying to break into my house? Were they stealing the boards from my deck? Or something was happening on the street? I do think there was a light rain falling.
COVid-19 fragments from separate dreams: Touched my brother’s coat and he had to clean it. At pharmacy, way too close to people, couldn’t find my membership card, person next to me quibbling for a coupon.
13 December 2020
Nothing of note. Probably stayed up too late and ruined my brain’s capacity for dreaming this particular night. Okay, one thing feature while asleep – a class I registered for had its difficulty measured in swords; this particular class had two swords next to it, which apparently meant it was pretty hard. Odd.
14 December 2020
A friend had an extra 2012 Maserati they decided to give to me. Big signs I’m dreaming:
• No one has an extra Maserati. (Well… no one I know.) • Not sure if I’d accept a gift like this, would make for a very stressful possession
Lovely fall setting, though. At one point was listening to a recording of other friends’ conversations, the impression I felt was that the recording was a form of social media, not spying, but then again I guess the difference between these can become blurry, huh? Especially in a dream, most of which are almost indistinct to some degree.
That’s all for now. If you made it this far, hope your year’s been as good as it could and see ya in 2021! 🎉
The following was written between a coworker and I through email over the course of a couple weeks. Italicized text was written by me, responses by her. It was a lot of fun and I’d be willing to do something similar upon request. I make no promises as to quality and enjoy-ability, but I’d certainly do my best for both! Note: D&D ≠ Dungeons and Dragons – see if you can figure out its actual meaning!Without further ado, and with minimal editing, step into the dungeon…
You walk into a chamber. Floor, ceiling, and walls alike are of moist stone slabs. Two torches suspended by rusty metal casings to your left and right light the space. Rattle RATTLE CRASH! A reinforced iron gate has slammed shut behind you, leaving your only path forward one of two passages up ahead. The one on the left features an archway carved to resemble a grinning dragon, the right a demon with mouth gaping wide. Both passages smell of french fries. Which do you choose, left or right? And what equipment did you bring with you into this…
I choose the right path. Clearly dragons can’t be trusted and his grin is off-putting. I have a ball of yarn, a bag of Reese’s cups, 9 freshly sharpened pencils, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, and a Pepsi.
The right path winds a bit, and at one point is almost pitch-dark, but eventually you reach another room where there’s…
… a demon! Also, a wooden table upon which lay a wooden paddle, a bottle filled with an unidentified clear liquid, and a book titled – but there’s no time to read the cover right now! The demon staggers toward you in a meandering line! What will you do?
Clearly this demon is in need of a drink. His throat is dry and it is making him cough. I offer to share my Pepsi with him to quench his thirst.
The demon blindly grabs the bottle, squeezing it so hard the cap blows off, Pepsi splashing all about. Perceiving that there is liquid in whatever it’s holding, it dumps the rest down its gaping maw. Emitting a great gulp, a visible bulge travels down its throat and there is an audible plop as the object lodged in its gullet drops down into the demon’s stomach cavity. The holy water in the bottle on the table briefly emerges and takes on the shape of Jesus, who grins and flashes you a thumbs-up. The demon gasps for a moment and then, noticing your presence, claps a hand on your shoulder.
“Thanks for that. That darn dragon bet me I couldn’t swallow a potato in one gulp, but I guess we showed it, huh? Now to collect my winnings!”
It rushes past you, dropping a potato peeler as it goes.
There is a path to your left and a path straight ahead, both unadorned. You can’t tell what either smells like because the current room stinks of french fries. There is however a draft of warm air from the left.
How do you proceed?
Before leaving, I stop to peruse the book that was lying on the table with the holy water. Then I choose the path straight ahead. I don’t like to be hot.
The book is “10 Hot Tips for Frenching Fries” by Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar. You flip through the very informative and scrumptiously illustrated pages, many of which are flecked with dried demonic drool (the latter is very distinctive, drying in characteristic purple spirals), and a scrap of paper falls out.
As you pass by the left corridor, there comes the sound of screeching, then roaring. For a moment the air grows even warmer and there’s the smell of smoke. The screeching continues after this, followed by a rumbling and a sound like a gemstone being tossed to a fireproof demon who won a bet.
The passage you find yourself in is very narrow, but better lit, and you are forced to edge your way around the billowing torches. Near the end, the floor, walls, and ceiling are caked in a thick red substance which continues on into the open room ahead.
This room is larger than the last, and the red paint merges with the paintings found four of the six surfaces. The floor is a random mess of colors which align roughly with the paintings. On the left wall is a cityscape, shadowy and vast, a pale green light upon the horizon under a starless sky. The wall opposite from you shows a pillared temple rising up from between the trees of a forested island, fat white clouds hanging in the sky above. to your right is a scene of demons at a table on either side of a dragon. The dragon is grinning and has more playing cards than anyone else in the scene. The ceiling depicts a giant eye, iris red and lids a-glaring.
What do you do?
I walk to the painting of the dragons and demons playing cards. I am very suspicious that the painting depicts the dragon cheating. I take one of my handy, freshly-sharpened pencils and add cards to each of the demons hands so they are all on a level playing field.
Then I wander the room taking in details of the other paintings.
As soon as the painting is changed, it continues to morph. The dragon now looks worried. The demons look delighted, signs of which include (but are not limited to) punching the air and kicking the underside of the table. Drinks are spilled and cashews jostled.
The eye above blinks, narrows, and then goes completely white, tiny red veins left behind with the vanishing of the pupil. There is the distant thound of thumping.
The island in the center painting is closer than it was before. You can see a figure standing upon the beach, hand over their eyes.
The ghastly city remains the same.
What do you do? Hurry!
I go to the painting of the island and use another of my freshly sharpened pencils to shade in the clouds above the island turning them from white and fluffy to dreary. Then I add raindrops to soak the figure on the beach.
Then I rush to the other side and add twinkling stars to the sky above the cityscape.
The figure on the beach runs from the rain over to a tree and breaks uproots it, crafting a makeshift umbrella. They then return to their post, staring out from the painting at you. The island stays at the same distance.
With the emergence of the stars so also emerge clouds of demons from the buildings. They appear to be screaming, some clawing at their faces and pointing at the stars. The eye above has returned, and the giant lids crinkle with mirth at the sight of the distraught demons.
The sound of thumping is closer, accompanied by a discordant scraping in regular intervals. There is a murmuring, unintelligible voice.
What do you do? Hurry!
I head back to the painting of the island. I wave to the figure in the painting and ask what I should do now. The figure seems to know something based on the way they are staring at me pretty intensely.
The figure quickly signs to you that demons don’t like light and happy things and that you should appeal to their devilish nature. Good thing you know sign language! Your back is turned to it but you might be amused to know that the eye in the ceiling is glaring at the figure.
The thumping sounds sound very close now, and a somewhat whiny, indignant voice can be heard: “… can’t believe it, like oh my god the nerve of this human ruining my art and spoiling my imps, I am going to UGHHH [there comes the indistinguishable/inextinguishable noise of fire rushing from a beautifully-fanged mouth].” The room is definitely getting warmer now.
What do you do? Holy crap, hurry!
I decide that this demon is getting on my nerves and I’m not changing anything. I shoot a glare at the creepy eye in the ceiling, a thumbs up to the figure in the painting, sit down on the floor, pull out my copy of Neverwhere and start to read while I wait for whatever nonsense is coming my way.
The eye glares back, and if it had a body it would cross its arms and turn away from you with a huff. But it doesn’t, so it can’t.
The figure in the painting signs “good luck!” and sits down on the beach to watch from afar, planting the tree in the sand next to them. The tree is less interested in the whole situation than they are but is a good sport given its circumstances.
“The night before he went to London, Richard Mayhew was not…” but you are barely through the incredibly intriguing opening sentence of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere before danger imposes.
You tried to avoid the dragon, but you can really only ever avoid a dragon for so long. That said, you only get the head of the dragon, the neck of which trails back through the darkness of the previous passages, presumably connecting to a larger body at some point. Along its iridescent blue and purple-scaled neck are clawed arms, helping to hold it up so the neck muscles, prodigious as they are, do not have to do all the work. The two arms closest to the head are larger than the others, the nails sharpened to almost unbelievable points, palms sitting flat upon the floor. There is an ornate silver bracelet upon one wrist, and many of the smaller arms bear similar accessories, all of the highest quality. The red paint near the dragon is beginning to bubble.
“Like, what the hell, you barge into my lair unasked for and all you’ve done is cause trouble from, like, the very first second! You are totally the rudest. Do you have anything to say for yourself before I toast your skinny little ass?” Its rage expended a little, the dragon glances around. “Pretty funny messing with the demons and that disgusting statue-thing, but that one is all wrong! I always win. Like, I lost a bet for the first time EVER because of your meddling today.” Green eyes swivel to back down at you. “… what are you reading?”
How do you proceed? I would tell you to hurry, but you look pretty comfortable sitting there.
I stay seated and smile at the dragon. I tell the dragon how beautiful it is because dragons love to hear how beautiful they are. Plus, in general dragons are beautiful and should be complimented anyway.
Then I launch into a passionate explanation about Neverwhere, how it is my absolute favorite book of all time and all things Neil [Gaiman] in general. I explain how I seem to have found myself in a similar situation to Richard Mayhew as I’ve suddenly been thrust into this world of dragons and demons. I ask the dragon if it has ever read any of Neil’s work. I continue to call Neil by his first name only because I know we are friends even though we don’t know each other.
I apologize for the loss of the bet but explain that I merely thought the demon was choking and was attempting to help. I also ask the dragon what the deal is with the giant huffy eyeball.
The dragon blinks and rears back a little, a claw going to its cheek.
“Oh… well, thank you. Like, beauty literally hurts my imps, so it’s nice to have someone actually like, appreciate all the work I put into being breathtaking. You’re not too shabby yourself, for a human at least.” The room has become noticeably more temperate. “And I totally understand what it’s like to be stuck somewhere you didn’t ask to be and really aren’t all that interested in… but you like, have to make the best of things, right?” She glances at the painting of the card game and then rests her chin in one claw, folding the other under her. “Tell you what. Your friend Neil sounds pretty rad, and I haven’t read a good book in like, for-everrr. If you give me your copy of Neverwhere I’ll let you go free, even though you totally ruined my day and vandalized my art.”
“Oh, and never mind the eye. It came with the property. Some sort of, like, familiar or something?” She shrugs. “Makes for good security.”
Well? Do you share your literature with this luxurious lizard?
Of course I share Neverwhere with my new dragon friend. I never pass up an opportunity to share a good read with an interested party!
Talons pluck the book from your outstretched hand with inhuman precision, and the dragon starts reading immediately, enormous eyes flicking almost imperceptibly back and forth, and is four pages in before she once again acknowledges your presence. “Oh. You’re still here. Like, go out the front way if you want. I’ll open it for you.” Muscles beneath scales ripple from neck down along the rest of the shimmering body and out the door, and a rattling rumble can be heard in the distance. Long before this the dragon has gone back to reading the book and pretending you’re not there. The eye in the ceiling appears to be looking over her shoulder and reading as well, though it still manages to find time to spare a glare at you as you exit. The figure in the painting jumps up and down, pumping their fist.
Well? You seem to be free to go if you choose!
Why would I leave? There is adventure and exploration to be had! I decide I’m going to explore this cave system while the dragon is distracted with the wonderful words of my friend Neil. I wave to the figure in the painting, glare back at the eye, and slide quietly past the dragon. I’m going on an adventure!!
Your awful sense of direction leads you right out the front door before you know it, and it slams shut behind you, red runes burning on it that translate to “closed until Neverwhere 2.” Outside, everything is boring and all the adventures have already been taken. How unfortunate. THE END
Short update, but with some meat. So, a lot of sketching, and therefore stuff that’s not nearly ready for posting anywhere. However, what this does mean is that when I do post stuff you’ll get the whole process, which can be fun. Another work in progress is an impromptu creative writing exercise that was really fun to do. It’s a collaboration, and an interactive one at that. Once I put it out here I’ll also be opening it up to further exploration – I’ll probably limit it to the first one or two people that want to try it out! That’s the update, and without further ado, the meat man himself, DOG MAN:
All right, so if you’re paying closer attention than is really warranted, you’re probably thinking “what happened to one creative thing a day?” And to that my response is, well, I did say that not everything would be posted here! However, I do want to give a brief rundown of what I’ve been up to, both as a way to hold myself accountable and also review my efforts and hopefully keep myself on track. Who knows, maybe I’ll make it a weekly Sunday ritual!
So let’s go day by day. The very first day of the year, promptly at midnight, I was working on a passion project of illustrating a favorite book of mine as a graphic novel. That said, I drew one panel and did a sketch of an object. Not a lotta progress but part of the reason behind that is holy CRAP is this book rife with interesting scenes to draw, and really evocative ones no less. It’s going to be a big, daunting project but I think it’ll also be a lot of fun. That said, I won’t be sharing much of anything from it as I’m working on it with the intention of getting it published, so at the very most there might be some teaser sketches. Get hype!
January 2nd I finished a poem that saw its genesis while I as vacationing in Florida. Simple and fun, unlike all the sloggy stuff around the corner and in the future.
On the second and third days I attempted to record a podcast. The first attempt was plagued with technical difficulties, which seems to be a them with any sort of recording I try to do (see next paragraph). I mean, I really should’ve thought a bit more about it, but the recording device was attached to the air vent in my car, and therefore registered every bump in the road. Both the music and my voice came through just fine, but the feedback is pretty horrendous. We’ll see if I can edit that to something that’s actually listenable, not to mention having to put my singing voice out there for everyone (or no one, if the podcast doesn’t take off in popularity) to hear. Recorded a second one but haven’t summoned up the courage to listen to it just yet.
The fourth day I got some friends together and attempted to record a Let’s Play. I’ll be uploading that unfortunate attempt to YouTube at some point, it died pretty fast due to technical difficulties – the recording software or hardware resulted in a flickering picture throughout, not to mention the corresponding lag as well, making an already challenging game pretty much unplayable – though it would have died anyhow due to the game being VERY MEAN AND BAD and the person playing it giving up as a result. In summary, I underestimated how frustrating Megaman X6 is, and have since then apologized for subjecting my friend to it.
January fifth was when I actually started writing this little record, so I’m going to count this as the “creative” thing for the day. Give me one cheat day at least, right?
(This lil’ guy is actually relevant to what I’m working on today, stay tuned for that!)
Tired old dog, plodding along Sing me a song, sing me a song
Songs are for cats, rainbows and rats Toss up your hats, toss up your hats
The song starts like this, a wink and kiss Signs hard to miss, signs hard to miss
Dance with a tree, lovely and free What do you see? What do you see?
A bird with a brace and a miserable face Satin and lace, satin and lace
For the sake of a friend, fortune to lend How does it end? How does it end?
With a hug and a wave, humor to save Forever be brave, forever be brave
This silly, nonsensical creature sprung from the first two lines, though I had to drag out the rest of it, so “sprung” is perhaps too strong a word. It’s not perfect (there are several words that aren’t the exact fit) but I had fun making it. In any case, I plan on doing something creative every day of the year. Whether or not these creations will show up on this blog depends on their content and state of completion. Cheers to lofty goals!
All right, so it’s going to be quite a bit confusing now if you don’t start at the beginning, so here. ; )
I have to go back out there.
From the safety of the crevasse Eugene can see his pack, papers strewn about. He cannot see if the hooded man also lingers about, waiting to see if his quarry emerges from hiding. After a little under an hour with no signs of movement, he takes a deep breath and starts to worm his way outside. The mid-morning light lends even the skeletal white trees some semblance of warmth, and the mist has cleared. There are no signs of animal life or otherwise, not even a bird in the lightly-clouded sky, simply the unnatural quiet that has reigned since his entry into the forest. Poking his head out, the silence is reflected in his surroundings. Twisting until he is free from the stone coffer, he walks over to his scattered cargo and looks at it, hands on his hips, then glances back at the hole.
“Well, would have probably had to take it out to squeeze in there anyhow. No way I’m climbing over these peaks.” As if to echo this sentiment, there is the sound of rocks falling in the distance. Eugene raises an eyebrow. “Guess I shouldn’t really be surprised at this point.” He gathers up a stack of papers, stops for a moment, eyes angled upward, snaps his fingers, and grabs a match as well. It takes a bit longer, but once inside he lights the match and stares at its flame. It leans toward the back of the cave. The cave itself is littered with fragments of stone, slate walls smooth where not lined with diagonal ridges. He moves further down the passage, eyes upon the crumbling floor. The thin line of light from outside is now barely visible and he once again holds up the tiny matchflame, its stick now half the length it was. This time the flame leans toward Eugene, who sighs, extinguishing the match.
“Oops.” There is the sound boots upon rock and light floods the area.
“Hey, what the hell are you doing in here?”
Eugene starts and drops the stack of paper he was holding and turns to face the glaring man who has stepped out from a barely visible side passage. He holds up his now-empty hands, palms facing out. “My apologies, is this your cave?”
“It’s mine and my partner’s gold mine, I’ll have you know. You’d best vacate it if you know what’s good for ya.” It becomes apparent that the man is holding a sharply pointed pickaxe, the haft of which he smacks against his palm.
“I’m sorry, I had no idea. I’m simply trying to get to Fencepost and, well, I didn’t want to go over the mountains. Am I right in assuming that this is a tunnel that leads to the other side?”
“Yep, it leads right out… hey, how did you know that?” He points the less threatening top of the pickaxe at Eugene in what is obviously meant to be a more threatening gesture, seemingly unaware that a pickax is much less dangerous when the pointy bits aren’t aimed at you.
“Ah, well, I’ll show you.” He repeats his match experiment, and the flame bends obligingly away from the depths of the tunnel. “See? You can tell by the air that’s flowing and causing the flame to lean towards the opening of the cave. I read about this technique in one of my books.”
“Well how about that! All I know is breakin’ rocks, none o’ that science business. ’S long as you’re not after the gold I’ll show you the way through. But how did you get in here, anyhow?”
“Well, if you see over there,” he gestures with one hand toward the light coming from the entry crack, “your cave has an alternate entrance, though I wouldn’t recommend it.”
“Are you serious? Even if I’d know about it I wouldn’t have thought it were possible to fit through that pinhole, though you are a skinny one.”
“I was also a bit desperate at the time,” and he tells Robbie about the hooded man.
“No kiddin’? I thought the most dangerous things in these parts were the wolves, and they mostly keep to themselves, ‘specially if you keep a fire going.” Eugene raises an eyebrow but makes no comment. He follows as they walk through the much more hospitable, if a bit lengthier, main tunnel. “And you said you’re delivering papers to Fencepost? Once you pass through here you’ll be about halfway there.”
“Thank God. I’m well-tired of these parts. You’re sure nothing strange has happened to you and… was it Jim?”
“Only strange thing is the trees, but who knows. Probably some tropical breed that took over. That, and how little gold we’ve found, curse this mine. Our buddy John said he was sure this was a prime spot, though where he got that information I don’t know.”
They emerge into the afternoon sunlight, each squinting at the abrupt change from the dry darkness of the tunnel. Eugene gathers up what’s left, puts it into his now-deflated pack, and they head back into the tunnel. Once inside he stuffs the rest in as well, a mishmash of books, paper, and wrapped food, which goes on top.
“What’re they gonna do with all that stuff in Fencepost?”
“My father seems to think there are people there who have an interest in printing. I’m simply the errand boy.”
“Ha! Sound like you’re going to have about as much luck as me and Jim’ve had.”
Their progress is marked by a rapid decrease in the level of light. This time it is Robbie who starts rummaging in his satchel. The crusty, gritty hand emerges with two thick sticks, the end of each wrapped in fabric that stink of sulfur and lime. He holds one out to Eugene.
“Torch for ya,” Robbie says and passes it over, quickly lighting his own and using it to light the other. The light struggles against the confined space, throwing the pick-scarred walls in sharp relief. Further and further they go, descending on a gentle slope, the moisture and the walls and ceiling steadily expanding. Occasionally a drop hits one of their torches, which has much the same reaction a cat would have to water, hissing and spitting. After around twenty minutes of walking, the tunnel becomes a true cave, angular rock replaced by stalactites, tips gleaming in the unwelcome light. “This space here gives me hope. There’s still a lot of explorin’ to do. Gotta shine our light on those gold veins!”
“I wish you all the luck with your endeavor.” Myself, I’ll stick with less luck-based prospects, he thinks as he surveys the expansive subterranean cavity.
“Appreciate it. I’ll not bore you with that now, though. Let’s lean a bit to the right, that’s where the connecting tunnel should be.”
They both walk in that direction, hopping over the cracks of varying widths and depths that criss-cross the fragmented floor. Just as the light of the torches reaches the far side of the cavern there is a low moaning. Eugene halts and stands up straight and stiff, looking all around.
“What is that.”
“Could be some wind or an air pocket, pretty common,” but as Robbie says this the moaning becomes louder and more pronounced, and is now accompanied by trudging, heavy footfall. “Uh…” A liquid growling slowly fills up the room and then becomes a deep screech.
“I knew it! I damn well knew it! Every bloody time!” Eugene’s cries echo all around as he runs yelling and disappears into an opening on the far side of the cavern.
“Wait! Wait, ya bleedin’ idiot!” Robbie calls after him in vain. “That’s the wrong tunnel!” The screech cuts off and is replaced by coughing and then the sound of someone spitting and laughing. “Jim! Is that you?” A curly-haired man emerges from the shadows, a wide grin upon his stubbly face.
“Aye, ’twas me. That was me best howl yet, and you didn’t even react. But who was the flagpole walkin’ with ye’?”
“Oh ye’ know, just some traveler you’ve sentenced to a slow death with your silly spookery.”
“Hey, a man shouldn’t be that scare-able anyhow!”
“Be that as it may, we gotta go find him. Though I didn’t see that passage over there before. Did you know about it?” They walk over to where Eugene was last seen.
“No, never saw that one before. Maybe flagpole will lead us to luck.” They walk together over to the wall, hopping over the cracks and avoiding the numerous water-slicked patches.
“What in the…”
The smooth stone of the wall is unbroken and impassible, and there is no sign of Eugene.
I wander out into the night and move as though afraid I may fall apart at any moment. Mine is a life of measured movements, all calculated to maintain the guise of, if not sickness, then humanity. What I would give for privacy that I might fly across the desert, the wind of my passage flowing all around me. But the paradox of my existence is that I must remain near humans or… well, not die, for even without blood I live on, shriveled and helpless, as I learned when I first attempted to resist the hideous hunger. I was saved only by happenstance and desperate strength, the poor woman who walked over to examine my lifeless-looking form becoming my first victim. Though I attempt to feed upon the condemned or dying, I have murdered the healthy and innocent many times over out of necessity, and it is these times that have most commonly forced me into exodus in the past. I am haunted by their faces even now, but the memory of their blood serves to soften the anguish, invigorating as it was. As it is, I have been living with these lepers for almost a year now, and the nearby town sends a steady supply my way, and thus the relationship flourishes. And of course I must thank the Romans for their contributions to my well-being as well. We shall shortly see if they have left me a suitable offering in town.
This recent decrease of their numbers has me suspicious, however. Lepers are not typically a very ambulatory lot, venturing only so far as the town and then coming back to this “haven.” Ah, but here is Bidkar. It will be a sad day when I must drain his life away, entertaining companion that he has been.
“Hail, Bidkar! I thought we might cross paths.” The sores on his face contort as he smiles at my appearance.
“Ah, Nabal. Will you be joining me in my harvest tonight? You always seem to know which houses are ripe with the unobservant. Never have I met one with a greater sense for the task. Not to mention, I am now one less finger for the plucking of goods from the privileged’s bowers.” He waggles a stump where once was a crusty finger.
“I am sorry to hear that. I give thanks to God that my hands and feet are unaffected by our curse, but when it comes to other areas… well, let us cease talking about such things. I would be glad to point you in the right direction if you can point me in the right direction as well. Where is Lucas? Where is Maadai? And many others, as well. Have so many gone to be with the Lord as of late?”
“Some might say so. There is rumor of a healer traveling the land, though the rumors may dry up if the pharisees have any word in the matter. And especially,” he lowers his voice, “now that some are saying he is the Messiah.”
“Ha! Perhaps it is the same old man who told me to sleep in box of olive wood and dirt, much good as it has done me. He always was a persuasive one.”
“No, no, this man is young, thirty years or so. I may go look for him myself.”
“Do what you will.”
“I tell you, Nabal, it is not healthy to put faith in only iniquity and evil spirits.”
“I concede that God exists, but it is an evil god that created this world. I will change my beliefs when experience proves otherwise. As of yet I have seen only evil and experienced only hardship, so my beliefs stand. Now let us move on so that we might secure our welfare through evil.”
Once within the town, I experience the familiar and nearly overpowering sensation as all around me beat the hearts of the living, pumping blood, and with each pulse I am able to infer its owner’s state of mind. Many dreamers, a few nightmares, and the occasional late nighter, perhaps writing or working upon some urgent task, or maybe simply worthlessly worrying about life. I point out the house of a particularly deep sleeper and then lie, saying that I will look for another mark while Bidkar ransacks the first. As soon as I’m sure he’s completely preoccupied by his thievery I make haste toward the hill on the other side of town, and soon I can see the familiar shapes of the crosses, and my mouth begins to water. My hope is that some hearty criminal still clings to life while hanging upon the inhuman tool of torture that is the cross, and that the Roman soldiers were too lazy to finish the job as they are wont to do, much to the distress of the Jews. They seem to take a particular glee from causing those unfortunate people to inadvertently break their many laws, leaving the dead and the half-dead hanging upon their crosses until they rot. Again I wonder that it is I who am cursed and not those endlessly creative Romans. Perhaps God has not thought of a suitable punishment yet. As I move closer to the line of monuments to cruelty, I expand my senses. In the past, my culling of the condemned was caught by a lingering relative of the crucified, her shrieks tearing through the night and cutting short my consumption. If starvation is the worst sensation, then interruption of an imminent meal is second. Thankfully there is no sign of any such inconsiderate person this time.
And yes, it is faint, but the thud of life can be heard from the third in line of the crucifixions. Thank you, oh strong soul, for your perseverance. Know that the end of suffering, whether deserved or undeserved, is close at hand. As I approach, his shallow breathing rattles around me. I won’t waste time; he could die any second. The blood of the dead cools quickly, becoming unpalatable and, if left long enough, downright poisonous. Leaping on top the horizontal beam, my robe flaps about me, a blob of shadow perched upon this grisly mockery of a fruit-bearing tree, its bounty death instead of life. I lower my face toward his neck, the large vein easy to find thanks to emaciation and the strain of living after such a marathon of torture. And then he speaks.
“Our time is at hand, brother.”
I am frozen where I crouch. The voice that comes from the bowed head is at once hoarse and hollow, as though it echoes within the body from which it came. And it is altogether much too strong to have come from a dying man. I open my mouth to speak, but for once I have no words, and the anticipatory saliva has gone the way of the desert. It is all I can do to keep from falling to the ground.
“Why are you silent? Perhaps you have not heard? Yahweh, curse the name, has foolishly taken a human form, and even now our lord sets in motion the means to kill him. Creation will be ours, and eternal night, and you shall not be reduced to feeding upon dregs such as this nearly-dead slave. I will leave you now to your meal, but take hope – our time is at hand.” The voice stops but the mouth still hangs open, and a rivulet of blood leaks from the corner. And then comes the moaning noise, and this finally frees me from my stupefaction: the man is screaming. This man, who has gone through torture, crucifixion, and the slow death that follows, is screaming. I plunge my fangs into his neck and drain the blood from him until the noise stops, but still I can hear it.
What’s that? You don’t remember this series? I don’t blame you, it’s been awhile since I updated it. You should go back to part 1 so you can understand what’s going on here!
As the-wolf-that-is-Eugene retreats, memories rush unbidden through his head, some of his experiences as a member of the pack and some from his carefree days as a layabout in his hometown. In the forefront of these memories are images of his younger siblings as they all made something of themselves, pretending that he couldn’t see the disapproving gaze of his father, and then the final moment when he was sent away, the entire reason I’m now being chased by an ax maniac, he thinks. Let us go together with him back to that fortuitous day and see what set poor Eugene upon this path.
The sound of the stamping machine can be heard from the paper mill, pressing the fibers repeatedly into flat sheaves for binding. Eugene sits outside, freshly printed book flat on his lap and head leaning back against a tree trunk, eyes closed and mouth parted. A careful observer could connect the sounds coming from within the mill with the rotating of the wheel on the side of the weathered wood building, and then they would become curious about the other noise coming from the mill, an unpredictable tapping that starts, stops, starts. And then a harsher noise, a cracking, and there comes shrieks of pain from the mill punctuated by quick silences as the screamer takes breaths. Eugene starts awake but does not get up immediately, first looking to either side with sleep-swollen eyes and then scrambling to his feet, the book falling from his lap to the grass below. Within the mill, two of his brothers are pulling a young boy away from the still stamping machine, a thin trail of blood traced across the floor as they retreat. The boy is panting and crying. A fifth person enters behind the group as they struggle with the writhing boy. “What in the world happened? Eugene? What’s going on here?”
Eugene turns back to face the man, his eyes wide and mouth hanging open. His eyes flicker to the red line that now extends out through the doorway.
“You’d better come with me.”
Eugene and his father are seated in a room, windows covered, the afternoon light squeezing itself through the gaps around the blinds as if curious about what’s happening within. The only furniture is a table and two chairs, and few odds and ends lay scattered about the floor. Eugene’s father stares across the table at him, arms folded and mouth set in a grimace. He is the first to speak. “So? How did this happen?” “I… I don’t know.” “What do you mean you don’t know? You were supposed to be watching him! My God, can you not do the simplest of tasks?” “He was playing and I was reading and… I must have fallen asleep.” “Your nephew is going to lose two fingers because you didn’t have the patience or care to watch over him. You need to get out of here – your sister truly may kill you.” He glares at Eugene and Eugene glares at the ground. His father looks away. “Perhaps leaving is a good idea. Take this delivery to Fencepost. That’ll give us some time for Layla’s anger to disperse.” Eugene finally looks up. “What? That’s… that’s miles and miles away! Not to mention they have no use–” “That’s the entire damn point. And I’ll have you know I have reliable word that there is a burgeoning interest in printing there. And it was not a request. You are going to take responsibility for something. Just because you don’t usually see the consequences of your inaction doesn’t mean they don’t exist, Eugene. This is not the first time you’ve created trouble by doing nothing. I’ve turned a blind eye to your laziness for long enough. I’ll put the delivery together for you… and if you can’t even do this simple thing, don’t expect a prodigal’s welcome upon your return.”
Eugene skids to a halt, his eyes closed and lips curled up in a snarl. He turns back to the scuffle, still visible in the distance as a blur of grey-blue shapes that swarm at the feet of the hooded man. I only seem to be able to run away, but perhaps my flight can at least be of use to someone, he thinks as he sprints toward the scuffle.
The wolves are not losing the battle, but neither are they winning. They jump and snap but the whirling axe keeps them at bay, its edge flashing through the night air, seemingly in all directions at once. Just as soon as one of them lunges for the man he strikes and they twist out of the way in midair. Nevertheless, the blood that drips upon the grass below is all lupine, and the hooded man shows no signs of tiring; instead, he stomps the ground with quick steps in a manic show of glee. And then a howling breaks the fighters’ concentration and they turn as one to look at Eugene, his head thrown back. Wolf eyes meet human and Eugene growls. The hooded man immediately moves toward Eugene, kicking one of the real wolvesout of the way. They are all panting and wobble upon their feet, and the look they give to Eugene is clearly one of gratitude to be able to take a break from combat. He turns tail and starts running again, the hooded man in pursuit. This situation is becoming far too familiar, he thinks to himself. And it was a gamble that he would even respond to my taunt but… why is this maniac so fixated upon me?
As far as the chase is concerned, though, the tables have definitely turned. The hooded man can hardly keep up with the now four-legged Eugene, whose easy stride propels him between the trees as though he were a gust of wind rather than a physical being. In fact, it is so easy that Eugene can stop and look back at his pursuer, ears pricked and not even panting. Contrasting this, the hooded man’s bare chest is heaving and mouth wheezing, the fabric fluttering over the concealed maw. Each time the wolf looks back at him he waves the axe through the air, the strokes visibly slower than when he was fighting the pack. Just a bit further and I’ll leave this devil far behind. As Eugene thinks this, he notices that the light is changing in the forest, becoming brighter by small degrees, shining refraction through the early morning mist. Up ahead, through the obscurant water vapor loom grey shapes, and Eugene’s heart drops. What in the world are those? But as he comes nearer the shapes sharpen and become the low slopes of what appears to be a mountain range. Sun breaks over the peaks, the bright, focused rays shining into his eyes, and the leafless trees become more sparse the closer they get to the stony spires, the grassy ground slowing morphing to rubble. And then he is tumbling head over heels, papers flying from his pack. He sits up, dirt on his elbows and streaked across his legs. When he looks back this time, the hooded man has stopped, but only for a moment before dashing at him, the sight of the pack-laden human figure apparently invigorating. Eugene scrambles to his feet and runs, his lungs burning almost immediately. There is a dark spot at the base of the mountains, a tiny sliver that could just be shadow, but there is no other choice at this point, no turning back and no climbing the steep slopes, so he dashes for it, rewarded when he sees it is a narrow crevasse curving under the looming mass of stone. The sliver of darkness appears almost impassible but Eugene shrugs off his pack and dives for it, the brim of his hat bending as he passes through the gap, sucking in his stomach and turning his head sideways. Even so, the jagged rock drags at the fabric of his clothes. There is a rush of air that he feels on his ankles, and then the ringing sound of metal chipping rock, but the tall, skinny Eugene has safely wormed his way into the hole and under the mountain, crawling on his stomach and then on hands and knees as the space begins to gradually grow larger and more comfortable, but darker. He does not see the arm that reaches in after him, grasping hand grabbing at void and then smacking the ground before retracting back into the open air. Part 7 →