Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"The Counting Ceremony" - 11 & Counting

Part 12: The Counting Ceremony

What was first a feeling of being watched escalated into pure fear. Andrew could sense something following him. A branch snapped behind him. He took off, sneakers slipping as he struggled to keep a lead. Something was chasing him now and gaining with every step. He didn't dare turn around, afraid that whatever it was would tackle him down to the ground. Instead he barreled blindly through the forest, regardless of the stitch ripping painfully up his side the faster he went.

He slowed as he neared the crest of a hill but delighted when he could see the low stone wall just beyond it. His feet stumbled to keep up with his momentum as he ran downhill. If I can just get to the wall, he told himself, I'll be okay. I just gotta get to the wall! He didn't know why he felt this way but he didn't have any time to think about it.

Andrew tried to jump the wall but slipped in his haste, his knee banging against it as he tumbled forward. His arms flailed, trying to protect his head as he ducked into a roll. He landed hard on his back, the air rushing out of his lungs. For a few moments he couldn't get a good breath. His throat was tight and burned from running. He couldn't get enough air and hyperventilated. He stared up at the trees above him. Whatever it was, it wasn't vaulting over the wall.

He stayed down until he could breathe without gasping. He pulled himself carefully up, peering just over the top of the wall, ready to duck back down if it attacked.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fudoki: Why Do We Write?

Why do we write?

This is a question that has been on mind my since reading the novel Fudoki by Kij Johnson.

Fudoki is about an elderly Japanese princess named Harueme who is dying slowly from a lung disease. In her final days she writes about her life, but also, though she has never done so before, she also writes her own monogatari tale (Japanese fairy tale) about a tortiseshell cat who loses her entire fudoki in her a fire.

The word "fudoki", as used in the book, means:
"... self and soul and home and shrine, all in one to a cat. The fudoki is the chronicle of the female cats who have claimed a place, a river of cats that starts with the first to come to that place, and ends with oneself - when one grows experienced enough to have a tale to tell." (18, Johnson)

The cat loses everything: her family, her home, her place in the her family's legacy. Without them she has nothing. She is nothing. She wanders the world, searching for meaning along Japan's famous Tokaido Road. A god there changes her into a human against her will, so she loses even her physical identity as a cat.

Monday, September 20, 2010

"The Iron Windmills" - Last One Standing Tall #11

A Fantasy-Western serial

Episode 11 - The Iron Windmills

Night had already fallen by the time Reed approached the mesa. The mesa towered over the landscape a black shadow framed by the stars in the desert sky. No clouds meant no tornadoes, and he was very glad for that. He needed all the advantages he could gather. There was no moon this night either. Good for cover, but difficult to spot a trap lying on the ground. Xylem are creatures of the day, so his sight was not so good as it would have been in the light, but it would do.

He left his horse, Abe, at the base of the mesa by a shallow pool nourishing a grassy patch that he knew would be picked clean by the time he returned. He ducked as Abe tried to snack on his head leaves again, tucking the stray leaves under his hat.

"You should thank me," he said, but Abe simply ignored him and munched on the grass, ripping up large dirt clods. Reed rolled his eyes, an expression he had picked up from the old man.
According to Troy, there were several man-made pathways and tunnels to the top of Windy Mesa, but Reed was no man, and so would make his own way there. He removed his boots, strapped them together and slung them over his shoulders. He leapt straight up, extending his vined limbs, sinking his finger-like roots into the rocky soil and pulling himself up. A few places were solid rock, and these he had to wrap his arms and roots around whatever small outcroppings he could reach. It did not take him long to reach the summit, shocked at how absurdly flat the mesa was on the top.
Nothing grew in the bad soil up here, which made him uneasy. A tall picket fence was an arm's width away from him, wide gaps between sharpened timber. This hastily built structure protected seven windmills. They were not like any he had seen before. The blades of these windmills were iron, a circular rim surrounding sharp petals branching from a pointed center, each one curved and twisting slightly to overlap the others. Even more strangely, though the wind was blowing fast here, not a single one of the windmills turned.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Secret Friends" - 11 & Counting

Part 11: Secret Friends
The two boys traveled just beyond the low stone wall bordering Aunt Jenna's farm, Andrew barely keeping up with TJ's lanky strides. He must live around here, Andrew thought, he seems to know exactly where he's going without having to look around for landmarks. He couldn't see the grin on the TJ's face.

When they arrived at Peddler's Creek, TJ offered Andrew his fishing pole and the bucket of worms. "You get this one started and I'll go find a stick for ya."

"Okay," Andrew said uncertainly. He had absolutely no idea how to put a worm on a hook. His father usually did that for him. He wasn't about to tell TJ that though. He let the other boy run off. He reached his hand into the bucket and pulled one out, mushing it a bit between his fingers, enjoying the slimy texture. Worms were really neat. His dad had told him that if you cut one up it would eventually grow into two separate worms, and while he wasn't sure he believed that, from then on he thought worms were pretty cool.

He held the squirming worm in one hand and the lure attached to the pole in his other hand. Should he tie the worm like a knot? Would that work? He stared at the shiny metallic scales on the lure, which reflected little rainbows just above the surface of the water.  He looked down into the creek, but he didn't see any fish.

A hand shoved his back hard, thrusting him forward. For half a second he flipped upside down, heard a laugh and caught a glimpse of the sun before hitting the freezing creek water. The water cushioned his fall, flooding his nose and into his mouth before his feet hit the bottom and he pushed himself out of the water, coughing and snorting out water. TJ was on the shore just above him laughing hysterically.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"Gunslinging 201" - Last One Standing Tall

A Fantasy-Western serial

#10 - Gunslinging 201

Troy kept his word. Reed had not truly known a hard day's work until that morning. Before the sun had risen, he had repaired a number of structures in the town. His muscles burned, but he pushed on, not questioning the Sheriff since that usually just brought another load or another whack on the head. He had barely finished nailing another support beam to the main building when Troy called him back over.

"You done good so far. You still want to handle a gun?"

Reed grunted, glaring at him. His patience was beginning to wear thin.

"Most of 'em fainted by now," Troy said to himself and then to Reed, "I do believe you're the first to make it this far." Reed didn't know if this was a compliment or an insult. Though with Troy it usually tended to be the latter.

"I'm growing tired of this," Reed said, throwing down the hammer in his hand, "I have been working like a dog. I have listened to your words. Will you teach me to wield a gun or not?"

Troy frowned. "I don't know if you're ready."

"Then I must go." Reed turned away and began to head out of town. So much for this. He had wasted enough time here trying to please this man who obviously could not be pleased. He should have left immediately guns or no guns.

Reed halted, but did not turn around.

"I've been hard on you, son, but it's only because this is a hard world nowadays. A gun doesn't make you invincible."

Reed turned. "That is not why. You still do not trust me. Is it because I am a Xylem? Because I am different than you?"

They stared at each other. Troy seemed to be sizing him up again. Reed flinched defensively as Troy pulled his gun. The old man laughed.

"Glad to see you ain't forgotten number one. Now don't go running on me. I ain't gonna shoot you this time. Hold out your hand." Reed wasn't so sure of that, but he held out his hand anyway.