Joe2stories

Stories from a Dublin Scientist

Category: Stories

The memory of White

The man was old,  his body shriveled by years of hard work, his skin the colour of leather from too much time under the harsh sun. He stood on a the porch of his modest home, surrounded by the parched dust of what had once been his garden.

“Yo recuerdo los cumbres blancos de la cordillera.” I remember the white peaks of the mountains, he said, “Yo recuerdo los como el pelo blanco de mi abuela” I remember them like the white hair of my grandmother.

He pointed to the mountains in the distance, the grey of the rock, shaded blue by the haze. “Yo recuerdo el nieve, y el agua corriendo por todo el año” I remember the snow, and the water running all year. He looked at the dry pit that had once been a canal, “Yo recuerdo una tierra verde, una tierra llenado con vida, flores, arboles, mariposas.” I remember a green land, a land filled with life, flowers, trees, butterflies.

“What happened?” ¿Que occurido? I asked him. His greying eyes watered up and his voice crackled with dry emotion.

“Mi madre me dijo que lo estaba ira de Dios” My mother told me it was God’s wrath, he said, “Construyamos ciudades demasiado grande, suciamos el aire y el agua. Dios no pudo permitir el nieve blanco puro en un mundo malo. Tampoco aqua puro.” We built cities too big, we polluted the air and the water. God could not all pure white snow in a dirty world. Pure water neither.

“How did you survive?” ¿Como sobreviviste?

“Trabajo duro. Vida dura. Mucho muerto en mi pueblo. Perdi muchos amigos.” Hard work, Hard life. Many dead in my town. I lost many friends. There was a tear in his eye. “Perdimos mucho, perdimos todo, cuando perdimos el blanco en las montañas.” We lost a lot, we lost everything when we lost the snow on the mountains.

He grabbed my arm with his hand, a grip stronger than his frame suggested. “Recuerda nuestra historia.” Recuerda nuestra avisa.” Remember our story. Remember our warning.  

“Si tengas blanco nieve en tu pais. guardalo, protegelo. Los cumbres blancos salvarán tu pais.” If you have white snow in your country. Guard it, protect it. The white summits will save your country. 

“Nunca les permitas morir.” Never let them die.

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El Humo

Cuando La Moneda quemó, yo lo vi con mi madre en la televisión. Despues diez minutos, mi madre salió y yo quedé, viendo las noticias, el humo subiendo al cielo.

Yo estaba pegado la pantalla, mirando el imagenes de la ciudad. Luego, yo olaba humo. Caminé a fuera y vi mi madre tirando libros en un fuego. Ella había formado una pila de libros de historia, filosofía, poesía, y literatura.

“¿Que estás haciendo?” La pregunté.

“El país esta cambiando.” me dijo, “Ellos van a venir por el gente que leer mucho.”

Yo vi un pilar de humo levantando al cielo, un humo de ideas y sabiduría. Fue exactamente el mismo como los imágenes de la televisión.

 

English Translation

When La Moneda burned, I saw it with my mother on the television. After ten minutes, my mother left and I stayed, looking at the news, the smoke rising to the sky.

I was glued to the screen, looking at the images of the city. Later I smelled smoke. I walked out and saw my mother throwing books on a fire. She had made a pile of books of history, philosophy, poetry, and literature.

“What are you doing?” I asked her.

“The country is changing.” she told me, “The are going to come for the people that read a lot.”

I saw a pillar of smoke rising to the sky, a smoke of ideas and wisdom. It was exactly the same as the images of the television.

Land Claim

Rodrigo De  Silva was nervous, but he tried not to show it.  Instead he tried to think back through the last couple of weeks, seeing if could remember if any of his most recent infractions had been serious enough to warrant this, being summoned to the Director of Conrad City, the third largest settlement on the Moon. Maybe it was the chili powder in the environment suit prank he played on Julian O’Connell down in waste processing. Or maybe it was the smelly cheese he placed in the air duct of the security administration. He couldn’t think of anything else, at least anything else anybody knew about.

“Sit down Rodrigo.” the Director said. Rodrigo, tried to read his face, but there was very little to go on, maybe the thinly veiled threats he had received over his “Unprofessional” actions had finally gotten to him and he was going to be denied more surface time, or, even worse, forced back to Earth with the months of physiotherapy that would entail. He suppressed a shudder and was so engrossed in thinking the worst that he almost missed the next words the Director said. “I’d like to start by making myself absolutely clear that what I am going to say is not to leave these walls. Do you understand me?”

That was unusual. Old Iron Bulkheads had made himself something of a reputation of punishing his subordinates in the most public way possible. Keeping things quiet was most certainly not his style. Maybe Rodrigo wasn’t there to be punished The Director went on “Have you heard of the Nathan MacIver?”

“Yeah I have.” Said Rodrigo, “The Trash King.”

The Director’s face froze for a second in a disapproving frown. “Mr De Silva.” He cautioned “I’m not sure that such disrespectful epithets are appropriate for a man who has made a sizable fortune extracting valuable materials from the waste of three centuries. Are you?”

“No Director.” Rodrigo apologized, “Not appropriate at all. Why did you mention Mr MacIver?”

“Because he is coming here. In one weeks time. And he wants a ride to a predetermined location approx 1000 clicks to the West. We were thinking that you could do that job. Can we trust you to handle it?”

“Yeah! Sure.” Rodrigo said uneasily “But why not just post it on the regular notice board. Why the secrecy?”

“Well.” The Director inhaled deeply, “This is not your average trip. RecycloCorp, MacIver’s company has made no announcements and he himself claims that it is for “Personal Reasons””

“I take it you don’t buy it.” Rodrigo said, probing.

“Not in the least. From what I’ve read MacIver would go to the toilet in the morning without factoring it into his business plan. If he’s coming to the Moon it must be for some purpose.”

“Could it be mining?” Rodrigo asked “I mean some of the tech that RecycloCorp has must be good for getting useful things from Moon dust as well as ancient circuit boards. Can’t it?”

The Director let a thin smile cross his face. “That’s what we think too. There have been a couple of anomalous sweeps by Chinese probes in the area. We think it’s possible they found something MacIver figures he can mine profitably. All he needs is to visit the site in person and set a claim.”

“Won’t that be a good thing?” Rodrigo said, “More mines means more work for all of us. Right?”

“At the start, yes.” The Director explained “To get them set up we can expect an uptake in work. But this new mine will be a couple of days journey from here even if they bother to build a road or rail system. It will be simpler and cheaper to build their own mass driver and spaceport.”

Rodrigo thought about that for a second. “Jesus!”

“Exactly, they’ll be competition for half our business. We could lose all exploratory contracts from here to Farside.”

“God!” Rodrigo was having trouble digesting the implications, hundreds of people, whole families, depended on Conrad’s role as a supply depot and transit point, a new site so close would be a disaster. “What can we do?”

“So far all we have is suspicions.” The Director said calmly “Not enough to plan for. We need to know more. That is where you come in.”

“Me?”

“Yes. You. As you drive him out as he asked. I want you to question him, watch him and report everything that you see back to us. I can’t stress this enough, be diligent, the future of all of us may be at stake.”

It was a long week to wait but Rodrigo managed to fill practically all of it worrying about everyone around him and somehow managing not to tell anyone why he seemed so on edge. Finally though the day was nigh. A fresh bunch of arrivals was coming down from LLO1 and all of the rover jockeys, including himself had gathered around an information screen to see who was coming and where they needed to go. There was an brief silence and the list of names appeared on the screen. He found that the “Random” selector had placed his name with none other than Nathan MacIvor.

“Man! I know that name.” said Chen Xonghe, a younger driver, “That’s the Trash King. You’ve got the Trash King Rodrigo. He’s bound to tip well.”

For a harbinger of doom, Nathan MacIvor did not live up to expectations in person. Rodrigo had seen hundreds of photos of him on the InfoNet but the most recent must have been at least ten years old. He was already past the hump of middle age, with graying hair and pronounced paunch around his midriff. This placed him in contrast to the youthful graduate students and wiry rich adventurers he usually. He also appeared much more personable in person as they chatted in the brief intervals between the medical checkups and certification courses needed to go outside. In all, they were liable to take approximately two standard Earth days which non-coincidentally would be the length of time it would take to get used to moving about in the lower gravity. Though amiable, the conversations had little in the way of content, only confirming the destination,  some 50KM north East of the Lichtenburg crater and reiterating previous warnings about an ominous plastic crate liberally plastered with explosive warnings which had arrived by drone courier three days before him.

Since the crate, a tailored spacesuit, and a small personal bag of clothes and toiletries were all that MacIvor was bringing with him, Rodrigo spent most of the rest of his two days resting, being grilled repeatedly by the Director and his minions for every last utterance by MacIvor and avoiding the bar so that wouldn’t get drunk and spill the beans on the terrible fate that awaited all of them.

For all the terrible foreboding that Rodrigo has filled himself with about this journey, it’s beginning was jarringly anticlimactic. He and MacIvor simply put on their space suits, walked the fifty something meters from the airlock to their assigned rover walked entered it, did a thirty minute pre-check and then started the rover moving. Rodrigo had little else to do until they reached their destination.

Although called “drivers”, Rodrigo and his ilk were more accurately a mixture of engineer, steward, waiter and occasional porter. Their job, more than anything was to make sure that their paying charges didn’t do anything stupid and get themselves killed. Although they were capable of driving the rovers in case of emergency it was the general wisdom that the automatic systems did a far better job then they ever could.

Leaving the parking garage, the rover swung around in a northerly direction and set off in a northerly direction along a path that had been well marked with both tire tracks and marker posts placed every twenty meters. It was still early morning and so both the Sun and Earth were behind them not dazzling them will highlighting the markers and terrain nicely. On the flat, well trodden path, the rover could keep up a brisk 40 to 50 kilometers per hour which means that they would cover the planned 700km on the path in less than an Earth day. After that, they had to make their own path which depending on the terrain would limit them to between 5 and 15 kilometers an hour, still in less than three days they were expected to reach their target and with an absolute maximum stay of one day scheduled, they expected to be back in Conrad by Lunar early afternoon. An ideal mission.

Since MacIvor was traveling light and only with Rodrigo, they were assigned one of the smaller rovers with little in the way of modifications save a special blast directing harness in case something should happen to the crate securely bound to it. The rest of the rover consisted of three sections, a small control center at the front. A dining cum living/sleeping area in the center and a laboratory with the main airlock at the back. This kind of rover could fit six easily for two it was practically palatial. But not big enough for Rodrigo.

He spent the first two hours out of Conrad checking an rechecking every possible system on the rover then filling every piece of paperwork  he could think of that he had outstanding. Finally, when he couldn’t hold it off any longer he stood up from the front console and walked back into the living space. While Rodrigo couldn’t see anyone, muffled noises from behind a closed sleeping pod showed that MacIvor was in there, probably using the communications system. Relaxing a little, Rodrigo, made himself a coffee in the kitchen cubicle. The first sip told him that something was different, this actually tasted like coffee, not the flavored regolith he was used to. He double checked the supply cupboard and found to his delight that this was the real stuff, very expensive.

“Could you put on one for me too please?” Rodrigo was startled by the noise and turned to see MacIvor’s head sticking out of the pod. “Sorry if I surprised you. I figured you had found out the special supplies I had arranged for our little trip.”

Rodrigo looked again at the supply cupboard, the containers were all in Italian and probably cost a months wages just to ship. “You..You arranged all this?”

MacIvor laughed just because I’m a quarter million miles from home doesn’t mean that I have to slum it. Sure it added a fair bit to the ultimate price but like my Great Grandad always said, a little bit extra will help you get the job get done easier.” he nodded at Rodrigo, “Or those who work for you.”

Rodrigo was aghast, as he took out another, capsule out he leafed through the rest to confirm they were all the same brand. ‘insane’ he thought. He did the math. There was at least enough for a month there and they were only planning to be gone for a week. What was the plan for the rest. He’d have to send a sneaky message to Jake in shipping. This coffee was better than gold in the Lunar black market, they could make a killing.

Rodrigo had to force himself from planning his future commerce empire in his head. He was there for a purpose, to ascertain a potential threat to Conrad City, everything else had to wait. He steeled himself and asked his first seemingly innocuous question “So Mr MacIvor, have you ever been in Space before?”

“Oh Goodness.” Said MacIvor, cradling the mug of coffee Rodrigo had handed to him “Nathan.. Please. No I can’t say I have been in Space before. Well, not really. I did one of those suborbital flight as part of a stag night back when I was in college, it was a hell of a rush but compared to this..” he pointed at a window to the rear, where the Earth was visible, “That was nothing. Still I can’t say that I haven’t been dreaming about this for as long as I’ve been alive. Listen to my Great Grandad telling me about all the wonderful things that existed above the sky.”

Rodrigo felt a sense of déjà vu. There wasn’t a man alive in Conrad or anywhere on the Moon who hadn’t been a bit of a dreamer as a kid. It was almost a requirement. So far, thought Rodrigo, MacIvor did not seem in the least like the threat he had been made out to be.

Two more hours of uneventful travel brought another welcome surprise. Preparing the lunch Rodrigo, found to his delight that gone were imitation of the standard rations and instead there was a wide selection of gourmet dishes, especially prepared by MacIvor’s favourite chefs and packaged by the top food science company planet-side. “Not quite like back home.” said MacIvor between bites of butter-fried lemon sole, “but definitely better than what you had before.” Rodrigo, running the numbers on how much each bite of his lasagna cost, couldn’t help but nod.

Post lunch, as they both sat digesting what, at least to Rodrigo, had been the best meal he had eaten in well, forever, MacIvor regaled Rodrigo with more tales of his Great Grandfather. He’d been a bit of Space Nerd, books on astronomy and rocketry littering his rural home, taking a young Nathan stargazing well into his twelfth decade. Space had been a lifetime ambition for the old man, sadly unrealized. “He went into medicine instead.” MacIvor said quietly, “Parents insisted, better money. Not that he was any kind of slouch in it, he helped a lot of people in his time.” At that, Rodrigo felt urge to lift his cup, sadly only filled with water from the dispenser, and made a toast to ‘missed chances’. MacIvor looked genuinely moved.

The rest of the journey turned out generally like those first few hours, the coffee and food were consistently excellent and Rodrigo felt his mercenary urges lighten only to be replaced by a solid conviction that everyone had the right to eat that well. MacIvor had also brought a memory storage filled with classic Sci-Fi movies, another legacy of the now legendary great grandfather. It was such a diverse collection of the strangest and worse B-movies that even a seasoned space-hound like Rodrigo has seen them all. They spent a couple of hours laughing their heads off at the worse twentieth century cinema had to offer.

Troubled by his mission and the conflicting feelings that MacIvor had engendered, Rodrigo finally gathered the courage to ask him. “Nathan, I always thought you had a reputation as some kind of hard nosed businessman. But spending time with you, talking with you, you can’t seem further than that. What are you like? Really?”

MacIvor  put down his coffee, thought for a second and said “Do you know what I wanted to be growing up? An astronaut, I wanted to be one right up until I washed out of the astronautics program at university. Then I knew I could never be one. So I went into environmental technology instead. I found a niche that no one else had exploited. I turned that niche into a company worth billions. It was hard work, but I always had to work hard, I had to work hard to keep a roof over my head, then I had to work to keep my employees working, then just because I had always been working. I did it. But I never loved it. This!” He gestured around the cabin and to the Earth out the window, “This I love. I’d have done this for nothing. I’m paying you a fortune for the chance.”

Rodrigo nodded and thanked MacIvor for his candor. He also made a mental note not to ask anymore questions so directly. Sure, he’d watch and report back, but only what he saw, what MacIvor said by his own will. If was really setting up a mine on the Moon, Rodrigo was not entirely sure MacIvor would be the worst to do it. He seemed like a believer, better than the pen pushers back on Earth. And if the food was half as good in his canteen as it was here, he’d be sold.

Two and a half days came and went and a mild buzzing announced that they were approaching the target site. Both went into the control room and Rodrigo took control of the helm to direct the rover to rest at a site of MacIvor’s choosing.

There was a hectic couple of minutes while MacIvor rushed to put on his spacesuit as quickly as possible and Rodrigo fixed every potentially life ending mistake he had made in the process. The man was practically shaking with excitement as the airlock cycled and Rodrigo had to remind him to control his breathing save he pass out from the pressure change.

They both stepped out and surveyed the site they had traveled so far to reach. In the mid-morning sun it looked almost exactly like every other square meter of Moon they had passed on there way there. To his untrained eye Rodrigo could not see any of the tell tale formations that belied mineral deposits but that did not mean that there was nothing was there.

“Nathan!” Rodrigo called over the radio, “I’m going to open the crate now.” As MacIvor made his way around the rover, savoring every sight, Rodrigo gingerly broke the seals on the crate and made a silent prayer to the universe that the explosives inside wouldn’t decide that then was a good time to explode.

He could feel the latches click through the gloves on his suit and flipped open the crate. It was not what he had been expecting. Right on top was a tripod but it was not for surveying equipment but rather for a video camera, just like the one that was there beside it, a commercial camera, very high-end, built for use in vacuum, with a radio receiver rather than a microphone. Beneath then were ten plastic foil cylinders at the end of long sticks, they did not look like any seismic charges that Rodrigo had ever seen before but that wasn’t entirely damning.

“Okay! Rodrigo.” MacIvor had come up behind him, “Could you set up the tripod and camera which I place these.” He then reached in and grabbed a hand full of the stakes. Rodrigo couldn’t suppress a flinch as two of the heads collided violently in MacIvors hand. But there was no explosion, he seemed entirely comfortable with them.

As Rodrigo set up the tripod and attached the camera to the top, MacIvor walked out about twenty meters and pushed one of the stakes into the ground. Then he shifted about eight meters to the right and pushed in another. Then out another ten meters. Then back. and five more to the right. He made another trip to the crate and took the rest and continued along the same. Seemingly at random or at least with no discernible pattern.

While that was going on Rodrigo got the camera working and informed MacIvor. “Great!” he replied “Can you make sure all of these are in the shot? Do I need to move any of them?” A bewildered Rodrigo replied in the negative.

MacIvor made another trip to the crate and removed two more items, one was a series of sheets of metallic paper, made for the vacuum, and the other looked like a remote detonator. Rodrigo grew interested at that, an emotion that quickly turned to horror as MacIvor got to within three meters of the first stake and casually pressed the button.

The plastic foil ripped apart releasing a plastic pink mass that quickly expanded into the form of a flamingo. Rodrigo took his eye away from the camera to confirm that that was indeed a plastic flamingo, sitting there, on the surface of the moon. He made to ask something but MacIvor had already made his way to the next which expanded into a sign saying “Keep off the grass”

Rodrigo watched unbelieving as MacIvor made is way through the stakes making up a final total of four pink flamingos, three sheep, another sign saying thanks for visiting and a coconut palm. MacIvor then positioned himself in front of the camera with this motley ensemble behind him and began to read from the metal sheets.

“One hundred and seventy years ago Angus James MacIvor purchases via online sale a one acre site on the moon in this exact location. On this day, I, Nathan William MacIvor, his great grandson and heir, do hereby take formal possession of this property in the name of my dearly departed grandfather and the rest of his family.”

MacIvor kept speaking for a while more while a confused Rodrigo watched through the camera screen. This is what Nathan MacIvor’s great plan had been. This is what had scared him and Conrad City’s leadership half to death. Rodrigo couldn’t believe it. He knew the Director wouldn’t believe it either.

But at least there was the video. If only he could get a copy. He should ask Nathan after this is done. He’d probably give me one Rodrigo thought, looking at the flamingos standing in the lunar dust, he seems pretty cool.

 

 

The Right Stuff

Bob looked at the scrawny lump of nerves sitting on the couch in much the same way he would a piece of dog’s business on the sole of his shoe. That his daughter, Jane, had her arm tightly around this one’s did not help matters.

“So!” He asked, “You are the man..” you could taste the sarcasm in that last word, “I have heard so much about?”

The Wretch mumbled something in assent  and nervously answered more of the questions that Bob threw at him. 

“Where are you from?” 

“Berkleyville”

“Hmmm. We can’t all be from the nicer parts of the city now can we? What do your parents do?”

“My mom raised me on her own. She’s a cleaner.”

” And you made it this far despite that! Well done! What is your major?”

“I’m thinking either literature or philosophy.”

“You can’t decide? With either one you’ll end up in the same coffee shop…. So no stress there then. Sooo how long have you been sleeping with my daughter?”

At that, Jane, who had been squeezing the poor guy’s hand harder and harder at each question, shot up out of her chair, shouted “Oh God! I can’t take any more of this!” and ran from the room. Before Bob could get up, the boyfriend was out the door after her. “What did I say?” He asked himself. And set off after them.

Bob checked the kitchen, the hallway and Jane’s old room. All were empty. It was only when he went back down the stairs did he hear the retching from the back garden.

Jane, bless her soul, had a weak stomach and any amount of stress was liable to lead her vomiting up whatever she had eaten in the previous hour or two. Bob tried to figure out what could have set her off this time and realised that for all his attention on the boyfriend he hadn’t paid any attention to how Jane had taken any of his “brisk” questioning. He was going to get hell for that when the missus finds out. But first things first, his daughter needed him.

Bob shuffled through the house and came out the back door only to stop as if he had intruded on something private. There was Jane, bent over the flower beds, shivering as she had so many times and with his hands around her, carefully holding back her hair, was the new boy, in the exact same pose as he had so many times, for exam jitters and sports final stress. He was saying something softly to her, something comforting. Bob couldn’t hear, but he sure could guess.

Bob went back to the sitting room, thought for a second and made a detour to the den to grab two beers from his stash. He placed the beers carefully behind his chair and sat down in wait. When Jane and the boyfriend, Russel he thought his name was, were done outside, Jane would come in to shout at bit at him as to how he was a jerk if she had the strength and then go up to bed for a rest. That would mean Bob and the boyfriend would be alone for a while.

The twenty minute grilling hopefully would not have left any permanent scars, maybe they could work around them, back to an understanding. Bob knew he had to, for Jane’s​ sake. After all, this new one had proven himself, as far as Bob was concerned, as having the right stuff.

Six word stories 061216

They need one guy, everyone declined.

Donated blood. It saved my life.

Ghosts in Attic. Best room-mates ever.

Had cockroach problem. Before spider problem.

Rat in bathroom. Eaten by spider.

“Just one bite” Vampires very persuasive.

 

The Night without Memory

It was the night without memory. Across the town people celebrated this gift from God and did everything they wanted to and more. They let their basest desires control their actions. It was an orgy of self-indulgence.

In a small cafe, tucked away from those excesses, a man and a woman met.

She was well dressed; he wore grubby work clothes.

Her skin was pale and smooth; his grizzled and bronzed by the sun.

She had a wedding ring, his fingers were bare.

He smiled at her, she grinned like a girl.

He took her hand, she squeezed his gently.

She pulled him forward and he wrapped his arms around her.

He kissed her, she kissed him back.

They talked about their memories, about how their lives had changed, and especially about what could have been.

As the night went on they stayed close to each other, dancing slowly to their old songs. It was as if the years had disappeared and they both felt young again.

They held each other closer and made plans, swore that they could leave the lives they had and run away together. He said they would have no money but they would be richer than ever because they had each other.

Then the bells started to ring, the warning that the night would soon be over. In seconds the noise from the party outside was noticeably lighter.

They kissed a final time, made each other promise to meet again. But as they walked away from each other, down the emptying streets, the feelings and the memories of the night were already starting to fade. By Sunrise, it would be gone.

That was the gift and the curse. The night would be erased.

It was the night without memory. There would be no new tomorrow.

A New Age

In the seventh reign of the Age of Blood, Marqoc the Defiler roamed freely about the Earth. He was a demon, the greatness of his power matched only by the depths of his cruelty. He destroyed, he enslaved, he consumed and no Earthly force could hope to stop him. He was master of the world, and boasted that all of mankind would stay under his iron grip for eternity. They were dark times and death and misery stalked the land. But no matter how deep the darkness, hope, the tiniest flickers of hope found its way into the hearts of men. Wise men, brave souls who risked greater torments than Earthly pain, sought the hidden secrets that sympathetic gods had left across the globe for their creation’s darkest hour. They learned the ways of unnatural forces, of the powers that bind the cosmos and that dwell within the hearts of all men, they learned the many arts that men commonly call magic and they learned it well. In time; Marqoc was beset by powerful attacks by men wielding these new powers, he was assailed by fire from archmages, struck at by magic swords forged in volcanic forges, and trapped by magic spells cast by warlocks. He was weakened by the sheer strength of the onslaught, reduced to a non-corporeal state, and so he fled, as fast as he could to the edges of the world, to the redoubt that he built high in the endless mountains but even there he was not safe. His assailants massed around them, preparing their reserves of power, readying themselves for the final blow.

But Marqoc did not give them the opportunity to strike. Summoning all his remaining strength, he wrapped himself in a shell of time, freezing himself, isolated from the rest of the world. For Marqoc, it only was the slightest instant, but for the rest of the world a thousand generations passed by. When Marqoc opened the shields of his redoubt, there was no wizards, no warlocks, no pursuers of any kind. He was safe and free to take on the world again.

Marqoc travelled the length and breadth of the world. A lot had changed; it was truly a different age from the time he had once ruled. This world was filled with wonders made by the hands of man. Great cities, rivers’ courses changed, great boxes of metal moving on their own through streets of black pitch, flying through the air and even above the air amongst the stars. But for all those wonders, Marqoc could not feel the tell-tale sign of the powers beyond nature, there was no magic in this world. For all their knowledge, the teeming masses of mankind in this new age had no defence against the demonic powers of Marqoc. He could stomp upon this world even more thoroughly than before. No one would have a chance of stopping him. He swooped down on the world and chose his first victim.

Marqoc always had a taste for the innocent and when he saw a young mother struggling with a wailing child the vile wastes of his soul lit up with the thought of impending satiation. He approached the woman, unheard, unseen, unfelt, except for a slight feeling of unease that she may have noticed had she not been so occupied. Marqoc, came up right behind the woman and with a shift through the magical dimensions entered into her mind.

Though, in his mind, it had only been mere weeks since he had last taken over the body of an innocent, he could feel the ages in real time since he last had the pleasure. He could feel the movement of her body, her breath, the sun on her skin, the hint of the carnal in the way her clothes touched her body. It was a feeling that he well remembered.

But he did not invade this woman’s body to relive old times. He was there with a purpose. He made her shake the child and look it in the eye. It stopped crying, young children have a sense for the other worldly, and just stared at her, as if probing. As they stared at each other Marqoc made the woman lift the child and with a surprising burst of strength for someone so tired, throw him out into the traffic, right into the path of an oncoming truck. He noticed with satisfaction that the child was lying on the asphalt of the road just long enough for a wave of terror to fill his mind before it was crushed into oblivion. He exited the woman, who promptly broke down screaming at the realisation of what she had done. Then; from his vantage point beneath reality, Marqoc sat back and waited.

Within a minute there was already a sizable crowd around the scene. Several of the onlookers had already seized the woman, whose cries of grief had weakened to wretched sobs and were waiting for the police to come and deal with her. There was a lot of murmuring, questions about “why?” and “what could have made her do that?” There were some tears and gasps of shock, all of which Marqoc approved of. The feeling of loss and sadness penetrated the aether, as well as a strong sense of anger. Marqoc could feel it swimming around him, could feed off the emotions. But something was missing, something odd. There was no fear.

That was not how things used to be. When Marqoc made people do the unspeakable, others knew that what had just happened had been his work. They knew that he was about and they also knew that any one of them could be next. But this world had no knowledge of Marqoc, they did not recognise his work when they saw it. Instead, as he watched, they began to rationalise what had happened, they blamed mental illness, stress, confusion caused by the noise of the traffic. Some even blamed the driver, who was still recovering from the shock of what had happened, even though he would have had no chance of reacting in time.

No one even hinted at the occult, or demons. When the police arrived, they had already made up their minds that the woman had been driven mad by something, a position that had been reinforced by her ravings that she had had no control over her actions. She was carted away and the news media who arrived not long after reported it as a tragic accident based solely in reality.

This was not what Marqoc wanted, he wanted people to think of him, and he wanted people to believe that he was there to make their lives a misery. Above all; he wanted people to fear him. This would not do.

Marqoc decided to double his efforts, but wherever he went the same problem followed him. He went to New York and made a train driver derail a subway carriage, killing dozens. The citizenry blamed excessive workload and demanded a shorter working week for drivers.

He went to India and made a infantry colonel order shelling of a Pakistani position, the resulting minor conflagration killed hundreds. In the aftermath, the governments of both countries blamed hawkish politicians and signed a peace treaty.

He entered the mind of a teenager in a Midwestern town and made him enter his school with his father’s shotgun. It was barely mentioned before something new came along to talk about.

He even infected a father of three in France and made him butcher his children in a demonic sacrifice. The French authorities reported it as the act of a deranged man and banned all heavy metal music on the radio for a year “just to be safe”.

He infected mind and mind all over the world and made them do unspeakable things but they barely made an impact in a world already filled with evil acts and hideous suffering. While he could make an impact on the local level, to individuals, there was never enough to enter the popular consciousness. It took him a while to figure it out but in the end Marqoc realised that in this age, because no one believed in magic, no one believed in him, so no one feared him. Fear, was where he got his real power. Without the fear of the people he could never regain corporeal form. He had no chance, despite the powers he had, of truly dominating the world.

He mulled on that for the better part of a week. In the end he was so upset that he made a pair of newlyweds strangle each other, which made him feel a little better until that act, like all the others he did, faded into obscurity.

With no hope of influencing an age without even the ability to appreciate the evil he could bring upon it; Marqoc decided that there was only one thing he could do. He went around the world, seeking the right kind of person, the kind of person who could change the world, if given time. In their minds he placed, not a command, not a list of instruction, but simply an idea, an idea that in the fertile soil of their thoughts could hopefully bear fruit, magic is real. They were slow to burn. Maybe an article here, a book there, the occasional modern day hermit playing with the occult in his basement, but it is such small seeds that grow into the mightiest trees.

With those seeds planted, he returned to his redoubt high in the hidden mountains, he cast his spell and again time stopped for Marqoc.

And so there he waits, frozen in an instant, waiting for magic to once again to fill the beliefs of Mankind, and when it does, Marqoc will return, to bring fear and despair. A new age where he can truly rule.

Day Release

Mark waited in the foyer, security guard keeping an eye on him. The clock had passed ten in the morning and he could feel a pang of nerves starting to bubble under the surface. He took a deep breath and surpressed it. Things were going to go well, he just knew it.

There was a screech of brakes as a car came to a sudden stop outside followed by the slam of a car door. Then David, Mark’s brother bustled in. He shot across the tiled floor, grabbed Mark in a hug, and said “Great to see you out again brother!” Mark was too overwhelmed to say anything, but he did return the hug, the contact helped the nerves go away.

The car down the steps was the same one that David had owned before. One of the doors had a dent that he didn’t remember but it was nice to see something familar. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there waiting for you Mark.” David said as he got into the driver’s seat “But Cathy is after bringing her new baby over from London” Mark said that he didn’t know his niece had  been pregnant. Cathy had been sixteen when he last saw her. By the time they allowed vistors she had moved to England for Uni, details after that had been fragmented. “Well you’ll get to see her at the house and your new grandnephew. Oh! I tell ya! It is going to be a veritable family reunion this afternoon what with all the phone calls Marian’s been making. Everyone will be there.” then he paused for a second “Well.. Maybe not everyone. But you’ll still have a great time.”

But Mark wasn’t really paying attention to David. They had reached the gate between the towering walls and he felt a momentary fear as he saw the traffic pass by on the street. What if someone saw that he was coming out and copped what he was, even what he had done? But none of the anonymous drivers even made to look at him as they passed. Quickly; they were away from the high walls and out in suburban Dublin.

Mark’s brother had always been a talker. A conversation with him usually involved a lot of listening. Mostly it was about Cathy’s new baby “The first time he ever saw me, he smiled at me. She said he hardly ever smiles at anyone new.” and being a grandparent “It’s a great feeling being a granddad but I have to say, Marian’s a granny now too, that feels a little weird.”, and then to “So I told him, right. I told him to his face ‘These doctors, they have more brains in their little finger than you’ll ever have in your fat head and if they say it’s going  to be grand then it’ll be grand.’ so then I just walked out and I haven’t had a drink there since.”

“Will Gloria be there today?” the question came out of Mark’s lips unconsciously. David stayed quiet for a minute, as if uncertain what to say. Then “You know how it is Mark, it’s been hard for her and Sally, what with what happened. We see them every now and then, not as often as we’d like, they’re doing great. But you know; they’re still nervous. Maybe the next time. Provided.. you know.” Mark knew what was being said by that pause. Provided you don’t do something. “But don’t dwell on that!” David regained his cheerfulness “You’re only out for a day. It took longer than that to build Rome.”

It took them twenty minutes to reach David’s house, there was a banner,  Welcome back Mark, and bunting on the walls. There was no one outside to greet him but when David opened the door there was a chorus of welcome. Nearly everyone was there. There was Marian, David’s wife, his son, Robbie and his new fiancee, Cathy, the daughter, with her husband and their new son John, named after Mark and David’s departed father, Mark’s widowed mother , a smattering of aunts, uncles and cousins as well as a couple of friends from the neighbourhood his former workplace.

It was good to see them all again. Many had visited him over the years but this was different, happier. Everyone wanted to talk to him, the conversations ranged from from the supportive “Glad to see you’re out Mark. We knew you’d pull through.”, to the wildly inappropriate “So. What’s it like in there? Can you tell me?”, to the mildly indignant “What do you mean you can’t have a drink? Not even a shandy?” He had been arguing with that particular questioner, one of his oldest drinking buddies when the rest of the room went suddenly silent. A voice from behind, a voice he had not heard in a long time “Mark”.

He turned slowly and there she was, Gloria, a woman he had pledged to love and protect but whom he had failed miserably. She looked exactly as he remembered, save for the scar on her cheek, very faint now, it had healed up well.

Mark made a move towards her but she shrank back, fear filling her face, the kind of fear you saw a lot of inside. He stopped himself, instead saying “It’s good to see you.”

Gloria wavered for a second, as if conflicted between moving to him or running away. Marian, by then close to her side placed a hand on her shoulder, this seemed to calm Gloria and silently placed her hand over it in thanks. Her eyes were starting to glisten with tears as she said ” I’m not going to stay here long Mark. I just came to say… To say that I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not coming to see you.” She sniffed, her voice breaking, but there was a smile on her lips “They tell me you’re getting better, that, maybe, you’ll be able to come home. That’s good. It’s hard for us. You have to know that. But I wanted to tell you that if you’re back. If you’re really back then we’ll try.. For you.”

By then the tears were flowing uncontrollably and Marian had wrapped a hand around her to lead her out of the room. David at the same instant had his arm around Mark, who was also starting to cry and took him out a doorway into the back garden. When they were away from from everyone David stopped and turned Mark to look into his eyes “Did you hear that Brother? Did you hear that? You have a chance, a second chance to get it back. All you have to do is get well again. Do you think you can do that?”

Mark didn’t know. He had been a long time before he even admitted that he was sick and even then it was a long road to get just this far. “I don’t know.” He said “But I’ll try… For them.”

Watering the Plants

Sometimes you look at the world and find that things just don’t seem to fit, that things do not work. Some people who see that want to complain to the gods but in truth it is not really their fault, when they made the world, it was their first day.
One of the biggest mistakes they made was forgetting that the plants they created to cover the ground were not made of the same stuff that they were, not immortal and everlasting, but frail, mortal and needing care. It was only after a few days that the Gods noticed that their brand new plants starting to wilt and even then they were hours figuring out what needed to be done.
What those plants needed, it turned out, was water, something that there was very little of at the beginning of the world, the Gods much preferring rock work over water features. So it turned out that someone had to bring water to all of the plants in the world. All the Gods baulked at that, because they to a divine entity, allergic to manual labour. So they drew lots, overseen by Bob, the king of the Gods, and Trevor, a God without portfolio, was chosen. So he got himself a little watering can, filled it up at the tap and went around the world watering all of creation. The plants all took to the watering and thrived and that was good but as the world got bigger and bigger and it was difficult for Trevor to keep up with the demand all of the plants were making. So he went to Bill, the God of plumbing, and came up with a system of pipes and sprinklers to take some of the load off Trevor and that worked well for a while too.
But after a couple of eons of this, there was another bit of a problem. All of the water that was being sprinkled on the plants had to go somewhere so it started to gather in the low points of the world. Building up first into ponds, then lakes and finally, seas. Poor Trevor wasn’t quite sure. He knew that the plant life in the world needed water to live but if he kept adding it the world would would eventually be flooded. He consulted with Bill about adding a drain down the Marianas trench but in the end circumstances beyond his control began to play out.
It turns out that Phil, the God of the Sun had been making a hames of what was supposed to be a simple job. The Sun was moving around in the sky not in the perfect circle that everyone had agreed with but instead in a parabolic motion that meant the Sun got closer at some times and further away at others. When the Sun was close these new bodies of water started to change into gas, billowing up into the sky, individual pieces of water gathering first as mists, then as great big clouds. This was a boon for the Gods and Mavis, the Goddess of Madness set it up so that people could see things in the clouds, everything from animals to erotic shapes, the thought of which would, as Mavis intended, drive you to distraction.
When the Sun got further away, the world got cooler, the clouds got darker and heavier and then finally it started to rain. It rained down on the whole world, soaking every plant in creation. Trevor was astounded, he had been watering with a can and that sprinkler set up for years and now here was the Sun, doing it for free. And that was when Trevor had his epiphany. The systems of the world, the sun, the wind, the rain, could act together, with appropriate tweaking, to sustain all the plants, all the life of the world, indefinitely. And that is what Trevor, as God of weather, has done, keeping the plants watered, up to this very day.

Picture it and Write: Real

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and write for Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine, it is by paleotic, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, enjoy.

Real

Robert Fields was in a bad mood. Today was turning out to be one of those kinds of days at the DinoZoo, America’s primary prehistoric park.

The Pachycephlasaurs were pummeling each other.

A Triceratops had toppled a tree on a Troodon.

The Mammoths were moulting.

And the T-Rex had a toothache.

Each one of these on their own would be a great enough problem to lead to Robert pulling his hair off. But then, to top it all off, he had just gotten a call from the raptors.

Just to be clear, this wasn’t about the raptors, it was from the raptors. They had turned out to be a lot less aggressive but considerably more intelligent than originally envisaged. They were so smart, in fact, that the park was forced to consider them employees rather than exhibits. Pretty good wages, their own on-site apartments, lunch breaks, full health insurance, and paid leave, though few places actually would let them visit (a team of lawyers were working on that).   

Knowing better than to let his prize attractions wait Robert rushed to the Raptor exhibit. As expected; they were not on display, it being lunch time, so he went on back to the employee lounge. There they were, all five of the raptors and maybe another eight human park rangers, sitting around a table, chatting away. There appeared to be a heated discussion going on and Robert caught Billy, the head greens keeper end with a “You’re right! It is a disgrace. We should give those guys back in the office a piece of our mind.” There were shouts and hisses of agreement from around the table. But that all stopped when someone spotted Robert at the door.

Every eye turned at once on Robert, human and raptor both equally cagey. Then Doris, the raptors’ pack leader, and union rep for the whole zoo (raptors were very good negotiators, even without the threat of disemboweling) got up and walked over to him. She had some papers in her talons, this was never a good sign.

She practically tossed the papers at Robert. “What isssss the meaning of thisssss?” she asked in accented but perfectly passable English. He read through the first few. It was a selection of articles harvested from the internet. He knew quickly enough what this was going to be about.  Oh crap, he thought.

More feathered dinosaurs discovered in Mongolia, one headline said.

Tyrannosaurus; Scaly or Fluffy? said another.

And most damning of all, All Real Dinos had feathers; how DinoZoo got it wrong.

“Thisssss isssss Outrageousssss.” Doris said. There were ‘yessssses’ and ‘damn rights’ from back at the table. “You make usssss. But you do not do it right. Exssplain yourssself.”

Robert let out a sigh of anguish. He had tried everything in his power to prevent the raptors finding that out, no modern text books, censored internet access, everything but it was only a matter of time. He still wasn’t  sure how it was going to explain it. The lab boys had their share of the blame, using lizard and crocodile DNA in the mix. So had marketing, convincing everyone that ‘scaly is scarier’. But he had a feeling that most was going to fall on him, like it always did.

He checked the organiser on his phone. “Dave from Head Office will be over for the next Board meeting on Monday. I can add your concerns to the agenda an discuss them then. Is that alright?”

“For now.” She nodded in assent “We exsspect an apology for this abysssmal treatment.” She turned her back on him, that meant their conversation was over, you didn’t argue with a raptor.

Robert left the room and headed straight for the office, his mind already thinking of the thousand other problems that demanded his attention. Still; ways to diffuse this latest raptor problem occasionally surfaced in his head. What if he got an artist to draw Doris as she would with feathers? Went all out ridiculous, maybe she would find it so silly she wouldn’t speak of it again. Or what if he changed the rosters for the petting zoo so that Doris got out of it? The others would get jealous at that and maybe he could break-up their united front. He shook is head, Doris would see through that in a second, he’d have a strike on his hands quicker than he could say “Clever Girl”. Nobody wanted that.

Robert mulled it a bit more as he walked past the rest of the exhibits and thronging visitors. He laughed at himself. If anyone told him back in business school that he would he negotiating with a dinosaur…much less how good she’d be at it.

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