Monday, December 16, 2013

Bit 47: The House in the Woods, The elephant and the Dog (A NaNo 2013 excerpt)

The elephant and the great dog-thing nuzzled each other and quietly gamboled through the dead leaves in the small bowl-shaped side yard. Even though the air was charged with tension, some element of both danger and potential, they seemed calm and content in each other’s company at the moment. 

“They've allowed you forty-five minutes to go for a walk with him, to say your goodbyes” Oswald said. “I’ll only need a few of those, it’s no big deal.” she lied. 

They both knew she would take every bit of time allowed, every minute, every second, to be with the dog-thing, to soak up whatever he might impart, whatever might trigger the catalyst in her brain or her heart or her mind that would start the cascade of changes they were so desperate to have and yet to avoid.  He anticipated that she might attempt to bolt with the creature, to run off to nowhere in particular, just to avoid parting from it as the council had so wisely decreed. Oswald wondered if he would stop her, let her go, or perhaps even aide her flight. 

He looked away from her, away from her dog-thing and his elephant, to scan the surrounding trees. At least it was lighter under the trees now that the leaves had finished falling, easier to detect anything untoward that might be lurking there. He knew there were numerous factions, new-thinkers, traditionalists, and gods-know what else who would surely see her capture or even death as having potential to either further or hinder their cause. Nothing but a slow moving big cat of some sort, a lynx perhaps, trying to move away from sight as quietly and invisibly as possible before the dog-thing might notice it. 

“I want to see the file, the book, whatever you call the records, just for a moment, before we go” she said, stepping back into the master’s house. It was still there on the table, seemingly undisturbed. 

She had half expected the master to try to keep her from seeing it, even though everyone knew it was her right. Instead he chose to act nonchalant, as though the information there was of no consequence, no particular concern to him.

 “Certainly Giselle, but if you want to have your walk before The Dog-thing is taken away, you’d probably better get to it. It will be getting dark sooner than you think.” She shuddered. He knew she wouldn't want to risk getting caught outside after dusk, not after her brother had been caught by Dew-point all those years ago.

“I’ll ride Sadie along with them, Sir, just to keep an eye out” the old minder said. “They’ll be safe with us.” 

 Oswald, a step behind her, picked up the file “Let’s just take this along shall we? I’m sure it will fit in one of Sadie’s pack-bags, and we wouldn't want it to tempt anyone, would we” He said it as a statement, not a question and the master looked up sharply at him, but gave no voice to the affront. 

He couldn't afford to insult the young woman just yet, not till he knew what she might become, what she might do, whether she would be an asset or a hindrance…

As they walked around the side of the master’s house, wide and deep, in the Japanese-revival style, the wind stirred the dry leaves to swirl around the elephants knees and the dog-thing snapped at a few, just out of reach of her hands. The master watched them disappear from a back bedroom window and wondered what information was hidden away in that file. 

“What do you suppose his name is?” she asked. “What makes you think it has one? Not everyone everywhere names their animals as we do, and there’s no telling where it came from” “He has a name, I’m sure of it. I just haven’t gotten what it is from him yet. I guess I probably never will now. Are you quite sure they won’t harm him?” 

“They have assured me, Giselle, that they've no intention of harming him in any way, but that he simply must be quarantined until they’re sure he carries no diseases or harmful agents of instability.  I have no reason to doubt them, beyond the normal reason of their being politicians and scientists” 

She blinked and stared at him out from under her bangs – “I certainly do, have you forgotten what they said after dew-point took Bryan – that it was probably best if I didn't find him, as he’d have to be studied if I did?  Studied! As though he was lab-rat or something in a petri dish!”. “It’s part of their job to find out what things are threats to society and how they are threats, they didn’t mean to be callused to your feelings.” 

The dog-thing had run a short ways ahead as they spoke, and now as Sadie started to step over a tiny creek-let something lashed out of the mud and wrapped around her front leg. With a bellow she reared up and bumped Oswald and Giselle both to the ground as another tendril whipped out of the shallow water and just missed the young woman's head. Out of nowhere the other animal was back with them, snarling and roaring as it snapped its huge jaws on the thing wrapped around the terrified elephant’s leg. Oswald had drawn his long sword from his sash even as he rolled back up from the ground and deftly sliced through the second limb as came back at them. A shrill ear-piercing screech seemed to come from everywhere around them and nowhere in particular as both long tendrils of what appeared to be roots or vines sucked back into the shallow water and the squelching mud in the blink of an eye. Giselle had leaped to her feet and drawn her own shorter sword even as Oswald had drawn his long sword. Now, before he could react she threw it and pegged a tendril Oswald had not seen rising to the tree that was just a foot behind him. Again came the shrill screeching and the tendril pulled free, splitting itself around her blade as it too retracted, lightning-fast, back into the ground. 

The Dog-thing snarled and spun around, looking this way and that, as though challenging the creature to attack again. “Up on Sadie’s back – Now!” shouted Oswald, taking her by one arm and placing the other hand in the small of her back fairly throwing her up onto the elephant who now stood trumpeting as though warning or calling for help. Oswald shouted “Sadie! A-Hai! Nagawa!” and immediately the pachyderm spun on her heels and started quickly back through the trees towards the master’s house. Something bumped Oswald on the hip and he almost jumped out of his skin before he saw that it was the Dog-thing, looking up at him expectantly before running over and barking at the tree where his mistress' blade was still lodged. 

“Right, she’d be very upset if we forgot that, it was her brother’s you know” The Dog-thing looked at him and chuffed as though to say “Yes, will you get it so we can get out of here, now?” By the time the man and the Dog-thing caught up to Sadie and Giselle they had gotten almost all the way back to the house and she was yanking on the back edge of Sadie’s head-piece trying to get her to stop or at least slow down. “Sadie, you can stop now, I think we’re fine” Oswald called as he trotted up and laid a hand along the fast walking elephant. Sadie stopped so fast he bumped his head into her massive thigh and just caught himself before he fell backward. 

Giselle looked down in mixed concern and relief – “Thank gods – you’re okay! The way Sadie took off I didn't know if you were coming or if that thing got you and What the Hell was that?!” “I have no idea, I’ve never seen or heard tell of anything like that around here or anywhere else.” the minder replied. “Rest assured though, both Master Beemer and the council will be getting an earful as soon as we get back to the house and someone better be sending out a squad to deal with it – assuming that it’s still there. I wouldn’t be surprised if it hasn’t miraculously disappeared by the time anyone gets back to it, or at least back to where it was.” 

“I’m not letting the council have Martin.” she said. “What? Who?” “Martin. That’s his name, and there’s no way I’m letting them take him after he just helped save my life” “Um, begging your pardon, but I just saved your life remember, and you in turn might have saved mine. I’m glad you’ve obviously kept up your weapons practice by the way, nice throw.” “Yes, thank you Oswald, and you’re welcome. But remember Martin is the one who grabbed that thing off of Sadie making it possible for us, me at least, to escape. Therefore he helped save my life, possibly your life too and the council can keep their hands off him!”

Oswald could tell there would be no point in arguing with her now. Furthermore, he agreed with her. Martin, as she was now calling the big dog-thing was obviously a boon to her safety and had earned the right not to be held by and possibly experimented on by the council. No, he really did not trust the esteemed members of the council not to find some excuse why the creature needed to be “studied” while in their care. It was just the kind of thing they could almost be counted on to do – to go back on their collective word, knowing that no single one of them would be able to be held liable for a reversal by the whole group. If they wanted Martin, they’d have to go through him to do it, even if it meant losing his pension. 

When they got back to the house it was empty. No Master Beemer, no council, and no staff returned from the town a few miles away, no one at all. Oswald was immediately suspicious though he had no idea how the master would have, could have, orchestrated the vine-like creature’s attack. There wouldn't even have been any way of knowing they would be going that way on their afternoon walk. 

Still, it was too late now for them to make the town before nightfall so Oswald took Sadie around to the large barn and got her settled with Giselle's help and while Martin sat in the barn’s doorway obviously keeping guard…

- Andrew woke from the dream, stretched and went to get a cup of coffee. He needed to think about that one – did it even fit with the rest of the story?

What did Andrew need to happen next in this story? He needed to better define the characters and the setting, including the world, dew-point, Martin the dog, Oswald the minder, Sadie the elephant.
What’s the point here? 

How does dew point figure into this?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Perceptions On a Summer's Day (may vary)

He watched the path down where the it came out from under the buckbrush. Something just out of sight was coming towards him. It was much louder than he would have thought anything that would fit under there could be. True, the sound of it's passage, more ambling than charging, seemed louder because of the many seasons' worth of fallen oak leaves there.

Little Head-Bob the owl sat on the black oak branch some thirty feet up from the ground. He listened with unease, even though he knew the odds of anything down there being a threat to him up here were pretty slim. He was learning gradually to not make rash moves over hasty conclusions about what were often, really, non-threats. 

More than once he had leapt from the safe comfortable nest into the roaring campfire, so to speak, just to get away from nothing. When he told this observation to his mate she responded that he had gotten awfully wordy, no doubt from spending too much time around humans. 

The old turtle paid attention to everything as he moved through the woods. He felt the brittle crackling of the dry leaves under his feet and the small sticks scraping along the sides of his shell. He heard the wind in the trees. He smelled the prickly pear fruit, just ripe, up there next to the sandstone place. 

He might enjoy that if he got up there, perhaps even this afternoon if he kept a steady pace. He couldn't see that far with his near sighted turtle-vision, but he could certainly almost taste the cactus fruit. Were prickly pears worth traipsing around out in the open up on the sandstone? He knew sometimes hungry coyotes howled there in the night.

He stopped and thought about that and about the great horned owl sitting in the tree on the edge of the little clearing just ahead. He drew into his shell then, closing the door in front of his eyes. 

It had been many seasons since he had, as a tiny shelled hatch-ling, crossed paths with a great horned owl. He had survived that then and he was pretty sure it was no real threat to him now. Still, it made him anxious. 

Turtles' long memories gave them plenty of things to think about, plenty of things to stay in about. At least Bobby's memories did. There in his cozy shell, insulated from outside concerns, he fell into a half dosing kind of sleep as the morning turned to noon.

Bob dreamt of walking the path through the woods on the hill, up towards the old sandstone. His perspective seemed curiously skewed. He was seeing the woods from a bit above what he thought of as his normal perspective. Still he was not up as high as say, a bird gliding through the trees searching for poor slow little things to pounce upon. He saw himself wondering why he had thought of it that way. Walking along in his dream he hummed an old tune about a broken arrow and a bottle of rain to make himself feel calmer, but then he couldn't remember why.

He bolted upright in his bed wide-eyed at the sound of one word, one syllable spoken loudly, somewhere in the room right there next to him. He looked over at his wife. Sound asleep, she had her head buried under the pillow. She had surely not made that sound. The room was silent now. All he could hear was the ringing in his ears. The Ring said nearly nothing. Just *

He got out of bed and walked into his son's room. Nothing. He walked down the stairway, through the living room, the dining room, the kitchen. Nothing. He blinked once, slowly, there in the kitchen, in the dark.

Bobby shook himself awake inside his shell and opened his eyes. It felt as though something had been reset in his mind, in his... feelings. Never mind, he saw himself think. He could feel it was warming up out there now and he opened his shell and started off through the underbrush.

He vaguely recalled being anxious about something that had startled him. Some sound, some sharp intake of information, unsought and unprepared for.  He stepped out of the concealing brush.

Owls didn't need to concern him now he thought, though every now and then one might come down to rasp stark warnings about the nature of crows and clack it's sharp beak at him. They tended to vocalize their opinions too much he thought. Most things did. The old turtle walked resolutely past the big owl's perch as it watched him now, in stony silence.

Bobby liked the mourning doves though. Their soft murmurings as they tucked each other in, to keep safe through the night, comforted him greatly sometimes. The sound meant something tender, and hopeful, and brave.

It reminded him of the promise of spring, heard and tasted even in the chill fall air as he would be going into some dark den to hibernate, perhaps never to come out again.

He smelled the sweet prickly pears again as he stepped out of the trees, up onto the warm sandstone, and into the full open sunlight. 
He heard the mourning doves cooing softly, somewhere, just behind him.

For your listening pleasure:
"Broken Arrow" Robbie Robertson, Acoustic cover by Mr. Brad Cole


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I can't live at Hogwart's

I don't want to live at Hogwarts, anymore.

See, the thing is, I wouldn’t last at Hogwarts and I know it. Hogwarts - just a bit too orderly, too well thought out in terms of administration for me to fit in there.

I’m afraid at this ripe old age and at my current levels and waves of brain and heart stuff, I’d be a little bit too …. well, just “too” in general. Mr Every-thing-to-excess, ok? 

It’s nothing against Hogwarts, which would be a totally awesome-est place to be for a while. It’s not them, really, it’s me.The closest thing they seem to have to me is Luna Lovegood, and I have none of her grace under idiot teasing type fire. There would be ... unpleasant-ness, requiring parental notification, pretty much guaranteed.

I know, it’s practically unfathomable to many of you, especially if you Don’t follow me on twitter, that I might be, well occasionally, less than, shall we say “well balanced”.  I know it’s shocking, but  true I swear.

You see, regarding me it has often been said “Well, it always was - What? Yes, “He”, of course I said He! He – always was a little different, aye?"

I think it’s a certain cast of the eyes, or cast of the mind. I’m always still, in my mind, practicing that casual looking side-arm cast my dad used to do when we were fishing, to get his bait up in under the brush along the bank to the fish, without ever snagging it. Wait, that should be “cast” as in a way or look about him, shouldn't it?  (him - me, my mind, brain - stuff.) 

What, Have you Met me? It’s that thing about Being-Here-Now, only also There-When, at the same time. Well, that could be one reason, Okay?

What? Of course that was all about the same thing…Well, everything is connected to everything else, so in a sense, don’t you see – It’s All the same thing.

I firmly believe the administration at Hogwarts would be forced, in time, to come to the inevitable conclusion that continuing exposure to such random and possibly mutated thought waves, forms, and patterns as mine could constitute a danger to the students' minds and worse, attitudes, and by extension, ultimately the wizard-ing world, and next thing I'd know - “No, No-Azkaban! No disassemble Johnny-5!!” 

But don’t cry for me. Oh no, in This, The Best of All Possible Worlds, there is a place wherein I might fit. (Hush, that wasn't dirty) Yes, this place for me is also in fantastical literature, but that counts for us, or you shouldn’t even be here. 

That place is – TA-Dah! 


Fig 1: Model of THE UNSEEN UNIVERSITY, introduced to us by the inestimable Terry Prachett –
 Yes, I want to live there, Don’t Judge Me!

Fig 2: That's Sir Terry Pratchett, y'all (OoK!)

Possible closest “This Realm” name equivalent to the Unseen University; The Invisible College - The Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge

-Taken from the Wiki on The Royal Society of London

Well, Okay it's actually almost Nothing Like the Unseen U, except:

“During the 18th century, the gusto that had characterized the early years of the Society faded; with a small number of scientific "greats" compared to other periods, little of note was done. In the second half, it became customary for Her Majesty's Government to refer highly important scientific questions to the Council of the Society for advice, something that, despite the non-partisan nature of the Society, spilled into politics in 1777 over lightning conductors. The pointed lightning conductor had been invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1749, while Benjamin Wilson invented blunted ones. During the argument that occurred when deciding which to use, opponents of Franklin's invention accused supporters of being American allies rather than being British, and the debate eventually led to the resignation of the Society's President, Sir John Pringle. During the same time period, it became customary to appoint society Fellows to serve on government committees where science was concerned, something that still continues.”

I got on to this from a reference elsewhere, which eluded to The Royal Society as having once been called “The Invisible College”, and might therefore have been the inspiration for both the name and character of Pratchett’s “Unseen University”. 

When referred to for comment Sir Pratchett replied “Whut? You almost spilled my drink - Are you sure you're not a copper - That’s utter bollocks, innit? - Here now, Give-us-a-Kiss!” (Well, he could have…)

That all sounds distinctly Prachett/Unseen University-esque to me.

Seriously, bedtime there is wherever you find it, the Head Librarian is an orangutan and also one of the smarter wizards there, and breakies is always on.

Oh, and one of My favorites of course; Most people can't even see the place, even when they're standing at the gate looking right at it. 

If that doesn’t at least suggest that the Unseen University is the kind of “Plumbing-by-Bloody-Stupid-Johnson” place I could if not flourish, at least blend in a bit, then I submit that you need to go read more Pratchett. 

Now, If you will kindly excuse me, I have to go see if I can find The Luggage.