Lava is Red
Water is Blue
Diamonds are rare & precious
And so are you.
Lava is Red
Water is Blue
Diamonds are rare & precious
And so are you.
Salt. Pain. Wet. Wait, wet?
I inhaled, relieved I could. One eye opened, then the other. I tested the limbs.
Observe. Report. Those were the orders.
The limbs moved and I crawled out of the wetness. Sand slid under my belly. A tiny creature approached. One claw large the other small.
It tasted like salt too.
With movement came memory.
This planet was ringed with devices, far more than anticipated. There was a ping, a shudder, and then the view went black, blue, black, green, blue as I tumbled planet-side.
I didn’t trust my lower limbs until I knew from what the pain stemmed, so I crawled into a thicket of shrubs. It was cooler, not inner cave cool but better than the broiling surface the soft shells preferred. It was easier to observe surface dwelling species but far less pleasant to visit.
That my ship was unreachable was a given. Without a favorable report from me there would be no additional visit. My silence would be taken as failure and the whole sector scrubbed. The dominate species had put thousands of trinkets in orbit, so they had the means. If the ancients showed favor I could find my way back to the stars.
Sound reached me. I know the dominant species here is a soft shell that communicates like an unchallenged, all noise and waving limbs. It was not the primary language I had learned to distinguish. Perhaps the secondary. Yes. The secondary.
“Yes. Right here, but out there.”
I peered through the brush. Two ugly soft shells stood on the sand and pointed out over the water. One was tethered to a smaller multicolored creature that moved its snout over the tracks I had left during my haste to flee heat. Leaving a trail was a junior scout mistake and one likely to cause me trouble.
As if the ancients had heard me the smaller creature began to make a hideous noise and pull the soft shell it was attached to towards my location. I crept sideways until I was in a wider clearing.
Fleeing was not an option, not that I would have chosen it anyway. I had the claws of six challengers adorning my halls and a seventh pair on my belt. I did not flee.
The soft shells followed the loud creature right to the clearing. I gave a warning scent and the smaller creature quieted and hid behind the soft shell’s lower limbs. I would have to make note that the creatures on four limbs seemed to understand proper communication where as the ones on two did not.
I searched for a proper response but could find none for ‘slow down’ and ‘defecate’.
“Peace,” I rasped. That seemed to relax them.
“Welcome.” This word I was familiar with. It was promising.
I pointed with a mid limb towards the water. “Ship.”
“Oh, yeah, yeah I saw your ship splash down. Cool,” said the tethered one. No scent glands and noisy, definitely like the unchallenged.
The other one spoke for the first time. “Are you alone?”
I felt more authority in his tone.
“For now.” I stood to my full height and towered over the soft shells. New authority had to be challenged to see if it was worthy.
The noisy one stumbled back, bleating its word for defecation and holding a small rectangle up in front of it like it would ward me off. The other put his hand on a device at his midsection.
“Whoa. Easy. Peace.”
I stayed still. “Ship. Lift. Go.”
“We get your ship out and you go away. Is that what you’re saying?”
I thought I was clear. Perhaps repetition was a custom. “Agreed.”
“What happens if we can’t fix your ship and you’re stuck here?”
I’d die alone and judging from the environment probably from the heat. This was an end I did not want. One only became an ancient if they died in battle. However, they did not need to know this. “More come. Eat you.” I snapped my top claw at him and he ran.
Not authority enough.
The star went down and the temperature became bearable. Small creatures roamed. Once I figured out the skins were removable I found them tasty if a bit salty.
Shortly after first light came more soft shells, many more.
The planet’s single star was not yet overhead so the temperature was tolerable and at their request I ventured out onto the white sand. This was a good sign. Violence was not conducted over white ground.
Soft shells surrounded me with devices at the ready. Their fear permeated the breeze. If they thought numbers would sway me they were mistaken.
One in particular stank of terror and trembled. The device in his hands, a weapon I presumed though I could not see an edge for cutting, jerked up towards my throat. I snapped it in half without leaving so much as a scratch on him. Honor points to me.
The others brought their weapons up just as a cry came from the vehicles beyond. “Stand down!” The thrum of authority was unmistakable and all weapons lowered.
A soft shell, slightly smaller than those ringing me, stepped forward. It took me a moment to realize it was a female. Odd to see an egg bearer without wings.
“Peace. We wish Peace. I am Sargent MacTavish. May we have your name?”
I told her my name but I knew it would be unpronounceable to her kind. She listened intently anyway. “May I call you Zock?”
It would have to do. “Yes.”
She nodded. “If you remain on this planet others of your kind will come and eat us. Is this what you told the officer yesterday?”
“What if we do our best but cannot repair your ship? Can you communicate with your people and tell them not to come?” She sounded like authority but her worthiness was in doubt.
“You are in charge?”
“For now, yes.” I took a slow step towards her. “You can command my ship to be raised from the salty water?”
She stood her ground. “I can.”
“Then do so!” I snapped my top claw close enough to her face for her to feel the air move. Weapons lifted all around but she did not flinch, nor did she take her eyes from mine as she ordered her people to stand down.
“I can also have you shot dead and we’ll take our chances on if you’re telling the truth or not.”
She was worthy. I sat back on my lower limbs. “If my ship proves unrepairable I will try to communicate to my commanders.”
I retreated to the cool shade as the sand area became overwhelmed by scurrying soft shells. I was still unsure if they, as a whole, would be allies or just another food source but at least I knew a few were worthy of further study.
“Jorvyn? Jor honey?”
“Anika….” It felt like it took him forever to get her name out.
“Are you okay?” Her voice sounded echoy in his head.
“I am sitting on a cloud eating rainbow flavored pop-tarts.”
“Jorvyn, what happened?”
“I didn’t answer the three headed dog’s questions right and it chewed me up. I was shat out this morning.”
“FireSpring is beside himself.”
Jorvyn giggled. The thought of the spiky redhead with a twin was highly amusing.
When he woke next, the clock, and his pork medallion in wine sauce lunch on the table, said just after noon but his body felt like ten past hell.
“Fantastic, now I know what it feels like to be thrown out of a perfectly good airplane without a parachute.”
Alongside his lunch, to his great surprise, was a six pack of snickers, two bottles of Gatorade and a note. The note said, “I’ll be back at two. Dr. Riley.” Jorvyn glanced at the wall where his almost portal had been and sighed.
Jorvyn’s lunch stayed down, as did one and a half snickers. He figured he’d earned the extra dose of sugar after his rough night. As best as he could tell all his body parts were still in working order. He was sore as hell, very sore in some places, but nothing had been broken or removed or rearranged. In fact, unless you knew where to look and what to look for, there was almost no evidence of last night’s shenanigans at all.
Jorvyn curled up in the corner of his cot, one pillow behind to cushion his faintly throbbing head and the other in front. He didn’t remember much of the morning but he had a queasy feeling that he’d said something offensive. He knew, given his track record, that was a pretty safe bet.
Two after two the door creaked open and Jorvyn hugged his pillow tight.
“Doctor Riley.” Jorvyn nodded to the doctor as he came further into the room and sat in the chair.
“How are you feeling?”
“Better than this morning, but still not great.”
Doctor Riley sighed.”About this morning….”
“I’m sorry,” Jorvyn cut him off. “Whatever I said, or did, it was probably out of line and I’m sorry.”
Doctor Riley studied him for a few moments before taking a deep breath. “It was not out of line. I’m furious at the situation but in no way am I upset with you. Concerned yes, upset … definitely not.”
Jorvyn released the white knuckled grip on his pillow. “Cool.”
Doctor Riley smiled faintly. “Cool.” The smile faded. “I owe you several apologies.”
Jorvyn blinked at him in surprise.
Doctor Riley frowned. “I should have been more discrete in removing Charlie from the rotation. And, I have not been able to fire Grady and Burell.”
Jorvyn shrugged. “I’m not surprised. Cornholio is fond of them.”
“It’s what we call Doctor Cobb. Get it, Corn cob, thus Cornholio from Beevis and Butthead?”
Doctor Riley fought his smile and lost. “I will continue to try and have them removed.”
“You’d have to catch them in the act and that’s not possible. They’re too sneaky.”
Doctor Riley’s smile held an edge of malice. “Don’t dismiss my abilities to counter sneak someone.”
Jorvyn chuckled. “By all means Doc., counter sneak away.”
“Rest up. I’ll see you later on this evening.”
“For what, Doc.?”
“I have a plan.”
Jorvyn groaned. “That worries me.”
“You’re not the one that should be worried.”
Jorvyn felt both relieved and anxious after Doctor Riley left. Relieved that whatever he did or said in the morning wasn’t going to be held against him, yet anxious at whatever the doctor had cooked up. “Anika?”
“Jorvyn! Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I’ve been better but I’ve been worse too.”
“What are you today, Anika?”
“I’m an octopus.” She sent a mental image of a giant octopus with a round female face complete with long luxurious lashes.
“Awesome, do you change colors when you talk.”
“No, but that’s a great idea. I’ll have to try that next time.”
“You’d said FireSpring needed to talk to me. Is he available?”
“Yes, but isn’t it in the middle of your day?”
“Yeah, but the way things have gone crazy around here I don’t know if I’ll ever get any peace and quiet during the night again.”
“Okay, give me a few to see if he’s free.”
“Thanks, Anika.” Jorvyn picked at the fringe of his pillow case while he waited. Luckily, Anika didn’t leave him hanging long.
“He’ll meet you at Cross Point.”
“Thank you, Anika.” Jorvyn slid off the bed and stripped. He laid his clothes over the back of the chair and placed it near the section of the wall he preferred to use for the portal. He used to use the bathroom wall but figured if someone came looking for him in the bathroom it would be pretty damn obvious he’d just stepped out of a dimensional doorway. However, if he used the wall right outside the bathroom he could possibly give the illusion he’d been in the bathroom all along. It was weak but the best he could do given the crappy living conditions.
Jorvyn stepped through the gray into a purple and pink twilight. Wet grass prickled his feet and stuck to his ankles.He leaned back against the now solid rock he’d come from and took a few deep breaths to clear his head.
“You look terrible, Jor,” FireSpring said, his eerie orange gaze traveling up and down the length of Jorvyn’s naked body.
“What an amazing coincidence.” Jorvyn knew FireSpring was seeing him with more than just visual sight.
FireSpring was not amused.
Jorvyn pointed at the robe dangling slack in FireSpring’s hand. “Is that for me or are we doing this meeting in the buff?”
“Oh, sorry.” FireSpring handed over the thick brown cloth and Jorvyn wrapped it around himself with a grateful sigh.
“I don’t have much time. What’s so important you can’t send it through Anika?”
FireSpring grimaced. “Your father’s been spotted at Whisper Hollow.”
Jorvyn bowed with a flourish. “What can I do for you fine gentlemen this evening?”
“Oh, lots of things. But tonight we’re just here to pass on a message.”
“Fantastic, like a singing telegram?”
Grady, the taller one closest to him, laughed. “No. Not quite.”
“A basket of fruit then?”
“You’re the fruit.” The second one, Burell, said.
“Burell, don’t you ever get tired of playing the nasty side kick for Grady here? You need to branch out some. Besides, you know the prison rules about gay for the stay, don’t you? I mean you were fired from the state penitentiary, right?”
Burell stepped further into Jorvyn’s room and only stopped when Grady put his hand on the other man’s chest. Jorvyn continued as if unperturbed. “I have an imaginary girlfriend out there somewhere crying copious imaginary tears every day. What do you have? An ex-wife, four kids, a rat infested apartment, and a job that hates you almost as much as you hate it. Somehow I think I’m the one better off.”
Grady held Burell back, barely. “Stop, he’s just trying to get you to do something stupid like break his nose or jaw or something we can’t cover up.”
“You know, Grady, there are people out in the world who would love your style of sadism. Why don’t you find a nice masochist to shack up with?”
Grady smiled a smile that made Jorvyn regret he’d ever opened his mouth. “Because willingness takes all the fun out of it.”
In the end, it turned out they’d just stopped by to say “Hi!” from Charlie. Apparently Charlie had a wide variety of ways to say hello – and all of them hurt.
“Mr. McKale? Mr. McKale? Jorvyn!” Jorvyn opened his eyes to gray and white and stench. The gray turned out to be the hard, cold floor he was laying on. The white came into better focus as the fringe of a lab coat. But the stench was all his own.
What happened?” Doctor Riley asked, his hand hovering near Jorvyn’s shoulder but not touching.
“I tripped and fell.” Jorvyn rasped, hating the way his voice broke.
“Bullshit. Did this happen here or there?”
The truth leapt from his lips almost without his consent. “Here.” Jorvyn managed to get his gaze as far as the doctor’s face without moving too much. The coiled rage he found there startled a flinch from him.
He felt the doctor’s hand close around his upper arm and tried to pull away. “I’m getting up, Doc. I’m getting up. I’m not trying to give you crap.” He knew he was babbling and couldn’t stop. “Just give me a minute, just another minute, please. I’m getting up.”
The hand went away only to return with its counterpart as they both slid up under his armpits and lifted. Jorvyn struggled out of reflex but he might as well have been fighting a bear made of steel.
“Stop.” The fury coming off the doctor was palpable, but his voice gentled. “Stop, Jorvyn.”
Jorvyn ceased flailing but he couldn’t stop the near convulsive shaking. He wasn’t certain where the doctor’s anger came from. Was he mad that this had happened to Jorvyn or was he mad that he hadn’t been there to watch? Or was he mad because he wasn’t the one to do the deed? Pride and dignity took a distant back seat where survival was concerned. If he didn’t survive then he couldn’t finish out the Plan and the Plan was the only thing worth living for anyway.
“I can make it worth your while,” Jorvyn whispered.”
“Worth my while to do what?” Doctor Riley asked.
“Worth your while not to beat the shit out of me.”
Doctor Riley went perfectly still. “Is that what you think is about to happen?”
“You’re pissed. Maybe that I’m still alive. Hell, maybe you set me up and Charlie didn’t have anything to do with it. Maybe you actually work for him.”
“Who? Who would I work for that would order this done to you?”
Jorvyn licked his cracked lips. “Forget it. It’s stupid. My head bounced a few too many times off the floor. I don’t know what I’m saying.”
Doctor Riley drew a breath like he wasn’t going to let it go but then exhaled slowly. “I am pissed, very pissed and it’s not at you.”
Jorvyn believed him, despite all his past experience warning him to the contrary, and relaxed. At least until doctor Riley shifted him in his grasp, hooked an arm under his legs and picked him up off the floor. “Whoa!”
“Easy, easy. I’m just carrying you into the bathroom so we can clean you up.”
The movement from horizontal to vertical to horizontal again made his stomach roll. “I’m going to be sick.”
“We’re almost there.”
Jorvyn made good on his threat but managed to wait until the doctor had gotten him over the toilet.
He heard Parker’s deep rumble but couldn’t make out the words. The sequence of events became jumbled after that. There was a wash cloth, cold enough to make him yelp, a robe of some kind, something soft and moist against his intimate areas, which set him to trembling again, then a grape flavored liquid that didn’t taste all that great but stayed down and soothed his stomach, and finally a brief sting in his upper arm. Throughout it all was Dr. Riley’s soothing voice telling he was safe and it would be okay.
The doctor didn’t mess around. After the sting everything became slow, fuzzy, and comfortable. “Good shit, Doc. Can I get a case… to go?” Jorvyn mumbled just before oblivions claimed him.
I plucked the tiny flowers
And made the dye.
That stained your wool
Into such a lovely yellow hide.
Down into the mountain I went
Diamonds and glory sought.
Thinking you and your rose kin
Safe in a pen carefully wrought.
How then blocky friend
Did you come to be.
Perched in the midsts of a lava fall
Terrifying me so thoroughly.
I tried to reach you
My bridge though did fail.
And down into the lava did you fall
Bleating your tiny blocky wail.
I know you’re only pixels
And rows of 0’s and 1’s.
But watching you disintegrate into ash
Was truly no flipping fun.
The saying “When in Rome do as the Romans do.” is oft heard but is it really understood?
Roman culture gave us the idea that laws had fixed boundaries. Another culture around at the time, and a little before, was the Germanic culture. This culture was based on the idea that you carried the laws of your tribe with you. So if you were raised in a tribe where drinking milk was taboo, even if you went to a tribe where is was OK it was still taboo for you. Simple right? Heh. You can see why the Roman way of laws won out.
In a way, I was raised in a “Germanic” style household, though I highly doubt my parents thought about it like that. By that I mean, friends that visited were bound by their parent’s rules. For example, if they weren’t allowed soda at home, they weren’t offered it in our house.
This was all fine and dandy until I spent the night at a friend’s house. Her mom plunked a basket of laundry in front of the friend and I. I had no idea what she wanted until she pointed at the basket and (this is a direct quote) said “No worky, no eaty”. I was floored. No guest in my house would’ve been expected to do chores. Heck I wasn’t even expected to do chores. (Yes, I was a spoiled brat, just ask my Sister 😉 )
I vaguely remember folding a wash cloth or two and deciding that was enough for whatever I was going to eat in the house. Needless to say I do not remember there ever being a second sleep over.
I like to think this dichotomy helped me become more understanding towards other peoples ways of doing things, but in reality it just irritated the crap out of me.
However, when I develop characters this is one of the things I try to think about. I may not go through an entire detailed backstory but I do at least try to get a semblance of how they were raised and which style they were raised under, and how it may have influenced them.
How about you or your characters? Germanic or Roman?
It was a temperamental habit, but it was the only one clean. Her best still in the hamper, soiled from fixing sinks in the Novice’s Hall. She smoothed down the restless veil and handed the doorman her ticket.
“Not an act.”
He arched a brow and read her pass. “Sister Marion?”
He shrugged and opened the door to let her join the throng of contestants.
She ignored the whispers and only looked up enough to find a seat.
She jumped and glanced up into a face with more metal than skin. “Yes.”
“Cool.” He sat. “I did a paper on different monastic orders for school.”
She appraised him anew and wondered what middle-school would have students doing such papers.
“That real or a costume.”
He grinned. “Even cooler.”
They sat in quiet as his fingers drummed out a rhythm. “So what makes a Nun come to a singing competition?”
“God called me.”
He laughed. “Like on a cellphone?”
She pursed her lips and he leaned back from her glare. “Not a phone. Signs.”
He leaned forward. “What kind of signs?”
Would it hurt to tell him? Probably not. “My parents passed recently.” He made a noise of condolence. “That same day I heard an announcement for this competition. I knew it was God freeing me from my family obligations and providing me an opportunity at my dream.”
Just then a woman with a clipboard stepped into the room. “Gabriel Kingsley?” The pierced youngster bounced up and waved as he disappeared through the door.
All too soon he was back, beaming. “You got in?”
“Naw. They said no.”
He shrugged. “That’s OK. It was a blast anyway.”
She was next. The three panelists eyed her curiously but refrained from comment. She stepped up and sang. The power flowed and she felt alive. She sang her second. Heads bobbed, toes tapped. When they asked for her third she knew she was in. God had led her here and his grace lifted her up. She had never sounded so good.
“Thank you Sister Marion. Keep practicing. You’re almost there.”
Almost? She didn’t remember the walk out.
One moment she was in shock and the next Gabriel was at her elbow. “You going on?”
“No.” She blinked up at him in the thin winter sun.
“Aw, that sucks.”
“How can that be? How can God lead me to this exact spot only to have me fail?”