Thursday, December 15, 2011

Shamshan Galli- Part 1

"Betichudan maa ke laude, tera to mai pura khandaan ko chod ke narak bhej doonga."
He lay on the ground, not moving, whimpering at every word. The chain swung from the goon's hand- the very same chain that had once held the same neck that'd belonged to his wife. 
"Teri biwi ka to maine leliya, gand marke, chut phaadke. Ab mai kaunsa anadi ka bhatija lagta hoon, chamanchutiye? Tujhe vapas mere hi paas aana tha? Ek baari kaafi nahi? Abe gandu, tere us bheje ke andar kya bhagwaan ne sirf do takiye ki tatti bhar ke rakh diya kya?"
Again the chain fell, propelled by an almighty hand. Lakhan's screams echoed into the alley, but no one heard him; no one who wanted to. All around them the doors were shut, the lights were off, the windows barred; no one challenged the single man who stood on Lakhan's hand, grinding the sole of his heavy boot into Lakhan's fingers. 
"Ay, woh bhi jawan chut thi. Har jhalak me aisa nasha.. madarchod lagta tha ki uske har shabd ke picche ek aur awaj bol raha hai, mera chut hai bistar- aake tasreef rakhiye... aur aap to aisi rand ke pille, jiska dil dariya aur gand samandar." He paused in his whipping of the prone, bleeding Lakhan, as if coming to his senses.
"Betichod mai bol raha hoon woh sun bhi sakta hai kya? Tadka, kya is madarchod ke kaan abhi sahi salamat hai, ya kya mai likh ke report karu, dastakhat ke saath?" Tommy "Tadka" Jalal grinned back at him, then proceeded to lift Lakhan by one ear. "Tadka" he was called because of his love for food and drink- spicy, hot stuff- much like the girls he enjoyed. His immense girth was easily recognisable- no one else could down four chickens like Tadka could. Lakhan screamed again as his ears were nearly ripped off by the man's efforts.
"Bhau, lakta hai iske kaano me ab bhi jaan hai. Kai re mutreyaa, tula hindi yeet nahi ka? Tar kasha me Bangla bolu kai?" The grin on his bearded face vanished instantly, replaced by rage. "Chutmarike, ab tak jo hum bol rahe hai woh tere bheja me kya mujhe ghusana padega, garama-garam chaini ke nok pe?"
Lakhan shook feebly, trying to get his words past a swollen tongue and bleeding lips. His face was worse off than the rest of him, and that was saying something. Almost every bone in his right leg was fractured thrice over; he hadn't felt his left arm since five minutes back. His ribs hurt with every breath, and he bled from over a dozen wounds across his body, some wide gashes and others open holes in his skin.
"Tadka, isse edhar hi chodna hai, ya thoda insurance lena chahiye?"
"Pata nahi. Kya hume insurance lena chahiye?" Tadka asked the man, shaking him like a leaf. Lakhan tried to scream, but even taking the breath hurt, his throat was purple from when one of the goons had stomped on it. 
"Nahi.. mai kuch nahi bolunga," he managed to get out before coughing out blood, and his throat felt both dry and wet at the same time- there was so much blood on the streets that Lakhan knew he'd die if the bleeding didn't stop soon.
"Chal, thik hai. Teri biwi ki thukayi ke kasam, tujhe is baar chod diya. Agli baar agar haath uthana pada, to behen ke laude, sun le. Tere aakhon ke saamne teri bacche ki jaan leloonga- hathode se uska ek ek haddi tod dunga. Lekin tu zinda rahega- bena zabaan, kaan, haath ya pair; phir dekh tu police ke paas kaise jayega. Tadka, chod de. Ashfaq ke ghar pe naye raande aaye hai.. aur raat abhi baaki hai."
They left Lakhan there- battered, bruised, bleeding, but as they left, Lakhan fixed their retreating backs with the only thing he still had on him; bloody, brutal hate.
------------
More to come. What goes around comes around- what you do unto others comes back threefold, and so on and so forth. Fun times.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Adventures in Blunderland #1

It was night.
The world was unfocused; everything was like a mirror. Pieces of your soul would look back at you and say nothing.
The moon, that temptress in the sky, shone her light scantily, bathing everything in blue lines that stretched from end to end. The air, thick with the tangy smell of wet wood, seemed intoxicating.
There, in the blackness, something prowled; so he went towards it. In a jungle, you realize, common sense tells you whatever prowls is not the best thing to chase.
But in an urban jungle, common sense is a twit.
He pushed through the bushes, mindful of the noise he made. In a way it fit; the night had no noise, so never not think of creating your own. In a way, he was marking his presence. If nature was kind this night, the noise allowed him to be the alpha predator, one that didn't need to mask his presence. Nature is sort of unbiased that way.
The prowler turned out to be a badger, glaring at him through its beady eyes. The animal was large, easily coming up to his waist. How did he know it was a badger? Some things never change. He didn't need to specify what, because at that moment the badger sneered at him.
There is something terrifying in having a badger sneer at you. It's like the owl in The Fourth Kind, which often smiles at its victims. A chilling thought- how does an owl smile? And why does it smile? What is the reason behind that knowing stare so neutrally joyful? Why didn't the badger just go further into the bushes? Why doesn't common sense help with adrenaline, instead of letting him freeze to the spot and consider the badger's malicious sneer?
Because, common sense, in the urban jungle, is a twit.
'You shouldn't be sneering. Dumb animal you are.' So saying he put the badger in its place. The badger, thinking for a moment, stopped sneering, and indicated that he take a seat on the log behind.
'If I am a dumb animal, then would you say that I shouldn't be talking either?' it said in a crisp English accent. Strange, but he guessed that the British may have brought over more than they should have- somethings set roots deeper than revolution.
'You are a dumb animal. But for that matter I've met dumber people. So no, I think your talking to me does not make you dumb, but makes me question another aspect of this conversation entirely. Why are you talking?'
'You don't want me to talk, do you? PETA doesn't speak for all of us, you know. Some of us are inclined towards legalizing human hunting. The thing is, it just wouldn't be humane.'
'Why?'
'Hmm? It wouldn't be humane. Look at yourself. What do you have? Two legs? Two hands? You're bipedal. No claws. No nails, no scales- no teeth, no fur. To top it off, you taste like a week-old chicken corpse, what with all the nicotine and the alcohol and the substance abuse. You're a walking pollutant, and your carbon footprint's horrible.'
'I don't need to take this sort of abuse from you, do I?' He asked, slightly uncertain. If the animal didn't want to kill him and eat him, then why, oh why, the talking? Not to mention the high.
'It's because the vicissitudes of verity need a talking to. So does the monotony of murkiness; neither of them want to depress you anymore.'
'Why?'
'Because you scorn truth, don't you? Verity is by and large an unneeded phenomenon today, in these enlightened times.'
'You're like the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland, except that was a bit more fantastical. A talking badger just doesn't cut it.'
'Pardon me. It's not my fault I don't have a liking for hookahs. And do you know the rates on a single giant mushroom these days? Thanks to deforestation they're getting rarer by the minute, so all the good ones are already taken.'
'I... see. That actually makes sense.'
'I hope so. You have a report to write tomorrow, I think.'
'Yes.'
'Then get to it, I'd say.'
'Sure.' His time done, the badger looked back once more as it walked off.
'And would you like a last bit of advice?'
'No.'
'Take it anyway. Don't talk to badgers at this time of night. Try talking to a snake instead.'
'Why?'
'Because unless I tell you to, you'll never wonder why.' So saying the badger prowled off into the bushes, its nose once again to the ground, in search of whatever savoury meats might be found.
Meanwhile our protagonist found himself walking, once more- and it seemed to him, the walk was too long, too quiet. 'I need to find a snake nearby,' he said to himself and went off to look for one.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Third-person Internet Searchings of a Wandering Idiot

Why is it, he thought, that whenever a story unfolded from his fingers did it begin with something akin to: " --- happened." He thought, why do I always think of an action to begin my stories? Can it not be different, can I not make of my stories what Zeus made of the Chimaera?
Chimaera, she stood there- all that was and much that wasn't. Chimaera, the essence of feral bestiality, the indulgence of sin. Chimaera, that dark beast that seduces at night to devour in twilight.
"I moved on. Chimaera may promise depravities unknown, but the Kraken I prefer." So saying he brought up Alfred Lord Tennyson's Kraken.
"His ancient, dreamless, un-in-va-ded sleep," he intoned. "Do I detect an influence on Cthulhu mythos?"
So thinking, his thoughts turned to horror Lovecraftian. The ancient machine snarled at him, humming its quiet tunes. "The fan needs replacing," observed he. "This machine may be on its last legs, after all." As if to prove him wrong, the laptop swirled in almighty rage and summoned up the requisite webpage.
"Hmm. Reverse psychology works on machines too." Lovecraft, the master of his domain. Cthulhu reared from the ugly depths and in the mind of our unthinking author whispered those blasphemous words: "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn." In his house at R'lyeh Cthulhu sleeps, waiting.
The aspect "Sleep" traversed the quagmire of his mind for something to connect with. It found Morpheus observing the young author.
"Ah, progress." Morpheus in his placid rage turned to our hero. "Finally you have sent ammunition my way! Let fingers falter and eyelids droop, let the sweet seduction of sleep swoop. Find your bed more pleasing to the eye, make your grave, and in it, lie."
Good advice, thought the author. But he had miles to go before he could even get out of his chair, and the laptop, slinky little slut she was, turned to him the eye of lasciviousness and beckoned him closer. "I pimp myself out to the internet. We are prostitutes," he observed, "in a world populated by neighbours who their neighbours know not, but who name someone half a continent away friend."
So saying he opened up Facebook. Sure enough, there were people in Europe, France, America, Java.. "Do I know you?" he asked, pointing at a likely candidate for his ire.
"I suppose not." He closed the laptop, and went for class.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chaotica #2: The Unopened Bag

(Tripfest: The Chaotica series is about what I retrieve after tripping on.. whatever. Didn't get around to explaining that last time. Writing when stoned/drunk/droned is.. unique. This time, it's tharra, meat, and a few joints.)
-
The bag sat there like some offering from hell oh so resplendent in all its verdant glory. The thing about bags is how they turn out to be doorways to hell, if you've never picked up a stranger's bag then I suggest you don't.
But in the unlikely event that you do then don't stop halfway and open it all the way, let the contents spill out onto your bed and get it into your head that your invading someone else's world (which they don't know about, either) is not really going to affect the universe as a whole so get to it.
I opened the bag or tried to, and tired myself trying. The Problem lay in the heart of the matter that means a devil of avarice was floating not over my shoulder whispering sweet nothings from the ether. No, it was a pure motivation of kleptomania that blanketed the foggy depths of my mind.
Still the bag would not open despite my intentions to simply peek inside the doors of heavenly surprise. I wanted to peek so badly with all the fervour of love once lost and regained but the doors of paradise remained lost to me- me, whom Milton remembered- or was it the other way around? Paradise lost.
But a bag is not paradise in the same way cotton is not cheese or a deer is not a chair. The thing about deer, though, is the venison. I remember having some venison at a cheap little dhaba in a town near Pune and I remember the fleshy juiciness of the meat as I tore into that and sapped at its delectable sweetness while having to pour down some tharra with lemonade. Then the tharra hit me like then thousand fists of arcane fury ringing with all the solidarity of a single peal of the church bell I deign to visit on Sundays. The mysteries of life seem so petty and little to me then, who lay on a cot with hash in the hand, and since I always say hash in the hand is worth two in the tea, then all you want to do is sit down and smoke with me. The universe glittered at my eyes like a mean wench with a saucy stare, the kind that parts you with your money as wonderfully as the Joker parts Batman from his loved ones, or Hush goes ahead to perform a heart transplant on Selina Kyle and gets to say that he stole her heart in more ways than one.
Ah, Hush. Nowhere has a trickster emerged like him who can actually get past Batman on so many levels but then I digress since the bag is what began this post then I may make the most of the confusion my mind is engulfed in and thus try to make some coherent sense of my wrongdoings. I have mislead so many that my mind is more like James Frey's in his memoir A Million Little Pieces, but sorry James Frey; I may not have been the same kind of stoner you were but make no mistake I am in pretty bad shape right now since I must open the file in my Transcend HDD to see what the fucking name of your book was in the first place, and that brings me to my first and final original statement, that the bag wouldn't open.
That is a contradiction in terms since it did. The problem lay in searching for a zip when there was a flap and a flap when there was velcro, and velcro when all there actually was were simple laces tied together and inside that lay my treasure, and my pleasure, and my measure, and my pain, and my little store of rural hash that I needs must smoke with my beedis if I am to have any chance of missing my plane in the morning- so what happened to the unopened bag, that reliquary of relief, that potion of pleasure, my bag of bewilderment, but that it stayed in the corner looking innocent as ever and stared back at me with gimlet irises out of the eyelets that held its laces?
Oh nothing. It opened, like any other bag. Or did it, and my hash is still inside, unsmoked, unspent? Do I dare open its confines again for fear of knowing that I've already finished my store, or do I dare leave it around for less restrained visions to uncover?
While I confine myself to answering that question, I may take my five minutes of peace. I daresay I can find the button that allows me to save this post in the time being. It's not finished like the hair of a devadasi, who needs must grow it as befits her beauty.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chaotica Part 1

Yeah. Acid trips do this to you. A few quarters of scotch help a lot too.
-----------------------------------
Voulez vous?
'No, thank you. Do svidanya.' I rolled past the stairs, making sure to hit my head on the door, on the way out.
'Oi! Don't hit my door with your head- the poor thing's suffered enough.' So it has, so it has, sticks and stones can break my bones until I wake at a hospital door.
The day swam around me, and I watched the dragon make its way past on a cloud of perfumed smoke. Contrary to mythology it wasn't fire that burst out of its oysterpink maw, but a mist of rainbow devils. Horned they were in places not worth mentioning.
'Marduk, lordofthemorning. Awaken your hold and release your servant, I want to see the light.' Marduk, sleeping as he was chose not to hear me, and Morpheus grinned down at me from his cradle. The old god, older than justice, or lust, sneered at my pathetic attempt to veil his efforts.
But if we mortals don't try, then what is the point of pathetically saying that cogito ergo sum?
But bibo ergo sum is a different matter I cared to indulge my fantasies in. When the bottle resembles not the bottle but a scorpionstinger of mariachis whose guitars stay tuned for battle do you feel like thinking about the gravity of notdrinking. Notdrinking is the blessing of the working classes for then they will destroy themselves along with the institution that rears its ugly head out of the scourge of human disparity.
The darkling lust swept me off my feet and I felt my skin crawl as a snake whispered past on silent wings- no snakes have no wings, I say because feelest thou the tenderest grasp of a snakescale slither on your own flesh and you will know what I do not mean, or meant by the snakeswings. They talk of a feathered snake in fair Mexico city where the cubans have conquered and culturally imperialized but that word is incorrect yet fitting that pimps wander on the streets of Mexico offering only the taste of local cuisine like my wineglass Budhwar Peth where the dalal walks past on honeyed tones and offers you breakfast without buttered scones.
Could we think about dystopian worlds and words beyond all meaning without vomiting out a stream of stupidity that borders on ideology that I study in my arts and culture class every Monday, Wednesday and Friday? And sometimes on Saturday which I deign to miss. The future of mankind is no man's concern but God's.
Gods above and Gods below depending on which version of the bible you follow, I prefer the Satanic Bible.
To lose yourself in the glory of Satan's grasp is enthralling in so beautiful ways that beggar no description but rather demand it with every fibre of every gray cell in your brain.
It is the world of epicureanism where all exist for your pleasure and equally you for theirs but they still wonder at your independance for epicureanism lasts in every fibre of hell where all is indulgence and all is sin- damned are we to our endless nightmares and curvaceous figures of succubi lurking in the shadows with Naamah's red-tinged eyes in her kohl-painted face of many cultures as she dances to the harps of fallen greek heroes- Orpheus I would name but my uncertainty clouds my mind-
Dusts my rind-
Grinds my side-
Lights my hind
And I am left behind.
To totter in the dust the sweet dust of ages past, history preserved in every grain, like poets of the eons who seek for their mysterious tales but the silent listener you are.
Readers mine across the world, rejoice now in the light hurled that one cannot but his destiny avoid, (but if a bard then flick up a card and call out your song to the varied facets of my animus) so as to destroy that which can create, and can create the nautilloid.
The phantasms of Solomon danced across the horizons and thousands of djinn rise to his call, his call, his clarion, his horn, to do his bidding and break the earth.
And Ozymandias in his own ignorance- or his terrible knowledge and potent anger rises up to challenge both God and Man to defeat his creations- the sprawling deserts of ignoble torment that dare crossing and court death if you wish but I will relax in the shade of his grandeur and admire the man but am content to watch fools burn in the sun like vampires in the light.
But vampire bats burn not and they call human legends false.
Guns ignite the darkness like rays of hope and muzzle flashes blind you to the surrealism of the world, the whole of existance the unknown universe as I finally let my ears reach my mind to connect with the paucity of sound and they destroy me, vocimancers of lore, who in these days can be likened to the Green Hornet and his soundgun.
And I sit down, shadowmancer in my own right, of mine is the burden and the realm and the joy of nightfall and the beauty of twilight, of my indulgence is the light in the darkness of my soul and of my making is this blogroll.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Miniaturesque

As dreary afternoons go-
I'd seen drearier;
Thought I'd go with the flow-
Couldn't get any scarier.

Brains dimmed and eyes died;
Thought I'd had enough.
Solace, 'twas long denied;
Thought I'd had it tough.

Thought I'd be going somewhere,
To private thoughts nurse;
Instead I sat and grew my hair-
Going from shit to verse.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Shorter Stories #2: The Nemesis Principle

The Nemesis principle had finally come into effect.
If, like so many, you didn't believe in the Principle, the end result was that you would. It's a brilliantly-engineered concept that only accentuates the dystopian view so many hold our world true to; the fact that, for
twenty four hours every day of every week of the year, you were being watched.
Not only are you being watched, but your actions, your work, your choices are all being judged.
And not only are you being judged by the smallest, least significant movement, but you are in imminent danger of having punishment meted out for that same, insignificant movement.
And thus, the Nemesis Principle.
Someone is watching, someone is judging. And someone is coming.
It is precisely that sort of self-suspicion that allows for a constant craning of the neck to watch your back. The
problem is, keep watching your back long enough, you run the risk of something taking a more direct, frontal
approach.
But it'll come, anyway.
Like bad karma, no matter where you hide, or where you try to make a stand, nemesis approaches.
And she isn't smiling.
I'm going, too. It's a human instinct, or even a primordial one, wherein the only thing left is the will, or the
need, to survive. In that little time, humanity disappears and you can pretty much see the beast under all the
walls, the codes of ethics, the morality society imposes on us.
Because when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes back into you; and as Nemesis fixes you with her cold, angry eyes, you scratch off that out patina, and inside even the shining glory of the mightiest hero, lies a monster.
So? Run. Run, and wait, forever wary, forever fearful... feeling, knowing, that the Nemesis Principle is at work.
-------
(Interesting enough to be continued, apparently. Conspiracy theories are always worth following up.)

Shorter Stories #1


I stared out of the window.
He looked at me.
The room suddenly seemed too quiet, too small; like that minute of reflection where you see yourself reflected in the barrel of a gun, or in the deadly glimmer of a honed blade, it was an ominous silence. The air throbbed with energy, danger, risk.
We lived for that risk, he and I, lifelong enemies.
They say that a good enemy is better than a bad friend. That when you finally bury him, you miss him as the brother you didn't have. A north american story goes about two tribal chieftains who were utter rivals to the very end- so much so that they were burned together, their hatchets embedded in each other's flesh. Legend says they went to the spirits and took the sign of the brothers.
It was like that to us; we'd never hold each others' hands in a pinch- but we'd dare each other to take the first
step, and quite likely we'd have stepped forward together.
The bird I'd been watching, it fluttered its wings. As one, we tensed, he and I; in that eagle's talons rested the
soul of our battle.
Not unlike gladiators, were we; waiting, watching, or even like tigers fighting for the hunt... circling each
other, our primal instincts urging us toward victory.
And the fowl took to the air, wings seemingly ablaze, silhouetted against the sun.
And it began.
His hand tensed, and softly, he muttered so no one else would hear- 'Go.'
Our arm-wrestling tournament began with a promising start.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Truths of the Fiction

"Heil, Hitler!" I bellowed.
With those words I was thrown out of the hostel. Unfortunately the warden knew too much about Germanic history for me to have escaped his malice.
Not that I wasn't expecting it, anyway.
The air was warm, and utterly humid. It felt like May should, you know; wet, willing and waiting.
That sounds perverse. Let me rewind.
*
May was a time when my college decided that it had had enough of idiots blemishing its corridors and let them out into the open world to let them know: Aap chutiye hain.
May was also, therefore, the time when I would plunge headlong into any sort of trouble.
This sort of trouble began a lot closer to home, a lot closer to stupidity.
Never, in any life, agree to something you don't have the measure of. 
Like many idiocies in my life, this happened when I was piss-drunk and couldn't hit an elephant at four paces. Someone thought it'd be a brilliant idea to see which of us could keep from passing out on the open road. So we got ourselves three cars and started. 
I'm not quite sure where we started from, but I remember flooring the accelerator.
There is something about the open hood of a Jeep- that old Mahendra- that is conducive to driving. There's no feel quite like it; it's a car meant for the open road. I remember feeling the vibration in its chassis, the rumbling power under its hood. It felt alive. I felt alive! Dr Frankenstein was nowhere to shout "Eureka" so we had to do without that fallacy.
Now comes the crazy part. You don't pass out at the wheel. Right?
Right. I didn't pass out- I just blacked out. 
So when I came to, my mobile registered seventeen missed calls from the owner of the jeep, two missed calls from the master of the opera and three from my sister. Kinda skewed call-ratio.
I managed to drive until I had enough, and checked my watch. It was seven-twenty. In the morning.
And I had started my consultancy sessions with a bottle around twelve hours back, give or take a few minutes.
What was a man supposed to do?
Apart from find a nearby dhaba, get cleaned up.
Now, sorry; but this still doesn't explain how I got kicked out of the hostel. The rest of it is explained in this letter a friend sent me, a scan from that day. Some details have to be blanked out for confidentiality's sake (and to save my own skin).
*
To,
XXXXXX
XXXXXXXX
ABC, PuXX

Sir, 
      This is to bring to kindly notice that your one colleague by the name of XXXXXX XXXX was expelled from our hostel at XXXX at 12.30 on the same date as this letter when being written.
      Your colleague not only had been causing many mishaps in the hostel premises but also was bothering other people in the hostel. He did not have any identificational proof on his person at the specificated time; if he will not answer as is requird to the necessary authorities and clear up the problem with college committee then your colleague can be charged with police action if needed necessary. 
       There also is matter of his being in unsound mind at the time of expellation and below influence. The hostel is not equipped to take in a vehicle without numberplate missing as is required by traffic police and regulations of RTO.
       Since you are the only availabel contractor he would be giving, I am addressing this letter to your home only. Charges brought against this student demand utter and immediate clearing or else will cause problems for your colleague afterwards.
       One thing to keep in mind also is that his age is still too young to be given amenities like car, jeep, mobile etc. While it is prudent to make sure that people remain in contact with each other over long distances, freedom is spoiling of those who cannot appreciate it.
        I have also provided another letter concerning his immediate relatives' attention on this matter. I hope you may reach it and also contact me at the other number given below. It may be that an arrangement can be made so that matter can be solved at the grassroots level only.

Thanking you,
Yours faithfully,
XXXX XXXXXX
XXXXXXX
(Big long line of address follows)
*
Now, several things wrong with the writer of the letter. Corrupt bastard.
If you go through the letter it just makes for a lot of fun. The base of it was, that I stumbled into some hostel at some point in the day, while making my way back from the evening's trip (a literal trip); convinced someone to take me in (presumably a student. My persuasion skills wither during my "being in unsound mind").
Digging up your past yields surprisingly unexpected results. I was hardly able to stop laughing at the email which contained this letter; for a moment I thought it was about my current course but no one in their right mind would write like this and not get nominated for a refresher course in English Grammar.
Nuts. Enjoy, like I did. The letter's typical, ghati maharashtrian. Something I haven't had much of in the past few months.
I guess I am too North Indian for my own good.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Instant Fantasy #4: Unnamed

What is silence?
Is it that brief period of nothingness, wherein the rasp of a blade, sliding from its sheath, seems doubly ominous, as though some gut instinct tells you- "this is the sound to be aware of". 
So I thought, as the strike severed the branch at its base.
I see nothing, I told myself. I see nothing.
And again, like a mantra, I see nothing.
The axe in my hands felt like a thousand kilograms, like a chain from the abyss, dragging me down to hell. I was damned.
Knowing it doesn't make it any easier when the time comes to make that choice; it only makes it harder, the tension, the terrible awareness makes you dread each second until, like kissing the tip of a blade, you wait for the sword to sink hilt-deep.
Foresight is of no use when the path you choose is a binary one- there are no three ways about it. You either hold your hand, or extend your arm; and the choices are there not to stay, but to haunt you till the rest of your life.
Worse still is that people gather, not to mock and jeer, but if you look into those obsidian stares, all you see is countless reflections of yourself. Make the choice, and that carefully-constructed eidolon shatters beyond repair, a mirror promising seven years of bad luck with interest.
Fate is a bitch.
One last look at the Prosecutor, who stood so gravely, his air of fine contempt like the Faustian devil; I have consigned your soul to hell, you may follow it there; then stood the Judge, in his mercurial presence, a thin rake of a man, whose sole authority lay in what the office granted him; and lastly the officer, stolid and silent; I have done my job, to find my prey; do your job, and don't delay.
So be it. 
My soul is as darkened as any of those I kill; what matters it that I follow them soon? In hell, we are all judged alike, kings and peasants, cats and mice.
Paladins... and executioners.
I patted the axe once more, and she shoon, crooning softly for fresher blood.
The convict shivered, his head on the block, his eyes feverishly searching for a familiar face; for even a speck of humanity, of familiarity to be found- "please," he seemed to beg, "please, do not send me there so aloof". I hefted the axe. A familiar weight does not lessen over the years- but grows until you have to bend over, trying to carry it. 
Time slows down, as if some higher power revelling in the long memories of humans, wants us to fully appreciate the power we hold over ourselves, locking our lives into a wheel of industry and law, hierarchy, where we distribute unequally, and punish those who try to show us a better way of life.
I counted my years in that swing, like I have done for so many. They say you always remember your first kill.
They are wrong. You forget it, because after that happens, you lose a piece of your soul, the most important part of it that cares for your fellow man.
And when you lose it, it's like a banner flying over your head; others instinctively sense it, like you or I can tell a leper at twenty paces- and go to great pains to avoid them.
The feel of the axe hitting something is never pleasant. It's a shiver that runs up your arm, making every bone vibrate for just enough time to affect, the feel of your own muscles tensing involuntarily, putting unneeded effort into the equation, then a relaxation, as flesh parts seemingly of its own accord.
A clean kill, they call it, when the bone is severed flat; little do they know how bone feels under the edge of an axe; like some faltering castle wall, it stands firm for a few seconds under a battering ram, then gives way. The spine splinters, unable to bear a strain it was never meant to feel; then gives way, and for a few moments, the axe flies of its own accord, and veins pop out while you try to slow it down.
Another pause, as you feel the edge of the axe hit the wood below, as though finding that familiar gouge on the block by force of habit, wherein the axe is the thinker and the human but a machine.
The blood spurts like a fountain, and the heart itself pumps out the ichor needed to keep the body hale. Worst of all, though, is the head- detached, unheld, it rolls like some macabre ball, no longer seeming human, eyes glazed over, in a rictus of less pain, more fear and intense surprise; as though, in his final moments, the owner saw something he could never believe.
I hope, for his sake, that he made his peace to whatever Gods see fit to let this cycle continue. 
Humanity has never actually deserted violence, as so many try to convince themselves, affecting themselves enlightened, civilized, sophisticated.
No.
When it comes to that, strip a man's face from his flesh; and what is underneath is the same as any other, no distinction whatsoever; if we, in our oldest ages, would use bone and club to crush our opponents, is it any different from the axe, or the rapier? From the flintlock, or the revolver?
Or from the muzzle of a cannon?
All we've actually done, is to find new, and more sadistic, ways of actually killing our fellow man. 

Until then... until then, I keep making that binary choice; until then, I remain one of Charon's minions, fuelling his train into the Abyss.
*
Sometimes you just let your pen wander, your hands play across the keyboard, and come up with stuff so random, so bizarre, that later you wonder whatever had possessed you to write it- and that memory's a blank. This is a bizarre story- I've no idea what prompted it, and although I usually give a title after finishing it, nothing comes to mind.
Comments- and ideas for a title- appreciated.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Instant Fantasy#3: Prelude to the March

(Dedicated to two people: one, an artist I admire, as much for the detail he brings out as the subjects he uses; Luis Royo. 'The Hallowed Isle' is the one I used for a template; and two, Henryk Sienkiewicz, the author of With Fire and Sword, one of the greatest novels I've read. Worth mentioning in the same breath is the game, a recent version of Mount&Blade with the same name- another brilliant franchise, and with the same background to boot.)
*
Dazar lies in ruins, majesty. What will you do now?
Turn my thoughts, and my gaze eastward. The south has tasted of my steel, and my blood, until they could stomach it no more, the bastards. Eastwards lies gain. Eastwards lies battle.
Eastwards, majesty, lies also the might of Maltheria. Would you chance it, a single gamble of the dice, stake your power, your empire, your life?
Life is to be lost someday, witch. If not today, then tomorrow. If not tomorrow, then lost wasting away in the throes of old age or disease, in some foul jungle bitten by the devil's messenger. I care not. Eastwards we march.
The armies stand ready, the men stand valiant. Will you, though, not spare a thought for your people?
My people. 
It seems fitting, does it not. After years of conquest and decades of planning, I have reached thus far... to get what was rightfully mine; mine own throne, a queen, and a nation. 
Is it not enough, then, to have in your hand what all you wished for, or are you still yearning of that glory in battle?
I am, it seems... and my people have their ministers four. They may administer in my place, while I tend to matters of warcraft and siege, glory and conquest... let the softbloods govern themselves! 
Leave me with ten thousand swords, and ten thousand horse; with a steed under me and a longsword in my hand. The feel of blood in the air, the roar of battle as might clashes might. No, witch. I shall have none of this petty statecraft. I was born of fire, of the loins of kings.. the true kings of this land, whose bones lie in their graves yet unrotten, so strong is their will.
Does that will drive you on, my liege, or is it your own... do not confuse duty with desire; wholly embrace that which you wish- or you will remain forever as they did, confused, meandering souls not yet granted the peace of the abyss nor sanction into heaven.
They lie in their graves. I do not. I have what I need. I have a destiny.
Is that enough, majesty?
Will you, that I, like those ancestors of mine, the warlords of old, will have nothing but a nation that needs me not, a people that hears me not, an army that is content to wither in its forts and castles and defend from dangers that be not, and then you, witch, will one day whisper to a descendant mine; is it enough?
No, it is not enough. It will never be enough. And to my dying day I will not have enough if I take this path. But understand me once- if I stay here, and deign to rule, then I may be satisfied, life may be full of pleasures unknown and pains unforseen. If I ride this night, and I put to fire and sword whatever unholy terrors lie, then that holds its own pleasures, and pains.
It seems that your majesty has little need for me.
Oh, I need you. I need your knowledge, your poisons, your soft little words in my ear, as much as I need your presence by my side when we march... or marry. You know too much for me to let you go- as I am sure that my ancestors thought. You are immortal, and that is your burden. I am not, and that is mine. Leave this matter, and tonight we shall depart this castle.
So many will perish.
For a greater glory. A unified empire. Can you not see that in power lies the path to peace, witch? Peace can only be upheld by one who has the power to uphold it. All else is illusion; all else fails. A form of governance, like the one I leave behind me, shall fall into kleptocracy.
And say nothing that I am not who shall unite this land. I gain nothing unless I try.
If you fail, then who wins, majesty?
Another son of this land, who sees the opportunity and the power with his own cunning and wisdom; one who rises from the depths to ascend to an iridiscent zenith even I may not imagine... and he will take up my sword, my cause, and rally men to his banner. Perhaps he shall do so in fugue or in sound mind; but if I fail, then all I do is join the ranks of those who tried, watching the empty grave next to me slowly fill, as mine own neighbour would be now. 
With accolades, or blood, I know not.
Uncertainty here can breed misfortune, majesty... but far be it from me to try and ravel that which my mates would tie tighter than a spider's web. So be it. I march with you, and as is my duty, will one day inter you.
How many have you advised this way, witch? How many of my predecessors fell in this land, or by your hand?
They are one and the same, majesty; I am the land. Far be it from me to stop the revelries of mortal-kind; I advise, and I see, century after century, blood, death, hunger, thirst... I have seen death, and I have spoken to him; even the Reaper grows weary of this massacre. 
I do not measure time as you will; time is not a river to me anymore, fast and bold, but a lake, and I stand, perched on a rock, in that centre, waiting for a hand to lift me out of stagnation.
And it has never come... so all I can do is wait, and hope. 
And with that hope shall I, as I have done countless times, see another young man take up the sword in his land's name- and desecrate it as man always has.
As you will, your majesty, and I follow.
*
A narrative. No characters mentioned by name, but described by each other; I didn't want to spend paragraphs or even sentences trying to describe them. You're better off looking at Luis Royo's Hallowed Isle
Criticism appreciated- JN

Friday, September 9, 2011

Instant Fantasy #2: The Lightkeeper

(Author's note: Today's word is 'Bilt'. Slightly light-hearted; a one-shot without too much history behind it. Read on.)
*
The Lightkeeper
Bilt walked the lonely paths from Daggerrun to Yeoman's End alone. His job was to simply make sure the lights along the stretch remained lit.
Or else, as his old gran said, things crept in from the marshes to prey on the good folk. It shouldn't happen, so his family had carried on the task of keeping the foglamps lit. There was the chance that whatever came to blow them out would retaliate, and have perfectly good reasons for doing so, but Bilt had been told never to listen to tricksters and strangers, so he didn't. He used his stick to drive them away.
And if they didn't want to be driven away, then Bilt had permission to put them away, permanently.
Bilt lifted the torch all the way to the basin, letting the oil get a good long touch of the magic flame. His gran said that the torch had burned for three hundred years, now, and his gran's gran had found it deep in the forest, and had decided that some good should come out of an everlasting flame.
Bilt resumed his walk. Things like everlasting torches were of no interest to him; he knew his part in the world, and his gran said that if one knew what was to be done, then life was peaceful, orderly and good. His gran was rarely wrong.
Suddenly, Bilt heard a noise. Bilt knew that a noise meant something was moving; he knew these marshes as good as he knew the back of his hand.
He turned to the source of the noise, mildly inquisitive. As long as it didn't want to blow out a torch, he didn't mind it. 'Excuse me,' he began, 'are you here to blow out a torch?'
'Torch,' something said, and Bilt slammed the torch into the shadowy figure. It went down in a heap.
'Nasty buggers. Don't even think about it.' So saying, Bilt walked on.
As he walked on, he saw that the ground seemed overly red today. Of course, that wasn't saying much- the marshland glowed a different colour at different times of the day. Gran said it was because of an old curse that drew the fog. Bilt didn't know about any old curse, but he reasoned that if he did, he'd be spinning stories and telling legends like gran.
Bilt wasn't too concerned. He had clogs thick enough to walk through most of the marsh, and the barges were serviceable enough.
Eventually, he ran into the source of the problem. Here, of all places, a group of adventurers were trying to fight a dragon. 'Don't have any sense,' he thought, watching the five men try to overpower a creature four times their size. The dragon glowed a brilliant red, flames scorching the wet marsh every few minutes. The adventurers, though, remained unaffected- perhaps their armour could withstand a lot of heat.
'Unholy creature!' One of them roared at the dragon. 'Give us the Church's symbol back! The Eternal Flame rightfully belongs to the Church and Faith!'
The dragon roared right back at him. 'Misguided Paladin! Spawn of idiots! I know no such thing! I've never seen an Eternal Flame, much less stolen it! Ouch!' That last was for a paladin who took the opportunity to stab the dragon in the side. 'Now I'm mad!' Another torrent of hell-fire. Bilt deftly avoided the deluge of flame. 
He walked on; he had no interest in watching a dragon and paladins go ten rounds.
He walked straight into the middle of the chaos, calmly lighting the foglamp in the middle of the clearing. For a few moments, both parties were distracted, and stared at this late entry.
'Hello. Do you want to blow out the foglamp?' Bilt asked, ever polite.
'This foglamp?' The dragon asked, pointing. Bilt nodded. 'No,' the dragon said, but the breath that accompanied that single syllable blew it out anyway. Bilt shook his head and re-lit it. Then he jumped up onto the dragon's back, avoiding the nasty spines along the way, and made his way to the dragon's head, sitting on its scaly skin. The dragon, disconcerted by this stranger, was as surprised as the paladins.
'You shouldn't blow out the foglamps. Otherwise nasty things creep in from the fog.' And to emphasize his point, Bilt slammed the torch into the dragon's skull. The flame poured out of every orifice- the mouth, the ears, the nostrils, and a few others best left unsaid. 
He jumped off the now-screaming dragon, who wasn't really sure where to rub, but compromised by flapping his wings and making a lot of noise. 'Too much noise, Master Dragon, you'll attract the things from the marsh,' Bilt tutted, before turning to the paladins. 'Are you here to blow out the foglamp?' One of the paladins, a man with the largest sword Bilt had ever seen, stepped up to him. 
'Young man,' he said, taking off his helmet to reveal a frighteningly scarred face, 'that torch belongs to the Church.' Bilt was surprised. None of the legends his gran had told him mentioned that this torch actually belonged to anyone.
'I need it to light the foglamps. It belongs to my great-greatgrandfather.' 
'Father, let us off with this country bumpkin and we shall have what we came for,' another paladin said, raising his sword above his head. Bilt slammed the torch, flame first, into his helmet. The paladin fell, a smoking heap, but still alive.
'I don't like swords,' he said, touching the fallen sword with his shoe, pushing the blade away from him. 'Sharp. Don't like sharp stuff.' The paladins stared at him for a few more moments, before the un-helmeted one looked at helmets two to four. 
'Right. We'll leave you, then.' Bilt nodded gravely, watching the paladins walk off.
'Wait,' Bilt called. They turned back.
'Are you sure you want to go that way?'
'Yes.'
'That way leads into the marsh.'
'So?'
'This is the only way out of the marsh.'
'No, it isn't.'
'Yes, it is. Gran said none of the other routes were safe anymore, so Gran used to get up early in the morning to work till evening, just so this route could be lit. He spent years trying to put every foglamp in its place while also making sure that the ground wasn't too bad to walk on, and also made the barges three lamps ahead so that people could cross the river without being eaten by the creatures in the marsh. Gran worked just so that people like you could reach Yeoman's end safely, or return to Daggerrun from there without being hurt by the things in the marsh.'
'But we don't want to go to Yeoman's End,' the paladins protested.
'Then go to Daggerrun,' Bilt suggested. 'Daggerrun's not too far from here, just around ten lamps away. And it's a nice city there, people are rich, the buildings are large, and the air is full of magic. Gran used to say elves lived at Daggerrun once, and you can still see them there.'
'We're going to Mountainshead. Our church is there.'
'There's a caravan to Mountainshead every two months from Daggerrun. They go through a lot of cities, and it's very nice,' Bilt said helpfully. If they went straight into the marsh, then the things would get them.
'Are you trying to make fools out of us?' Helmet number three asked.
'No,' Bilt said. 'You're confusing me. Don't you want to go to Yeoman's End?'
'Yeoman's- no, we don't! We're going to Mountainshead!'
'That's where the caravan is going. Oh, yes- you're going to Daggerrun to take the caravan, then?'
'No!'
'Why?' For some reason, this simple question seemed to confuse them worse than it confused Bilt. They didn't seem to have an answer. Poor misguided souls, Bilt thought. The marsh air was making them light-headed. Why go through miles of marsh when you could go through the lit path and get to Daggerrun safe and sound? 'I will come with you.'
'You will?' The unhelmeted one asked, looking hopeful. 
'I'll come till Daggerrun.' 
'No, that's all right, son. We're going to Mountainshead.'
'But-'
'It's all right. The Lord protects. The eternal flame keeps watch. Go about your business.' It sounded like a blessing, and Bilt took that seriously, coming from such a kind paladin. He nodded, bowed, and went back to his work with renewed vigour.
*
As the paladins saddled their horses, Helmet number three turned to the Father. 'Are you sure you don't want to go back and tell him?'
'That the marsh was cleared a century ago? Father Karstar once travelled this way, and he ran into an eccentric man who kept lighting this stretch. Because of the energy the flames exude, the stretch sits on a portal to unknown dimensions, from where creatures of untold power keep sneaking in to take the energy for themselves. A man who keeps these creatures at bay so easily, is not one to be disturbed lightly.
'Besides,' he said, mounting his horse, 'how would you convince him to put one foot off that path, I'd like to know.'
Helmet number three considered it, then shrugged, and followed the Father's lead.
*

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Re-post: Lust for life

Author's note: I ran into this while cleaning up my hard drive. I remember when typing it out that I'd let the reader wonder if it was real or fictional. My policy is usually to write what I know... some things just freeze your fingers in mid-stroke, when memories flood, and emotions rush. This is one of those stories that does that to me.
*
‘Love is for the losers.’
Oh, yes. I remember that dull afternoon, when I sat in one of those bloody coffee shops in which one is subjected to sit indefinitely and waste around two or three hundred bucks of his sister’s salary and, of course, a lot of sunlight.
I could have done the same thing at much less cost at home, the clear difference being I wouldn’t be arguing what appeared to be a perfectly useless subject: Human behaviour in general and love in particular, with this girl who looked like a model and acted like a devil. She snapped her fingers, her green eyes seething with anger, but her face flushed with what I hoped was challenge. Or, if I was particularly lucky, the wish to get going as far away from this annoying worm as possible. The feeling was mutual.
‘Love is for the losers?’ she nearly spat. ‘Oh, right. Maybe it’s because you’re way too shy to go find some of your own.’ Laughing mirthlessly, I pointed at the pair of lovers who were a step away from entangling themselves in their partner’s arm. Perhaps two steps away from stripping down and making love right here. Except this was India, and Indians are rather conservative.
I adjusted my perpetually falling spectacles as she subsided slightly, taking her point as proven. ‘Look at those two. They’re so much in each other’s arms. Love.’ I took out my switchblade, and very stylishly- or so I thought- let the blade swing out.
‘Now, suppose I went and tied up the boy and let him watch as I cut up the girl, one stab at a time.’ She paled slightly. ‘What do you think would happen? Assuming I did that.’
‘He’d kill you.’
‘To accomplish what? She wouldn’t come back.’
‘We’re straying off the subject. What are you trying to prove here?’
‘Equilibrium, starring Christian Bale, has a rather interesting concept: the future of humans is to cast away their emotions. As a result, the main character, Cleric Preston, feels nothing when he sees his wife sentenced and executed. Instead, he forgets it, and moves on. The future is better because of that. There is no war, because there is no hate, no rage, and no reason for either. That proves the redundancy of love.’
‘So tell me, how would this world be then? A bleak, dark world. There is no trust, no feeling. There is nothing, except to live for the sake of living.’
‘Let me see,’ I said, rolling my eyes dramatically. ‘How do the wolves, tigers, bears, fishes conduct themselves? The males and females do their job for the propagation of the population, and then never see each other again. Or at least, never feel anything.’
‘Mankind evolved from those concepts.’
‘And now it’ll go back if the future is like that. A good solution.’
‘A stupid and totally unnecessary step. Emotions are what drive us. There would be no art-’
‘And no cause for any thefts inspired by the same,’  I interrupted.
‘No books, and thus no reason for fools like you, bibliophiles, to exist.’
‘If only that were so,’ I said, even more dramatically. ‘Then we’d have never met, and I’d never have to pay for your obscenely expensive coffee.’ She slammed the money on the table.
‘Alright, boy. Let me show you how deep anyone’s love for life is. Your life for your life. Your love for anyone’s life in this shop, and outside it.’
‘Why would I love anyone else-’ I began, but she stood up and gestured to the chaos of the traffic outside.
‘I am going to jump in-’
‘Don’t forget the bill.’
‘And you will follow me. You will grab my hand and pull me back. And then, maybe, I’ll kiss you.’ That did tempt me. She was something, all in all. She left, leaving the air tingling with a sense of finality. I rose, without understanding why, and followed her trail. She was waiting at the pavement, and a few yards off, I saw her boyfriend standing. He smiled when he saw her, and walked toward us with that arrogant walk I had always hated. That got me. Jealousy?
She smirked at me and closed her eyes. My breath tightened. God, she was serious. ‘Don’t do it,’ I told her, my fingers tingling of their own, and a feeling in the pit of my stomach arose, my heart pounding. Hormones raging. The boy saw what she was going to do, or at least he sensed it, when his walk lost its arrogance and gained speed. Everything froze around us...
Then she took the first step. My hand reached out, and she opened her eyes. Only a pull from my direction would save her from the honking truck that sped at eighty so close to the pavement.

That pull never came.
I only vaguely remember the shock in her vivid green eyes, to the accompaniment of her boyfriend’s leather boots which beat a staccato on the pavement. She tried to grab at me, to pull herself back, but I stepped back purposefully. That little step was enough to doom her, and in who knows how much of a second, she was propelled forward by the truck’s grille, into the afterlife.
The mangled body was found a good thirty feet away, tossed around for nearly fifteen seconds before the traffic jam took its effect. I looked at the second truck that stood before me, its predecessor now on its side a few metres away. The driver, a huge, bearded fellow, tapped the cigarette on the window frame and bent down to look at me. ‘Kya hua, boss?’ he asked in accented Hindi.
I shrugged, recalling my rather expensive bill lying on the table. ‘Pata nahi. Shayad se ek billi tyre ke nechi...’ I left the sentence unsaid. The man winced, then looked at the truck on its side. He shrugged and got out.
‘Nashta milega?’ He pointed at the coffee shop.
‘Arre, bolo mat. Is se achha hai vo highway ka dhaba, aur sasta bhi.’ He grinned at that, and nodded. I nodded in farewell, and went inside to settle the account. Everyone inside was staring at the window, at the traffic jam. I went to the counter, settled my bill. Halfway out of the shop, I remembered the book I was reading, still on my table, dog-eared where I had marked it. I ran a hand over the page, straightening the bent corner. It was Irving Stone’s ‘Lust for life.
*
When I'd first met Piya, what hit me was her vitality- her energy. It was infectious, and I hated it. For the better part of a semester I'd hung around with her- and Samir, her boyfriend with the leather shoes. He was still a chilled-out guy: weed, drinks and an adrenaline junkie. Piya was... well, she was Piya- open, warm, argumentative, with the sort of personality that'd turn sullen lil' me mad.
They were chance encounters- when we first met, our bills at Barista had been mixed up. Since the last time I met either of them, Barista holds bad memories for me every time I go.

Instant Fantasy #1: Lailah's People

Author's note: This is an experiment. I wanted to see what'd come up from a single word. Today's word is: Lailah. Not very fantastic, I know, but building a story is easy once you have some fixed base.
*
Lailah's People

In the grey depths of the seas lie the dark, mysterious cities of the Nagas. Half-human and half-snake, they were a quiet, studious people, preferring their ordered lives to the chaos of terran society. They never named their cities; except one.
In my scarlet shell, I descended to those murky depths, determined to unearth the secret behind this people, and their city. She had a name, this city: Lailah.
The city kept its vigil, unwavering. I don't know how it could, after so long; history says that its inhabitants left her alone, vacant, a shell, when their apocalypse came. Yet Lailah stood, in all her silent glory, a testament to the  skill of the Nagas. Seven leagues by five it stood, and three leagues deep into the floor, stretching as far as the eye could see. 
Its inhabitants? I counted those on the fingers of my left hand. There were five- 
One, the King of the Depths, old Skorn, larger than an island, stronger than any of his whale-kin; 
Two, the mysterious Senthane, an entity that, myth goes, settled here to pursue its arcane studies; 
Three, Quararzin, a half-sentient construct that stood in silent guard, a golden golem guarding the main gates;
Four, a voidal, a being from another time, another space- one who guards his privacy jealously, 'tis said;
And five, Zynn of Nine Fins; a creature of legend, an emperor of sharks; no one goes to his domain without paying heavy tribute - a tribute of life.
Out of them, I had no quarrel with Zynn, and he none with me if I did not go to his part of the city; Senthane went to great lengths to keep itself hidden; Quararzin would not harm me, if I did not harm his city; Skorn had ravaged three islands and now, the massive whale was ravaging a fourth. It was the Voidal I wanted to meet- I suspected his hand in the disappearance of Lailah's people.
Armed with my sturdy harpoon, her bolts in place, a book, and a pen to write in, and this submarine, with all its accoutrements, I declared myself ready.
The silent, helmed face of Quararzin, the golem, stared back at me. It was disconcerting, that unseen gaze; like all nagas, Quararzin had the upper body of a human, but below the waist, a snake's- and it was that body that curled all around the city's massive expanse as a protective wall, while he guarded the main gates, armed with a sword that, with its sheer size, could have cut mountains.
Remember- I am not talking about a simple, unliving statue of stone, but a golem, made of the strongest alloy- and it was sentient. Quararzin's gaze followed me into the gate, a tiny thing nestled in the folds of his tail. It remained open, and I knew I had the golem's blessing.
Now, all that remained was to explore the city. Her hands clasped in greeting, her tail curled around her, a statue of Lailah greeted me at the gate, and even in stone, her beauty, and regalness clear. I was a guest here, and Lailah would be, it seemed a gracious hostess.
As such, I bowed my head to her memory, and to that of those who'd built her, stone by uncounted stone, and let the submarine enter the city.
*
Details! Lots of details missing in the piece. 
1. The Nagas- a feature in my own novel (currently under development) a half-human, half-snake people who have seemingly abandoned their cities while the rest of their half-human brethren (wolves, minotaurs, centaurs, vampires, half-dragons, and whatever animal I can halve).
2. The main character- unnamed. A scientist hoping to uncover the disappearance behind the people of the seas. The Voidal, as I've already said, is the key to the mystery.
3. The Voidal- "There is a space between spaces, and it is the Void." - from one of my own characters. A Voidal is a powerful being from that... well, Void.
4. Golems- Golems are mechanical constructs given sentience, sometimes life and freedom of thought. Frankenstein is the most common example, although he may/may not be a golem, depending on the viewpoint. More famous is the 16th century golem made by Rabbi Loew who created a golem to defend Prague. 
In this case, the golem is actually both the city's defender and wall- imagine a huge snake with its tail in its mouth; now imagine a humanoid torso on that snake- and the city is encircled by its body. That's what the golem in the story is doing.
More to follow. Any details missed out, or any explanations needed, leave a comment.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Glory of a Revolution

(Author's note: This is an excerpt I got from a conversation with an ex-army veteran-turned-merc. Yes, it is a *SPOILERS ABOUND* vampire he was talking about, he was Irish, and he'd been halfway across the world. If you'd seen his eyes like I have, then you'd be reminded of a car running without fuel, empty, running on fumes. He had no life in him left. This is to the memory of the beer he shared with us on one long, empty road when our car broke down.)
------------------
Life. So yeah, this was it. So saying, I strolled down memory lane.
Years back we walked this lane, cowboy hats, cigars and beer were our companions. We walked carefree and so nakedly naive. 
And look what came out of it.
Twenty years gives me enough leeway to gripe about it. But it's like watching Clint Eastwood in Gran Turismo; the older you get, the more attached you get to something, that irrational sort of attachment that forms after you clasp your hands around the handles, feel the texture on your skin. 
I shouldered the rifle. I didn't want it, but then, in our teenage, it was what we lived for. We didn't care who the hell wanted a revolution; all we wanted was the glory of battle.
You know the thing about the glory of battle? Once you're shooting, all that's really there is adrenaline, fueled by a desire to live. All you want to do is stay alive, and you really don't care who you shoot, who you kill, to stay that way.
In a fight, there is no time to out-think or outsmart your opponents. That's why the think-tanks arm themselves with beer and binoculars, and stake out a cushy spot in the treeline.
And they stay there. By large that's the advantage of rank. Apart from that, everyone's got to die, sooner or later.
I buried all of my friends, and all of my family. I buried three commanders, and three platoons of recruits. 
Do you know about that story, where a vampire, full of his power, drunk on his strength, goes to travel the world? He enjoys his life, he samples every pleasure from Mexico to Manchester, goes east, north, south and then to Australia, the boot of the world.
When he finally returns, his head full to bursting with experiences, his tongue waiting to wag, all that waits for him at home is death.
His family's dead twice over; two generations of his immediate family who grew up without knowing him, and the third doesn't recognise him or believe him.
And so he is doomed to wander the Earth, and Death laughs at him; "If I cannot have you," Death jeers, "then you can have no one."
And so do I wander. All that's left for me is the fighting. I stopped caring a long time ago who I was fighting for. All I know is that someone pays me enough for a few more days' worth of food and drink. Hell, he even pays for the fucking bullets and the rifle oil. You think I care about the glory of our revolution?
I don't. If you live long enough, you won't, either. 
You want advice? Die young, kid, or live someone else's life. It's not worth living as long as I have in this shithole... and if you think my scars are something to be proud of, then wait until you get some of your own. When you stop screaming, come to my tent, and I'll drink to your health- or at least, to your chances of staying alive tomorrow.
Other than that, all you actually need to know is that if you squeeze the trigger on your rifle, a bullet shatters whatever's in front of it. And when it clicks, then it's time to replace the magazine.
Get going. Dawn's breaking, and I can hear them moving... if you stay alive, come find me, and we'll get drunk and live another night. If you die... then let me raise this glass to you, because I know you'll find more peace in the afterlife.
Get going.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Her final performance


(Author’s note: A short story, built around as much description as was possible in as little a frame as could be built. The premise is, the narrator is Death, come to take a soul; the woman, a dancer, offers a final performance for the deity. Enjoy.)
(P.S. Although a re-post, I did tailor it slightly before putting it in.
---
The room was dimly lit by the half-a-dozen windows, allowing slivers of light through.
She shone then, a pale figure looking out of the window, silhouetted against the light of the waning moon. Clad in a smooth, flowing gown, I could almost make out the soft promise of warm flesh, almost seeming to glow in the light.
She spun, not quickly, not worriedly, but in the manner of someone waiting for this very moment. She stood, so calmly, seductively, unhurried. A slight smile on those ruby lips; a slight arch to that thin eyebrow...
With a passing glance at the door she gestured arrogantly, defiantly, challenging me, the world, time itself to stop her- but we were powerless. She stood before me, a Lilith in righteous glory. Lilith was right, I thought. Comparing her to Salome did her no justice.
She danced, slow and seductive, hands high in the air to stretch her body. Sleek and lean, her hips gyrated to a tune only she could hear, for me to discern without knowing. I would have to guess, but remain in suspense as to what melody drove those movements.
And I stood there, both harbinger and harvester. Even after witnessing so much, she still stunned me. With but a glance, she told me to wait and enjoy, to listen and admire.
The music changed, abruptly, I could see in her movements. She had moved aloof, afar, a prize out of reach but forever in sight. Now, she turned teasingly, dancing closer and closer, within the reach of my hands...
... but darting out just before my skeletal appendages could close on warmer flesh. A pristine laugh escaped her as I missed once more and she danced away, out of reach again, content to watch me snarl from where she'd bound me.
Then once more she changed. Smooth and direct her movements, her leg extended with a grace only fit for an emperor's ballet, her knee coming up to her belly, then flexing, gently curving back down to the floor, and she jumped back smoothly into reach.. and this time I did not falter and trapped my prize.
With a smile and a pale hand on my cheek, she came into my embrace- and we descended into my domain of darkness and peace. The room stood empty, her scent, wafting away on the gentle breeze, the only trace left of her left to this world.
---

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Last Smoke

Author's note: A mild piece on crime fiction. Inspired by detective Classics like The Maltese Falcon, North by Northwest, Hitchcock's own works among others, when double-crossings and triple-crossings were the norm.
---------------------------
Fatty Buster had been fired.
'You can't fire me, I-' that iconic line had not worked on his boss, a wickedly dangerous man who looked like a bomb about to explode. Fatty had taken the chance to run out as soon as possible, but not before breaking a few of his boss's favourite vases.
He climbed morosely down the stairs, not bothering to take the lift as usual. 'Why, oh lord?' He asked. There was no reply. Half an hour back he'd been happy, successful and rich. Now, while he was still rich, there was a mountain of bills left to take care of.
Not to mention a pair of mistresses and a wife.
And two kids.
Life, he thought, is a bitch.
With that eloquent remark, Fatty drew out a cigarette from the depths of a coat pocket. Although he kept telling himself he'd stop, the occasion called for a smoke.
*
Now, while Fatty Buster was having his last smoke, on the other side of the street, several things happened at once.
A beautiful woman exited a jewelry store.
A pair of punks in goth attire decided to raid her.
Another gang war erupted on the next street, its projectiles hitting windows and breaking glass. Several people ran.
Fatty Buster, however, remained unreachable. His concerns were of the utmost significance- no petty gang war would merit his attention.
But the woman on the other side finally got his attention anyway. Men, thought Fatty, were made by God as a standing joke. No man would resist a woman with her clothes in such disarray, and no man would want to give her up to a pair of punks who couldn't possibly appreciate her.
And thus the testosterone rush. Fatty slammed a backhand into the face of the taller of the two, and introduced the other's face to the concrete.
Both went down for a few minutes, then went away when he lifted a garbage can threateningly.
The woman stopped him, and eyed her torn coat. 'Thank you,' she said, her accent foreign and rich. Fatty placed it and her- she was greek, probably the mistress or trophy wife of some bigwig in town. Olive-skinned, dark-haired and jade-eyed. A stunner. But not really meant for him. He put his own over-coat around her and let her lead him to a nearby convertible.
The woman gave him several directions, most of which he knew but had never entered in his life. Bigwig's wife, or his mistress, Fatty thought again, but this time with less contempt that before as he swung the car into Drive and took it out into the street. The gang war had left the street open; they had little trouble getting to the address, while the woman kept her gaze either on the road, Fatty's coat, or Fatty.
She found his silence disconcerting, he could tell. Most people did.
Fatty didn't relieve her of that qualm, didn't say a word. In most places a word could damn you; and as such, he sincerely regretted taking that last smoke outside the building when the convertible was stopped by a pair of goons at a gate larger than his garage.
The woman spoke quick greek. Imported hired help. Curiouser and curiouser.
Fatty checked his own reflection in the mirror. With a buzz-cut and his poker face, he looked like half a gangster himself. Give him a billiards cue and he could pull off the italian greeting: 'you lookin' for troubbal, mistah, you foun' it.'
The goons let him in, amazingly. What was more amazing was the fact that the woman let him into the house, settled him down and had a maid give him a glass of fine wine. He took a sip while the maid cut a cigarette for him and lit it.
Something's not right, Fatty realized. I should've been out of here a long time ago. Why am I still here? This doesn't make sense.
While Fatty pondered the mysteries of the universe, he also pondered at the man with the two .45's making his way up the ladder. He didn't look like the hired help, so Fatty drew a rifle from fireplace, and hoping against hope it was loaded, shot the man, who, surprised, tumbled down the staircase.
Once again, the greek made her entrance, hands over her lips, shocked. She was even more shocked when she saw Fatty next to the dead man. 'So they are still here!' A stream of expletives in greek followed Fatty's discovery of a letter and the woman's photograph. 'We must go! Christos take my husband.' For the first time, Fatty realized things were out of his control.
'Kyria, I think I should be going, and you should be leaving.' For a moment, the woman stopped waving her hands around and the stream of expletives stopped, and the maid put the phone down.
'You will not come?' Fatty shook his head.
'If we both go, then they will find us easily- two different passports. No, Kyria, you should be going alone. I suspect that this man was waiting for you inside, and that your phone is tapped. I will call the airport and make arrangements.'
*
An hour passed to find them at the Airport. There were no threats on the way there. 'Thank you, sir,' the woman said again, her leopard-green eyes meeting his for what he suspected was the last time. Fatty nodded, and was surprised by the woman's quick kiss, a final glance of goodbye and then off she went. Fatty did not look back as he left. He didn't need to- he knew the woman felt a prickling in her stomach. The prickling would soon make its way up, and the poison would take its effect.
Sure enough, the airport's denizens began to raise their voices as someone shouted for help. As Fatty had observed, a beautiful woman always commanded the attention of any hapless man- but now, she was beyond saving. A phone call told him the money was in his account, and that her husband, the contractor, was offering him a job in Greece.
Fatty hung up the phone, tossing it into a nearby dustbin as the goons from earlier picked him up in their car. 'He's happy. You did a good job.' Fatty nodded.
'She was worth it. I would've liked to keep her.' The goons grinned their approval of the idea, but reached him home anyway. His wife- she had already left. Not that he'd expected any less. She didn't like what  he did one bit.
Fatty looked at the plane tickets in his hand, and waited.
*
On the third day, the bell to his door rang, and he rose, putting the glass of rum aside, and picked up his 9mm; the door opened to the same jade-eyed woman, who died three days ago. 'Let me in,' she said in a voice as seductive as her form; 'I've come to haunt you for the rest of your life.'
Smiling for the first time in days, he let her in; in her hands the entire missing fortune of the Greek billionaire. He sat down on his chair, and she on his lap. 'I have a beautiful little villa tucked away in Siena.. far enough from Alessandro that we will not need to hide anymore. Will you come now? Or must I die again at your hands?'
Fatty smiled, his black eyes pinned by her green. From the first, he had been helpless; she had set the whole plan up, all those days ago when he'd met her as a client for his company. Now... she was dead, he was too small to bother, and they had nothing left to fear.
'Let's go. There is nothing keeping us.'
She smiled again, tipping out the tickets onto his hand, the smell of her exotic cigarette washing over him as she put the holder aside.
'I thought you'd stopped smoking,' Fatty said.
'It's the last smoke,' she replied, and somewhere, Fatty knew, it was his last smoke that began this whole plan; God alone knew what hers would begin.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Recurring Nightmare


Author's note: This is from my Autobiography Assignment. No, I'm seriously not writing one, it's what I submitted as an assignment, and yes, this is real, it did happen.
---------------
Times were that I used to be this wee little lad in shorts.                                    
I had an eccentric family, and they often took pains to prove it. An uncle of mine was a crime and horror movie buff. For no good reason, I spent hours watching movies with him.
I remember watching the Godfather, Dick Tracy, or Evil Dead and Predator among others. They really affected my imagination, and deprived me of several nights' sleep.
When I did start sleeping properly, I had a nightmare.
If you've seen those interrogation scenes in detective movies, then you'll relate to what I saw: a table in a dark room, lit by an overhead bulb. There were two chairs, and one was occupied by a huge man. He thumped the table with a fist when I sat down on the chair opposite him.
The man held a meat cleaver. I didn't like it. No one who's seen Friday the 13th would. As he did, the very flesh seemed to melt off his skin into a puddle. Not burning, not melting, but dripping off his fist onto the table.
It was bad enough that I didn't want to sleep for several days after I woke- we stared at each other for what seemed like hours.
-----------
Several years went by and I found myself in my first year of graduation. In a different time, a different city. I never really thought about that nightmare anymore- horror movies had become so passé. I stumbled into my bed particularly intoxicated one night.
And although I didn't recognise the scene immediately, it was still familiar. I sat down at a chair, wondering why the 90's interrogation set had been erected. I had a sense of someone else in the room, who sat on the chair opposite mine.
That was when it all came back. But what sat in front of me was not a man. It was... a three-foot humanoid shape, eyeless. Its mouth stretched from ear to ear. Its sharp teeth glinting.
If this was a trick, it was a bad one. I thumped my fist on the table. In my hand was a meat cleaver.
I remembered that too- but why the role reversal, after so long? And was that how I'd looked, to myself?
My flesh was dripping off my bones, and it felt... like water after a bath.
I woke up not soon after, rattled by the experience.
It got me thinking - it couldn't have been coincidence. Coincidence would be having the same dream twice. Not the same dream from a different angle.
After that, I began a downward spiral into the occult. Cynicism aside, it was a fascinating study. It brought up more questions than answers; but I found the reason why bad dreams happen - supernaturally speaking.
But that is a story for another time.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Untitled Ghost Story 1

It was morning. A good, pleasant morning. I was going along with some friends through Tuscany when we stopped at a bar.
It was a typically Italian bar, and we had a lot of wine there, and a hanger-on, an old man who thought he could fleece us out of some glasses. He did, but in exchange for a story. He told us of the Lonely Madonna. Madonna here meant a beautiful woman. The Lonely Madonna who waited for her love.
Most of us wanted to back out right then and there; we thought it was some grandiose epic.
But three of my friends wanted to listen, so I sat with them; this is his story.
-------------
Do you know, my friends, in a long time past, when the good Lord's son had set his followers on our soil, there lived a tailor. He was as you or I; he lived because he enjoyed life, good friends, fine wine.
The tailor was well-known for his fine stitching; and one day the lord summoned him to make for his daughter a dress that would bring her to life.
Now the tailor was surprised; why to life, good lord, he asked. Does she not live, the apple of your eye. 
The lord replied, no, she lives, but it is a living death. She shows no interest in whatever I bring her, and you, if you succeed, I will reward you in gold. 
The tailor was crafty, and did not ask what would happen if he failed; he knew.
So for ten days and ten nights he worked to sew such a garment, and on the eleventh day, he presented it to the lord. It shone like an angel's wing, that one; of cloth so white and pure that would draw every eye to the wearer. The lord took it to his daughter, much impressed, and the tailor, exhausted, waited for the opinion.
In due time, the daughter came out; and if the dress shone white, she shone brighter, by far, but still, here eyes were blank and far away. The lord did not reprimand him; but the tailor had failed.
This tailor had pride and took it amiss that she had not yet shown signs of life.
So each night he tried to create something better than before, and each day, she came with the same life.

One day, the tailor, his hands shaking climbed up again to court.
For some reason, he realized, the steps took longer to climb, his breath shorter than before.
But the daughter! Ah, she was still as young, although her father, had mysteriously grown a beard.
Why?
And as he waited he saw himself in a mirror;
He had aged, fifty years since that first dress. The full weight of his life crashed on him then and he realized how much time had been spent in his dressmaking.
And yet the daughter came, lifeless as ever, lovely as ever.
Finally, tearfully he gave up, and as he left the court, he saw no one.
That night, he sat without laying a finger to his needle, and saw the castle, reflecting the light of the moon; so beautiful. 
And on that turret of a lonely tower, a woman stood; her beauty as the sun.
She fell.
The scream was that of release.

The tailor rushed to court, and found the father butchered, every servant done to death, lying in pools of blood.
And there, on the lord's chair, sat a woman.
How he knew she was a woman he did not understand; save that something told him it was so.
The tailor fell, shaking; and the woman, dressed in a hood, came to him, and her eyes were as lifeless as the daughter.
I have loved your devotion; she told him. You must make me more dresses.
And full of despair at this supernatural being; for it was the daughter- the tailor fled.

They say, even today, if one cares to visit the house of that tailor, at two-thirty of the night, one can hear the loom spinning.
And if one will sit outside, one can see a figure, falling from the highest tower, screaming release.
And every morning, a new set of tracks in the soil, as though someone dragged their feet through, climbing a staircase not meant for an old foot.
-------------
We went to that castle afterwards, and it was beautiful. But we didn't believe the old man, who we thought had cheated us out of a bottle; so we found that hut and waited.
It didn't start at 2.30, but nearly 3 in the morning; and the room was empty, although the sounds of someone walking in the darkness were there; and a noise- slllick- like a needle being drawn through a handloom, the grunts of someone pulling and pushing in time to the threads being woven.
Outside, a faint noise that built- and we went to see the tower. It was easily seen from the garden of that house; something too white to be a stone, moving down, and falling with a splash. 
And the sounds of the soil being crushed as someone moved through it, stood where we did, as though watching.
There is that feeling you get when someone stands behind you, and we all got it. 
There was no one there; but in a few moments the sounds of the loom began again, with mutterings in italian.
We didn't wait longer, while this was supposed to be a benevolent ghost, it's better not to meddle.