"Wow," Aster said, leaning against the tree after watching Jack work the magic of his staff for nearly the entire afternoon. "That's really something."
Jack gasped, turning around and pointing his staff towards the bunny. "You-! How long have you been there, you creep?" Jack asked, cheeks lighting up(more) like twin violets while Aster chuckled at him.
"Some time," he said offhandedly. It would probably seriously unnerve the boy if Aster admitted to spying on him for a few hours, so he stepped forward and eased into his next question despite Jack watching him suspiciously. "You've been practicing after the incident with Pitch, I take it?"
When Jack realized Aster was genuinely asking and not trying to get a rise out of him, he visibly relaxed, letting his staff go slack in his hands and letting the Wind pick him up and twirl around it a few times.
"Could you tell?" he asked, pausing in his spinning to stare at Aster with wide blue eyes full of hope, and crikey, Aster was so done in and knew it in his heart and soul.
"Yeah, you snowy rascal," he said, and before he could stop himself had stepped forward to ruffle Jack's hair.
The action surprises them both-Aster, for doing something so bold, and Jack, for the sheer fact that the last time Bunny had come close to touching him, it was not in any way friendly. He pushed that memory out of his mind quickly.
"Strewth, I'd hate to be up against magic like that," Aster continued, pretending to inspect a nearby fern to look busy. "I should let you keep practicing, but North's waiting for us."
"Nah, I'm done for today, anyways."
Bunny pulled himself up to his full height, giving Jack a wide grin.
"Wanna use the tunnels?"(less)
Ever since the first wobbly revolutions of the Edison cylinder, the playback of recorded sound has depended on the vibration of air molecules, directed in such a way that the tympanic membrane, located in near enough proximity, can receive them. This is an entirely mechanical process whic(more)h, in its basic principle, resembles the way fluid moves through narrowing and widening channels, and terminates much as falling rain captured in a barrel.
The latest breakthrough eliminates the need for the sound wave, converting it into a pulse of light, which is shot through space and intercepted by the brain directly, without the intermediary of the eardrum, by an organ or system of organs we have yet to fully describe. As I will shortly demonstrate: we have weaponized this process.
(The man in the lab coat steps to the left of the stage to a table on which is a small object, a pistol, which he picks up and aims at another white-coated man seated at the back of the auditorium. Gasps can be heard.)
Dr. Hawley has volunteered to participate in this demonstration. Now, without further ado...
(The pistol emits a series of clicks, and there is the strong smell of ozone.)
Dr. Hawley. Would you explain to those gathered just what has transpired?
“The Gettysburg address... all of it. All two minutes. It came to me.... instantaneously.”
How do you feel, doctor?
“Fine... perhaps even... slightly energized.”
Now, ladies and gentleman, can you imagine how useful such a device or devices might be in directing a soldier, a platoon, a company in the battlefield?
“Oh, yes!” Hawley stands up. His forehead explodes and emerging, wormlike, his frontal lobe pulsates, its fissures forming a crude mouth, which speaks: “We have waited so long for this moment!”
"There's still a chance!" she shouted, deflecting a swing from the chainsaw as the beast before them growled and charged at her. "There's still a chance to save him!"
"Look at him, Yatho!" Hien demanded, shaking his head at her.
"He's too far gone. I mean it."
"He's gon(more)e when I say he's gone," she snarled, and then Grynewaht charged and her final battle with him began...
It was fast, over in mere hours. When he fell, she could still hear his raspy voice telling her they'll 'go together'.
But she couldn't. She couldn't go on to Hien and the others, and she couldn't leave him here just yet, even though she already knew she would have to.
"Please," she whispered, stroking the metal of his helmet. "Please don't-don't be-not again."
Y'shtola was the only one who stayed, motioning for the others to move on as Yatho's voice cracked and she moved to lay down beside the figure.
"It's all right," Yatho murmured, inching close enough to take hold of his hand. It was heavy and stiff. She ignored that.
"When you wake up, I'll be here. We'll set you right, and we can fight again."
"Yatho," Y'shtola began gently, kneeling beside her. "We need to move on. The others need us."
"I need him, Y'shtola. Once was enough. Even that time-" She broke herself off as the first tears slid down her face onto the royal carpet.
"I just want to hope," she said. "I wish being a hero didn't mean so many people have to die to prove it."
She clung to her hope as tightly as possible, barely able to notice anything else as she pulled herself up and continued down the hallway to catch up with the others.
Sometimes I think about downgrading my job, or - more accurately - taking on a secondary, much different job. It would be like assuming a disguise. The economic equivalent of stepping into a phone booth to change clothes, emerging and walking around in a different context where no one(more) recognizes you. I wonder what it would be like to work in a bar or deliver food on my bicycle. Or a waitress - I've never been a waitress. I've had my share of bad jobs but never having been a waitress seems like a sort of shortcoming.
I get tired of "identifying" with my job. I get tired of playing a role and taking classes to improve my performance. I get tired of professional standards and keeping my fingernails unpolished and trimmed. But the money is good and it is a "respected" profession. Even that gets boring.
Every so often I just want to be anonymous and unmoored. Take a job where you aren't registered anywhere and are paid in cash. Ringing doorbells to drop off dim sum. A voice on the phone when you press "0" to be connected to the operator. I'm probably too old to be a waitress now...too old to take shit, too old to look particularly good. But I could power wash sidewalks at 7am in the morning, just before pedestrian traffic gets too crazy, respectfully turning off my hose when foot traffic goes by so I don't speckle their office shoes with sidewalk grit.
I could sweep floors. That one, I've already done. So why do I think about it still?(less)
God must have been laughing when I pictured our futures together. But I wasn’t what you were looking for, at least not in the end. I was short on affection, short on words, short on love, short on everything.
I've never once been totally obsessed with something. A man of many hats. A jack of all trades but master of none. Fickle. I flicker my interests, moving from one project to the next with relative ease. My topics of conversation are fluid, running through the minutes like a(more) creek. I'm willing to take the path of least resistance and bide my time when it comes to eroding away hard topics.
I know people who want to talk about one thing and only one thing. And when the topic changes away from that thing they find a way of bringing it back.
I know people who spend days perfecting one project. They work tirelessly and repetitively until they are the expert.
I'm not interested in being the expert. I want to feel from the depths of my soul, and feelings are fleeting. Feelings must be chased after with the soft determination of playing tag with butterflies. If you focus on one butterfly, you miss the others. If you put too much force behind the action, you crush the dusted wings of the feeling under your heavy hand. At that point, you've caught it forever but it will never be alive or as beautiful as when it was playful and free. (less)
Downtown Vancouver, on Friday afternoon - a blazing sunny Friday in April. The throng on the streets comes as a shock; I don't always leave the house on my days off, which occur randomly. Seeing everybody out bustling my heart kicks like a caged dog chasing rabbits in its(more) sleep. I am never ready for the return of carefree days and this is one of them.
The conventional workday is over - "the weekend" is here. There is a general sense of pleasure in the air. Also a sense of worry, anticipation: fear of not being able to spend the time properly.
The sidewalks are full. The citizens are still transitioning - some still in scarves, some in boots and hats. Others (perhaps those who did not leave the house in the uncertain morning to attend work, but who had free time to assess where the weather was going) are also out in full force, dressed for the sun. Jeans and high-heels and sexy tops that cut in a straight line across your shoulder and chest.
Pleasure is in the air smelling like cotton candy vape smoke, weed, ground coffee, salt, Victoria's Secret body lotion...all the funhouse reek of downtown Vancouver. But there is also upset because of the sun and the 18 Celsius weather on an unassuming April day and yesterday it was pouring rain. Better plans weren't made in advance for this reprieve of an evening. The winter habits have yet to die, that of rushing home to start dinner. Suddenly the time has arrived to linger on a park bench with old friends or casual acquaintances, drink a Smirnoff Ice a-piece with the knowledge this is how unexpected warm Spring-time Fridays are intended to be spent. There is a hint of anger as people are not ready.
“It’s my brain, doc.” I said, my feet tapping against the resonant metal sides of the exam table. “I think it’s shrinking.”
As if he hadn’t heard, he shone his penlight into my right eye, then the left.
I went on: “I don’t like the things I used(more) to like. Reading, for instance... and my vocabulary. It’s dwindling. I don’t have words any more.”
He turned to retrieve a tongue depressor from a jar and, sticking it forcefully into my mouth, said:
“It’s the natural decline associated with aging. We all fumble for words from time to time, forget where we left our car keys... and so on.”
“GAWAAWAAG...” I replied.
“As a matter of fact,” the doctor stretched a rubber glove over each hand, “The fact that you have this concern at all is almost certainly an argument against your having significant cognitive deterioration.”
He instructed me to bend over, so I turned and grasped the corners of the table with both hands.
He prodded my interior for several seconds while I considered this possibility.
“No, doc.” I said, wincing, “I really think it’s more than just occasionally forgetting things.”
“Your prostate is fine.” He snapped off his gloves and threw them into a bin.
“Great. But how would I know for sure?”
“I just checked it, that’s how. No enlargement whatsoever.”
“No, I mean the “cognitive deterioration”... How would I know if I had any?”
The doctor regarded me sharply.
“Well, you wouldn’t. Others would notice it long before you would.”
I wondered if I had done or said anything lately that would give one pause to speculate at my mental state.
“Well Mr. Moon, pending any unusual lab results, you appear to be perfectly healthy.”
“Thank you, Captain,” I said, saluting, “Now, which way to the mezzanine deck?”
"This is my last time," Biker says, in reference to the way his head is spinning as he points the knife towards the cashier.
"I'll go to prison and die there."
"Let's leave," the masked stranger said, and Biker is so, so tired. He sighs, glancing at the cashier. It's just a kid, really, scared and now confused into silence.
"Sorry," Biker says lamely.
"It's okay?" they respond, and he laughs at them as he follows Jacket outside.
He figures if he's going to die later, he can just get it over with now right here.
"I'm ready," he says. Jacket's footsteps on the rough sidewalk stop.
This time Biker's confused, and he looks up and then motions to himself. "Just finish me off. I deserve it, don't I? This is your victory."
"It's not a victory. You're high."
"If I wasn't, would you kill me?"
"And why's that, huh?"
Biker stumbles on his march to the other man, but he rights himself and keeps walking so he can poke him in the chest and grab at his namesake so he doesn't tilt over and fall down.
"Why are you here? Why did you follow me if you weren't going to kill me? Did they tell you to find me?"
His breathing goes frantic at that, eyes widening. "Did you find me for them?! You-you have no right-"
"I did it for myself."
His breath halts, and he's left standing, leaning side to side as he watches Jacket grip the bottom of his mask and pull it off.
"I wanted out, too."(less)
"You're really good at this," he gasped, hands on his knees as he tried to catch his breath. Yatho set one hand on her hip, pretending to examine her nails as she waited for him to recover.
"Am I? I hardly noticed."
(more) "You little-"
Grynewaht pulled his axe up, hoping to catch her with a surprise attack. To his utter dismay, she deflected it with the handle of her own weapon, making him stumble back a few meters away.
"Tricky plays," she said, wagging a finger disapprovingly at him. "Let's see you try that again when I'm on my guard!"
Mostly recovered from the last couple minutes of sparring, Grynewaht rushed at her again, throwing all his brute strength into the swing of his axe in an attempt to knock her off her feet. He growled when he felt her shift back an inch, having to adjust her footing to deal with his attack.
But in a second she had adjusted and was rushing at him, forcing him to defend himself from her barrage until he'd fallen to the ground.
"I give!" he shouted, squinting up at her. "Bloody hells, you're a demon."
Yatho helped him up, abandoning her own axe several feet away.
"If we had a fight without weapons, I'd have won," Grynewaht muttered, pride wounded with the fact that a Miqo'te her size had bested him for the better half of an afternoon.
"Keep telling yourself that."
"Same to you, though."
"You're really good at this. Even though I kick your ass every time, you're the only person I can fight freely with."
It was definitely a proud compliment, coming from the Warrior of Light, but Grynewaht pretended to dislike it.
"Doesn't matter until I beat you, you devil-cat."
"Keep dreaming, darling."
Her eyebrows shot up almost comically.
"You really wanna know?"
When he nodded, she let out a noise like a snort, but the expression on her face was far from humorous.
"You know what I tell people?"
The stranger sitting across the table from her nodded.
"She's a good person. Just not a good mother."
It didn't take much to pry more out of her.
"She was so selfish, and she didn't realize it. Maybe she took after her own mother, but she couldn't see it. She just wanted more and more, and even though she said it was for the family, and for us...it just wasn't. It never was."
She scratched at her neck, a little tic she had never grown out of when she was deep in thought.
"She wasn't /horrible/. She took my money, but she always gave it back. She yelled at me, but then sometimes she tried to be funny. So each time I said I'd never forgive her...why wouldn't I forgive her when she told me she cared about me? When she worried about the nights when I came home late from work?"
The girl set her hands in her lap, another tic evident in the way she pursed her lips to chew at them from the inside.
"She tried to care, but she couldn't see past herself long enough to do it. I think I was always trying to do the opposite and failing just as miserably."
"I tried not to care, but I always started to when I saw her trying to be friendly."
When the girl cleared her throat, she lifted her head and smiled politely. "No... she didn't hurt me as bad as other parents could, but she sure made being her kid downright fucking miserable the entire time."(less)
Wet dumpster metal glinting in cadmium streetlight. Car horns slurring. A crowd of strained voices. There were other people out there, somewhere. There doesn't seem to be anyone now.
Head thrown back. Tracers flit across eyes. Chipped white reflective paint phosphorescing on asphalt. There's a hum coming fro(more)m somewhere. Everywhere.
Brachiating lights in fetid bathroom stalls. Dirty needles. A stranger's face leering out from the frame of an oxidizing mirror. Intermingled, thoughts of family flit to the fore. Paper napkins, plastic plates. Ballpark franks boiling in stovewater. Rabbit-eared coat hangers. Plywood wainscoting. Laughter. The connection between the two worlds seems unbridgeable.
Ahead is all leer and looming. But there is nothing behind, and there is no stopping. Here and now is just the absence of space between a life lived and an arduous unbecoming.
Windows darken. Corrugated steel shutters clatter. Shaking, sick, hollow. Anything starts to seem fine. Anything is better than nothing. (less)
The assassin laying on the floor groaned as his burnt body was giving out, succumbing to death. Yari appeared out of thin air, pearl tears streaking down her face, as she let out a gentle cry. She raised her faintly glowing blue dagger high in the air. His eyes met hers as(more) he muttered a gentle word, his voice laden with death's rattle.
Squeezing her eyes shut, she choked back a sob as she buried her blade deep between his ribs. This was the cycle of life. Yari understood that but it didn't stop her from sliding down to the floor, crying gently, as she cupped the charred face of her fallen brothren. She knew that if it wasn't him, it would be her corpse, This is the way it had to be, but that didn't stop her from slumping to the floor both in sadness and relief. The only other person she knew as family was dead on the floor in front of her, and she was surrounded by strangers who didn't trust her. Yari wiped her face with the back of her arm, understanding that now she was truly free and truly alone. And she was terrified. The cult would hunt her to the ends of the earth but no one could capture her the way her brother could have.
They weren't ordinary drow. This becomes clear to Ignis as he studies her. Upon inspection, he realizes Yari helped him kill the other drow in combat. Her knives are in multiple bodies in the scene, pinpointed in vital spots of the casters.
The strange part about this is that no one saw her during the entire combat. (For my new players, thats a big deal because when someone is stealthed, they are automatically popped out when they attack)