The Various Pleasures of Books

There's an article over on NPR, discussing the smell of old books and whether or not it's important to have a collection of physical books. I made a contribution to the comments, which I will cut and paste (and then expand upon it, apparently) to here because it totally counts as having done writing today, and I kind of need to get my Packing for NC on...

I am One Who Smells Books.

This may have something to do with the fact that I am more sensitive to scents than most people I know (my husband affectionately refers to me as his little bloodhound), but I think it also has to do with the scent-memories imprinted on me from a young age of wandering through used bookstores with my father, looking to round out his collection of Heinlein. So for me there is a visceral pleasure in smelling books (yes, I include new ones in that statement, a result of former book seller nostalgia) that e-books will never, ever match. Does this mean I wouldn't get a reader ? Oh heck no- I seriously covet such excellent technology (the ability to carry fifteen books on vacation without going over weight restrictions? Um, yesplease). But I will also keep my ever-fluxuating library of tangible books, even as I continue to frequent (and I do mean frequently) the public library. I love reading, and I don't care what form it takes (I have been known to read shampoo bottles, for the love of Pete )- but I also love books, and it is important to me that I have some of my very own. They're like friends I can revisit when I'm feeling in need of comfort, and I would be lying if I said I didn't dream of eventually passing on my favorites to my (still hypothetical) children, just as my parents did to me. I remember the thrill of reading the same physical book my mother read at my age, running my fingers over her handwriting in the front end-paper, being blown away by the fact that she had dared to color in Nancy Drew's dress. It was a wonderful connection to the child she once was, and it made me feel closer to the adult she'd become.

Furthermore, having a library speaks to me of luxury and wealth (both monetary and intellectual). It's a comfort to be surrounded by books, because it means that you could afford them. And no matter how poor you might get, you still have those books- even if you have to sell them, you still have the knowledge that they contained. So yeah- I like having physical books because I find them comforting on so many levels- emotional, mental, fiscal... I don't think a reader will be able to replace any of that- nor do I think it should- but I do believe it will make an excellent solution to my "how did I end up with so many paperbacks that I need to donate??" wailing that occurs about once every three months or so...

(And now I really, truly need to get to effin' packing.)


Blue Menagerie Pt V

Sallie knew she had to get back to the menagerie. The question, of course, was how. And also when. The fair grounds were a good five miles from her house- not an undoable distance by bike, but not the sort of thing she could conceal under the guise of a trip to the corner gas station (not that Mommy and Daddy were overly keen on her going even that far without a chaperon). And she had to decide fast, because she was pretty sure that the menagerie wouldn’t be spending more than a month in town- and she wasn’t sure how long it has already been there.

In the end she decided the only thing for it was to go at night, after her parents had gone to bed. She knew they would probably cheerfully murder her if they caught her out of bed after midnight, but also she knew it would all be worth it if she brought Zeb back. She refused to think about the problem of him being in lemur form. Mommy was fond of saying, “How do we eat a bear?” to which Daddy and Sallie would chorus, “One bite at a time!” Sallie knew it meant she was supposed to focus on the task at hand, instead of worrying about what might was going to happen in the long run. Perversely, it always made her wonder why she would be eating a bear in the first place…

It was Thursday night, five days since she’d fainted at the menagerie. Sallie, pleading a headache she didn’t feel, went up to bed a full half-hour early, at seven-thirty. She figured it would be smart to get in a decent nap before her adventure- no good breaking Zeb out if she was too sleepy to think straight. She’d packed a backpack full of potentially useful items earlier in the week (including a heavy flashlight as long as her forearm, half the contents of her father’s tool box, and a few snack bars raided from the pantry), and had conveniently “forgotten” to put her bike in the garage that afternoon. She took a moment to set the alarm on her pink plastic watch to one in the morning- her parents were sure to be asleep by then. She let out a shaking breath; she was ready- now she just needed to go to sleep.

Sleep, of course, refused to cooperate. Sallie lay in her bed, trying every trick she knew to coax the Sandman in. She tried counting sheep, but the darn things kept wandering away from the fence she was trying to get them to jump over. Next she counted all the triangles she could see in her room, to no avail. She even resorted to Daddy’s advice of actively tensing and relaxing each bit of her body.

Useless. All useless.

Sallie sighed noisily and rolled over. Great. She was going to have to go on a rescue mission with zero sleep. This was less than ideal. In fact, this was… was…

Beepity-Beep! Beepity-Beep! Beepity-Beep!

Sallie bolted upright, feeling panicked. Her stupid watch was going off too early! And it was so loud! Her parents were sure to hear it! Sallie fumbled at her wrist until she managed to press the correct combination of buttons that silenced the incessant beeping. She glared at it in the darkness, wondering what had set it off, and then glanced over at the cheerful aqua glow of her bedside clock. Oh. It hadn’t gone off early at all: the numbers read 0101. Maybe Daddy’s secret sleeping technique wasn’t so useless, after all.

She sat very still, ignoring the way her heart was doing its best to claw its way up her throat, and strained to hear any noise that might indicate a wakeful presence in the house.


She eased herself out of bed, crept to the bedroom door, and poked her head out. Still nothing. She decided she would do a quick test run before committing to her backpack: she could always pass it off as needing a drink of water, should anyone still be up.

But no one was. Sallie made it to the bathroom and back with only the reassuring rattle of Daddy’s snore to break the silence. Thus satisfied that her parents were not in fact waiting around the corner to bust her, she pulled on a pair of dark jeans and black socks under her navy blue nightgown, then topped it all off with a long-sleeved black shirt. Perfect. Well, she might wish for some black mud to put on her face, or a black knit stocking to cover her braided hair- but it was too warm for that sort of thing, anyway.

She laced up her tennis shoes (dark blue and green canvas- perfectly respectable for someone with a lot of night time sneaking to do), hefted her backpack, and took a deep breath.

It was time to go.


Don't Believe Everything Kate Beckinsale Tells You

"But, but- you're a werewolf!"


"And he's a vampire!"

"Also true," the silver-haired girl lifted one heavy brow. "Your point?"

"So then- how can you- aren't you guys, like, mortal enemies?" This was met with smokey laughter and a decisive shake of the head.

"Oh good gods no! I swear, you've been watching too many movies with pleather-clad starlets! My people and his have never been at odds the way your stories would have us. Why should we be? We don't exactly compete for natural resources."

"But, but- the legends..."

"Pfft, legends. Stories made up to comfort weak humans cowering in fragile huts. Far better to believe that vampires and werewolves fight amongst ourselves than to face the fact that such monsters might work together. It's the same thing with all your stories about his people needing invitations to enter- wishful thinking, nothing more."

"That's... not true either?"

"Hardly. Neither is the thing about garlic, if you're taking notes. Honestly it's more likely to keep me away than him- my nose is much more sensitive." She looked vaguely satisfied with this statement.

"But... You know, you're not making me feel better about any of this."

"I'm not trying to."

(Author's note- we watched Rise of the Lycans tonight, which put me in a vampire/werewolf mood, wondering why people had latched on to the whole "mortal enemies" thing. I have several stories featuring the two races- amongst others- set in the same general universe, and I enjoy tweaking the mythos to suit my own ends.)


Adventures with Autaugies

We spent a good portion of today over at Nate's parents' house, along with various other members of the family, including our niece and nephew (who for stalker's sake shall be called Quail and Toad, respectively). Quail is about four-and-a-half, and exceptionally bright for her age. No, this is not the doting aunt in me (not more than can be expected, anyway); she is the kind of smart that messes up my expectations to the point where, when I am around other children her age, I cannot help but wonder why they are so dumb- and then I remember they're not dumb, per se, they're just closer to the average than she is.

But I digress.

Quail, Toad, and I were out in the backyard when Quail announces, "We're in the jungle!" and insists that it's very scary and we'd better hide, dragging me over to a large oak in the center of the yard. For a brief moment the adult in me is all befuddled, unsure of how one "plays pretend"- but then suddenly a rusty gear breaks free, and I remember.

"What's out there?" I cry, hunkering down with her, letting her be the leader and protector, as all big sisters crave to be.

"Snakes! And bugs! And bears! And most scary of all- autaugies!"

So we decided we'd better build a house to shelter in, and things went from there, the two-and-a-half year old Toad becoming our "magical talking puppy", and gamely running and shrieking with us every time we were beset by the terrible autaugies (which, as the game progressed, turned out to be a lot of tiny, really mean dragons who would attack us even if we tried to be nice to them, which will teach me to try to teach diplomacy to a four-and-a-half year old). Quail and I finally teamed up to fight them with Quail's magical sparkling shoes- which consisted of me hooking my arms under hers and swinging her in a circle so she could kick all the creatures that had us surrounded.

It was such brilliant fun!

I'd forgotten how much I love playing pretend (I think that's really what I'm craving when I get all sulky for someone to do table-top role-playing with). It was so liberating to let my imagination run free, to immerse myself in the magical world Quail had crafted, remembering my own childhood standards (such as ushering them into the double-bench-swing, because it's a magic flying chariot we can use to escape) and inventing new ones on the spot (I got tired and told them the autaugies had sapped all my energy, so they had to go on a quest to find the flower that would make me better- and after they brought it back to me I played for more time by telling them they needed to brew it into a special tea...)

I think it's probably a really good idea for anyone who wants to write genre fiction to spend at least one day a month playing with a couple of little kids- my imagination certainly feels sharpened.


Moms and Manuscripts

As you may remember, last Saturday was my birthday. The Saturday before that my Mom and step-dad came up to Birmingham to take Nathan and I out for lunch, to celebrate about halfway between our two birthdays. While we were out at lunch, Mom and I started to discuss A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which I had read at the urging of my cousin, and Mom had read at my urging once I had finished it. We had such a lovely time discussing the book that I decided we should make a concentrated effort to talk about books more frequently.

Flash forward to this week, when I was watching Becoming Jane, and deciding that I really did need to re-read Pride and Prejudice (bizarre fact- I never actually read that book until I was well into my twenties. For some reason I'd thought it was going to be insufferable, and then of course it turned out to be so, so wonderful...). I mentioned as much to my mother, and she said she thought she might have a copy around the house I could borrow if I liked. I told her that was okay, because I was pretty sure I had a copy, as well- of course, it turned out we were both wrong, and so I ended up getting a copy from the library. But as I stared at that copy last night, I was struck by a sudden inspiration- mom and I should both re-read it, and then discuss it! Yes, a tiny book club of two was just the thing! And so I did not start re-reading last night, I valiantly held off so that I could make the proposition to my mother that we both go purchase the book (so we could make notations in the margins without guilt) and then discuss in a semi-academic manner. Such brilliance! Anyway she agreed, so now we both have shiny new Penguin editions, and have scheduled our discussion of Volume One for April the 10th (would be next weekend, but Nate and I will be in North Carolina).

I am very, very excited. So excited. You have no idea. None. I have yearned for a book club for years, but it is hard to find people who both shared my interests and my level of intellect (what's that, you can't read the type around my big head? Sorry...). Mom fulfills both needs nicely, and moreover I think it will be incredibly interesting exercise in getting to know the non-mother/daughter parts of one another's brains.

In all likelihood I'll be posting some of my reactions and such (to P&P, I mean), so make certain your loins are thoroughly girded for literary discussion. Just sayin'.



all of life is rhythm.

the tides
the seasons
the wheeling of the stars-
even our own heartbeats

(especially our heartbeats)

for these reasons
(amongst others)
i believe the Universe
must have been danced
into existence

for these reasons
(amongst others)
when i need to connect
with whatever transformed
stardust into blood
and set it pulsing through our veins

i let my prayers
take the form of my body
and i offer it up
to that great DJ in the sky



Facing Dawn

Dawn crept up over the horizon like a guilty thief, dragging its ill-gotten bundle of daylight behind it. Graham and I watched it from our place in the haystack; we had too much guilt of our own to pass judgment on the dawn, and so let it slip by without comment.

The only other witness to our shame was a lone tree in the middle of the field; and since its limbs were as bare as our own, we figured it wouldn't be telling any tales, either. I considered it's elongated shadow as Graham ran his fingers lightly down my arm.

"Your muscles are so lovely in this light," he whispered, and kissed my shoulder.

"They're lovely in every light," I teased. "Just like you." His kisses moved up toward my mouth, and for a moment I again forgot who we were and why this wasn't allowed.

"We can't stay here," I said after long moments had passed. "We'll both be missed sooner or later. And we can't give them any reason to suspect we're... together."

"I know," he sighed, and let his head fall back against the dry, fragrant grass. "I hate this."

"Not all of it, I hope." I curled against his side, toying with his chest hair.

"No, of course not all of it. Just the part where we have to hide. Just the part where I can't be with you like this, always."

"Stop," I said. "Anyone would think I've turned you into a pansy."

"I would let them call me pansy, if it meant I could be with you in daylight."

"It's daylight now."


(The Other Witness)


The One That Didn't

My Ma had the church for God, and Pa had the river- that's how things worked in our family. We little 'uns went with Ma, of course. She said Pa had had his Immortal Soul long enough to endanger it if he'd a mind to, but as long as we was in her care we'd be takin' no such chances. No way of tellin' how good reception was down on the river, she'd say. God might not hear our praisin'. And so to church we'd go, comin' home every week with a new pamphlet educatin' us on the things we needed to know to ensure the proper safety of our Immortal Souls.

Pa wasn't so prolific, when it came to take-home goods. Oh, some weeks he'd bring home a fish or two, little things no longer than my arm, but most weeks it was nothin'. Well, that ain't exactly true- he didn't just bring home "nothin'": he'd also bring home stories. Stories about The One.

The One's full name was The One That Got Away. But that bein' a bit of a mouthful, mostly his title got reduced to The One. He was a recurrin' figure in Pa's stories, much as Jesus was in the Bible: I figure Pa had as much reverence for the one as Ma had for the other. 'Cept Ma generally didn't want to wrestle Our Savior into submission and fry him up for dinner. Least wise, not as far as we could tell.

Privately I think we all doubted the veracity of some of the supposed exploits of The One, not that we'd ever admit it to Pa no more than we'd admit to Ma some of the issues we had regardin' the life and times of Our Savior. But it turned out Pa weren't exageratin'. In fact, it may be that he was holdin' back a little.



I don't feel well tonight.

I haven't felt well all day, to be honest. Horrible little adrenaline surges have been- well, surging- through my system all day, for no cause, leaving me with a queasy, guilty feeling.

I have decided that this is going on because my body is rebelling against my psyche's determination to cling to anger. My body doesn't like it, and so it's trying to give me something else to focus on. I'd love to oblige my body by letting go, but apparently not enough to just do it.

It's just miserable, this continued anger. Usually I get angry about something, and it's like this flash that flares up really high (sometimes frighteningly high) and then is gone. Done. Moved on. But every once in a while I get the sort of angry that I am now- the kind of anger that is a poison moving through my bloodstream, clinging to my platelets, and as bad as I know it is for me I cannot seem to make myself take the antidote that will purge it. And I'll think it's starting to get better, but then some little thing happens and I realize it's not better at all- the poison has, if anything, penetrated deeper into my vital organs.

I'm not sure how to let it go. I think the problem is that it's just too complex- there are too many layers, all tied together by a thousand different threads, hopelessly tangled. Anger threads and sorrow threads and guilt threads and hurt threads and fear threads, and maybe even less worthy threads like pride or possessiveness- I don't know. I think need to sort out my threads, get things organized, before I can get it out of my system.

The only way I know how to do that is by writing. But I don't think I'll be writing it on here. I'm already mixing my metaphors, so it's probably time to call it a night.


Blue Menagerie Pt IV

She woke up all at once, limbs flying, jaw clenched tight so that she wouldn’t scream- although she couldn’t remember why she wanted to.

“Easy baby,” her mother’s voice, in the hyper-calm tone she saved for the worst emergencies, like the time Daddy had been carving the pumpkin and ended up carving his thumb. A firm hand kept her from lurching upright. “You’re okay- you fainted and hit your head on the way down. Can you look at me?” Sallie looked at her, trying to bring her memories into focus. She frowned as she mentally bumped up against a fuzzy darkness.

“Follow my finger,” her mother said, moving it back and forth in front of her eyes. “Does anyone have a flash-light?” Sallie realized she was surrounded by a small crowd of people. One of them, an older girl with long braided pigtails and a backpack, produced a thin black flashlight, which Mommy proceeded to shine in Sallie’s eyes while holding open her lids.

Sallie wasn’t entirely certain what the point of that was, but she knew Mommy had been in school to be a nurse before she’d met and married Daddy, so she figured it had some weird medical purpose.

“I’m okay,” she said, which was mostly true. Her head ached a little, and her stomach felt like she’d been riding the upside-down roller coaster, but she didn’t feel like she needed quite so many people staring at her. Maybe if they’d go away she could remember whatever it was that was buzzing about her brain like an irritating fly…

“Probably, kiddo, but let’s get you checked out just in case, okay? I think you may have given yourself a mild concussion when you bonked your head,” Mommy helped her up, dusted her off, and gave her a reassuring smile. “No big deal- and then maybe we’ll get some ice cream on the way home, okay?”

Sallie felt the urge to laugh; an offer of ice cream on the way home was Daddy’s favorite form of bribery, usually to get her not to let Mommy in on too many details of an outing that had not gone according to plan. She’d never thought her mother would resort to something like that.


The doctor did indeed pronounce it a mild concussion: nothing to worry about. He told Sallie to take it easy for a day or two, but said she would be just fine. Later that night, when Sallie asked Mommy what had happened, her mother hadn’t been able to tell her.

“I’m not sure, sweetie. We were looking at the lemur, and you made a strange little gasping noise and fell over. I thought maybe your blood sugar was too low- that’s why I had the doctor take a little blood.”

“But it wasn’t?”

“No, baby, it wasn’t. Maybe it was just the stress of being… at that place.”

“I didn’t feel stressed out,” she protested.

“Sometimes a person can be stressed out and not realize it,” Mommy began. Sallie rolled her eyes.

“That makes no sense,”

“Maybe not. But I think maybe we’ve had enough of the menagerie, don’t you?”

Sallie didn’t respond.


In her dream she was standing in a dense mist, looking for something. She was certain she was looking for something, but she could not remember what- or maybe it was a who? As she ran searching through the mist a shape began to take form in the distance. She angled herself towards it, and before long it resolved itself into one of the menagerie cages. She drew closer to it (or maybe it drew closer to her) and peered inside at a bundle of grey fur. Someone said a word-


The lemur looked up at her and blinked its blue-grey eyes.

Zeb’s eyes.

It scrambled over its black-ringed tail to get closer to her, put its little hands on the bars between them, and then cocked its head and made an odd cartoon-spitting noise.

Pbwit pbwit pbwit!

Sallie felt herself falling…


…she woke up screaming.


Her parents both burst into her room, Daddy flinging on the lights and looking ready to rip something apart. Then Mommy had her in her arms, rocking her and making soothing noises. Daddy came to stand beside them, pushed the hair back from her face.

“There now, Sallie-girl, it’s okay. You’re okay. We’re here, we’re both here.”

“It’s alright, baby,” Mommy said. “It’s alright.” Sallie burst into tears and clung more tightly to her mother, because it wasn’t alright. She had finally found Zeb, and it wasn’t alright at all.

“Damn it, Rebekah, I told you it was a bad idea to take her there,” Daddy’s voice was furious, and Sallie could feel him shaking.

“It seemed so important to her,” Mommy said, tightening her hold on Sallie as she lowered herself to sit on the bed.

“We have to go back!” Sallie sobbed, pushing herself up so she could face both of them.

“…what?” her mother said, just as Daddy exploded,

Absolutely not!”

“Zebbie’s there! We have to go back! We have to!”

Her parents grew very still.

“Salome,” her father’s voice was strained, and he crouched down so his eyes were on level with hers. “Did you see Zeb today?”

Sallie hesitated. She knew very well what her parents’ reaction would be if she told them what she’d seen. But she was a very truthful girl, and besides which, this might be her only chance, slim as it was. She nodded.

Mommy gasped, and Daddy swallowed and placed a hand on her shoulder. She could see the effort it cost him to keep his voice calm.

“Where, exactly, did you see him?”

“In the lemur cage,” she whispered.

“I don’t understand, sweetie,” Mommy said. “You saw Zebbie in the cage with the lemur?” Sallie shook her head, miserable.

“Zebbie was the lemur,” she said, pleading with her eyes for her parents to somehow know it was the truth, and not just her over-active imagination.

Her father closed his eyes, and for a split-second she thought he might believe her. But then he opened them, and they were full of tears.

“Oh Sallie,” he choked, “that- that was just a bad dream you had. It wasn’t real. You saw the lemur today, and you were thinking about Zeb, and your brain put them together while you slept. But it wasn’t real.”

“It was real,” she whimpered, hating herself for sounding like such a baby.

“Sweetie, I know it felt real,” Mommy said, stroking her head. “Sometimes dreams can feel even more real than memories. But people can’t change into animals.” She gave a shaky laugh and added, “Not that I think your brother wouldn’t have loved to be a lemur. It’s a very good match for his personality. But we would have noticed if he had a habit of changing into one, okay?” Mommy was crying now, but trying very hard to look like she wasn’t, giving Sallie a reassuring smile. Sallie felt like the worst scum on the face of the planet. She had made her parents cry- surely there was nothing more horrible than that.

“Okay,” she said, feeling defeated and scummy and worse than she had since Zeb originally disappeared. “You’re right. It was just a dream. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, Sallie-girl,” said Daddy, and wrapped his arms around both her and Mommy. “Never be sorry that you miss your little brother. We miss him, too.”


Blue Menagerie Pt III

(continued for Tim, because he asked so sweetly)

It was on the way to the grocery store that Sallie was overcome with the oddest sense of déjà vu. Her parents were in the front, and she was in the back, staring out the window, when the feeling just swept over her. She thought she heard a ghost of a whisper-

“Zoo! Zoo!”

Sallie whipped her head to the right, where Zeb’s carseat had once been. The spot was empty, now, but through the far window Sallie saw a strangely familiar banner.

“Auntie Strega’s Traveling Menagerie,” she read. Her skin began to prickle, and she felt short of breath.

“Stop,” she whispered. “Stop. Stop!” Now she was shrieking. Her father slammed on the brakes and Sallie’s body jerked forward, then slammed back against her seat.

“What’s wrong?” He demanded, twisting all the way around in his seat. His face was a mask of concern.

“I-” She didn’t know what to say. Why had she wanted him to stop? “I want-” she tried again. Her father, realizing that no one was bleeding out in the back seat, began to scowl.

“I want to go to the menagerie,” she finished, lamely. She watched her father’s glower deepen, his face flushing a dark red.

“For Christ’s sake, Salome! Don’t you ever-” Sallie winced, bracing herself for the rest of the outburst, but her mother laid a gentle hand on Daddy’s arm.

“Jonathon,” she said. Daddy sucked in a breath and closed his eyes.

“Sallie,” he said through his teeth. “It is very dangerous to yell at the driver to stop the car. We might have been hit by someone. So do not yell at the driver unless it is a matter of life and death, or possibly dismemberment. Or fire. You could yell at me to stop if there was a fire. But not because you want to go to the da- to the menagerie.”

Sallie felt very small and stupid. She knew it was a bad idea to yell at the driver. To yell at her parents, in general, was about as bad an idea as she could come up with. But for some reason, she knew she had to go the menagerie.

“I’m sorry, Daddy,” she whispered. “I don’t know what came over me.”

“It’s alright, sweetie,” Mommy said, reaching back to squeeze her leg. “We all get a little over-excited sometimes. Let’s talk about this more when we get home, alright?”



The conversation was not a comfortable one.

“Sweetie, are you sure you want to go to the menagerie?” Mommy asked, eyes worried.

“Yes,” said Sallie. “Very sure.”

“I just don’t know if it’s a good idea.”

“Why not?”

“Well,” her mother hesitated, and Sallie knew she was having one of those moments where she was trying to decide how much information Sallie could handle. Sallie tried very hard not to roll her eyes, but when the silence drew out for too long she decided she had to say something.

“Mom, I know what you’re afraid of.”

“You do?”

“Yes. The last time we went to the menagerie was with- was with Zeb. And you think it might be too sad to go back.” Mommy blinked at this.

“Well, yes, that thought had occurred to me.”

“But I really feel like- I just need to go, Mommy. It might make me sad, but I need to go, anyway. And it’s okay if you can’t take me, if it would make you too sad. I’m ten years old- I can go by myself.”

“Oh no you can’t,” Mommy’s voice was unusually sharp. “If you think for one second I’m letting you roam around that place by yourself-”

“Okay, okay. It was just a suggestion. But Mommy- please.” Her mother sighed.

“Sallie… I want you to know- we did check the menagerie.” Now it was Sallie’s turn to blink.

“What do you-” she began, but Mommy cut her off with a hand-wave.

“I mean don’t get your hopes up, thinking he might be there. We looked all over that place when he first disappeared. The owner was very cooperative, opened up all the cages and pens, all the wagons and enclosures. Your father searched it top to bottom, and Zebbie wasn’t there.”

“That’s not-” Sallie protested, but she couldn’t finish. Because really, it kind of was. “I still want to go,” she finished. “I need to.”

“Okay, sweetie,” Mommy sighed. “We’ll go this weekend.”


Daddy did not come this time. Mommy said he had to go in to the office, but Sallie was not fooled. Her mother might be almost a foot shorter than him, and softly rounded where he was hard muscle, but in a lot of ways she was the tougher one. Blood made him go all greenish-white, but Sallie had never seen her mother flinch away from dressing a wound. Daddy was in the habit of avoiding things that reminded him too much of Zeb- and if he had been the one to investigate the menagerie, then it didn’t surprise Sallie in the least that he would not want to go there again.

She and Mommy pulled up to the parking lot a little before noon, paid the bored-looking teenager (a different one from before), and entered the fair grounds. The sun was darting in and out from behind the clouds, giving the light a weird, shifting quality.

“Start to the left, straight on ‘til morning,” Sallie muttered to herself.

“What was that, sweetie?” her mother asked, turning away from a tank of plate-sized turtles. She was smiling, but her eyes had the same sort of tight look they got when she’d been on the phone with Grandmother for too long. Sallie had come to associate that expression with her mother locking herself in the bathroom for an hour or more, and knew it was not a good sign to see it so soon into their trip.

“Nothing, Mommy. Let’s go this way,” she took her hand and tugged her towards the left.


Part of Sallie had wondered whether she had really, truly remembered correctly when she remembered all the animals as having blue eyes, or if it was just an extension of her nightmares about Zeb being gone- after all, he had the same blue-gray eyes as their father, so it would make sense for her to dream them into the animals of their last outing together. It didn’t take long, however, for her to be convinced that she had remembered correctly: the soft shy rabbits all had blue eyes, and so did the single pacing tiger. Even the lizards, trying in vain to sun themselves on small flat rocks, had eyes like tiny chips of sapphire- and when she came to the large, colorful bird that sang a thoroughly inappropriate song to her, it did not surprise her in the least to see it had eyes the shade of the pansies in her neighbor’s garden.

Her own eyes, hazel as her mother’s, began to burn with unshed tears, although she wasn’t sure why.

There were several exhibits that Sallie did not recall from their original visit, and it was one such they approached as her pink plastic watch gave the little beep that meant it was twelve. Right near the front of the cage they could see a long ringed tail wrapped firmly about a curled-up mass of gray fur.

“Mommy, what’s wrong with that raccoon’s tail?” She asked.

“I don’t think that’s a raccoon, sweetie,” Mommy said, squinting at the creature. “I’m not sure, but I think that’s a lemur. They’re primates.”

“Like monkeys?”

“Yes, like monkeys. And also like us. Ah, here’s the card! Yes, it says he’s a young ring-tailed lemur, and that they’re diurnal. Do you know what diurnal means, my little vocab queen?” Sallie shook her head. “Do you know what nocturnal means?”

“Something that stays up at night?”

“Exactly. So then what would you guess that diurnal means?”

“Awake during the day?”

“Smart girl!”

“But Mommy, he’s not awake- listen, I think I can hear him snoring!” They were quiet for a moment, and sure enough- a tiny buzzing noise was rising up from the coil of fluff in fits and spurts. Mommy laughed, the tightness around her eyes easing ever-so-slightly.

“Maybe he’s just having a nap. It does say he’s young.”

“Maybe,” Sallie continued to stare at the lemur, willing it to wake up. She wanted to see what it looked like. “Hey little lemur, don’t you know you’re supposed to be awake right now?” It didn’t respond. “C’mon, little guy. The sun is at its zenith!”

This was apparently was news to the lemur. His head popped up from behind his tail and he whipped it around to face Sallie. She had time to note the funny black mask of his face before his eyes met hers, and the rest of the world fell away.


Portrait of a 29-Year-Old

Well I must say, it's been a damn good day.

Several very nice things happened today (including a lot of very good food) but by far the very best part of the day occurred while Nate and I were out with our friends Tim and Meredith (and their daughter) to do a photo-shoot involving me on my longboard (skate not surf, in this instance). Skating is always fun and good (despite my so-low-as-to-be-non-existant level of skill), especially with friends in lovely weather. Anyway, long story short, I basically ended up wiping out, which is a great deal more painful on asphalt than in the ocean, in spite of the fact that I was wearing jeans (and thank goodness for that, although I'm mildly put out that they now need some repair).

I know, I know- you're looking back at that first sentence and wondering if you need to re-read it with your sarcastic mental voice- but you really don't. As horrified as Nathan was by the whole incident (fortunately he didn't witness it- just the aftermath), I'm actually really glad it happened. I'm glad I ate shit because it means that I'm still doing things that come with a risk of eating shit. I'm glad I wiped out because it's the first time I've done so on this board (that I've been skating on for over two years), and I no longer have to wonder/dread what it will feel like. I'm glad I got hurt because it gave me a chance to jump back up and get back on the board, proving that I am not, in fact, a whiny little bitch. I'm glad because it means that getting older has not made me go soft- it may take me longer to recover from the shit I do to myself, but at least I'm not afraid to do it. Although I will admit that the (mass)x(acceleration) involved in someone my size hurling into the pavement probably does a wee bit more damage in terms of contusion than that of an eight-year-old...

So yeah- I'm pretty pleased with myself as I sit here with my knees bandaged, elevated, and on ice. I shall wear my scabs and bruises like the badges of honor they are, and see what I can do in the coming year to earn more.

(Portrait of a 29-Year-Old)


My Final 24 Hours as a 28-Year-Old

Oh, and we're well into them. As of this moment (apx 2043 here in Birmingham, Alabama, but already 0243 in the place of my birth, the now-defunct Hahn Air Base in what-was-then West Germany) there are only about eighteen hours left.

Yes, yes, I know- 28 to 29 is not exactly a "milestone" birthday by any stretch of the imagination. So why devote an entry to it? Well, several reasons- the first of which is that it's about to be my birthday and I'll do what I want. The second of which is that although I am only turning 29, three of my best friends are all hitting the big 3-0 within the next two months, which is generally considered a milestone. Writing their birthdays on my calendar at the beginning of this year was a bid of an ice-cube-down-the-back moment for me. The third reason is that we are in the middle of watching Julie & Julia, which is (as you mostly likely know) about a woman who starts a 365 project (not that she calls it that) on the eve of her 30th birthday and thus my brain is firmly stuck in turning-30 mode rather than turning-29 mode, which- come to think of it- there probably isn't a mode for, anyway.

Anyway my point is that I've got Significant Birthdays on the brain, regardless of whether or not this is one. Although I don't see why it shouldn't be.

Tomorrow also just so happens to mark the one-year-anniversary of Nathan and I being married in the eyes of the US Government. Yep, that's right- one year ago, tomorrow, we waltzed on down to the courthouse and signed some documents, and made it all legal. Of course, we count April 5th as our actual wedding anniversary (that being the day we actually had a wedding), but I cannot help but hold a special place in my heart for March 20th, entirely aside from my own natal-related self-interest. I told Nathan it was the best birthday present I'd ever gotten- and it's pretty likely to remain that way. I mean, how do you top that? I don' t think you do. Not that I'm not game to try. I am, in general, a pretty big fan of things getting even better than I'd have thought they could.

I had an interesting little brain-storm for a story today, about Queen Louise of Prussia, but I think it needs a little more percolating before it makes an appearance on here. Right now it's barely even the whisper of a story-seed. But it's there. I shall have to nourish it with birthday cake, I think.


The Retreat

She had not known that the Host would bleed fire.

The battle was over and both sides were dispersing, but the woman could not tell which had been victorious- if either. Who knew how They might judge such a thing, those Beings who were so far removed from mortals? All she could tell was that there were many wounded amongst Them, and from Their wounds streamed living flame that threatened to set the world ablaze.

The woman knew her people could not survive another clash like this. Something must be done.

(Sky Fire)



The Assessors did not know what to make of him.

That he had Power was evident- it fairly seeped from his pores- but it had yet to manifest itself in any Gift they could discern. It was frustrating to them, to sense such potent Power simmering just below the surface, and yet have no way to draw it out. And the boy was of no help- unlike most with a Gift, he felt no compulsion to use it; moreover, he was of such an even temperament that he never lost control (which often led to a surge of Power indicating how the Gift had manifested in the individual: rainstorms, flying objects, etc). Finally, after years of study, the Assessors threw up their hands and left him alone, telling his parents that it was quite possible he was one of those rare-but-not-unheard-of individuals with Power but no Gift. They said that he might just rise in Court by making an advantageous marriage, but advised "trying him out" on a few Gifted peasant girls to see if the Power bred true. His parents thanked the Assessors and paid their fees without qualm.

Not even this frank dismissal of him as good for nothing more than stud service made him angry- and at age thirteen he was more than old enough to know what they were talking about. He had no particular interest in rising at Court, anyway, and so he shrugged it off and went about his business. If anything he was relieved that he now had more leisure time to attend to said business, especially since his parents decided it might be wise for them to invest more time and development into his younger siblings, each of whom had already manifested Gifts of their own. None had Power to rival his, but they could access theirs, which made all the difference for their walk of life.

Now that he had been left to his own devices, the boy took to spending more and more of his time in the kitchens. He was fascinated by what went on in there, especially by crafting of desserts. He had always enjoyed looking at the great spectacles the master pastry chef came up with, beautiful confections shaped like fruit and flowers, or animals, or even perfect reproductions of famous palaces. The latter especially impressed him, and he made it his great goal in life to create a castle of his own.

The kitchen-workers could not very well kick him out- he was still his father's heir, for the time being- and so slowly but surely he began to pick up enough knowledge to make a few not-entirely ruinous attempts. When some of the under-chefs saw that he was really serious about learning, they began to take a moment here and there to correct him, tutor him, and generally guide his progress. Before too long he was able to turn out a wonderful cake with no great difficulty- but the fine craft of elaborate decoration was a mistress that required far more study.

One night, when the kitchen was all but deserted, the boy decided to try his hand at a small palace of his own design. After all, there was no one around to see if he failed, and if someone did just happened to see it, well, there would be no real construction for them to compare it to for accuracy's sake.

He labored many long hours on his creation, using marzipan and spun sugar to add many fanciful, intricate details to the structure's facade. So intense was his concentration that he did not notice when the sun began to rise, nor when the kitchen began to fill with it's daily allotment of workers. He was in a veritable trance as he shaped and molded, and none dared to disturb him. When he suddenly collapsed after adding a final flourish to the roof, however, at least seven people rushed forward to catch him.

When he woke he found the household in an uproar- not so much over his strange faint (not so strange, perhaps, when one considered how long he'd gone without sleep), but over the fact that there had appeared on the grounds a small but beautiful building. No one knew where it had come from, and so far no one had been able to get a response from any inhabitants that may or may not have been inside. Furthermore, they had been unable to open any of the doors.

The boy, helped to his feet by no less a grand personage than the master pastry chef himself, wandered outside to take in this marvel for himself. When at last he saw it, shining in the sun, he forgot how to breathe. His companion had to his him on the back to remind him.

It was his palace. His palace. The palace whose every detail he had labored over, brought to life in stone and mortar. He had no words for what he felt.

The master pastry chef, on the other hand, did.

"Did you mean to abandon symmetry on the cornice, then? Or leave the main cupola lopsided?" he asked, gesturing at the castle while fixing the boy with a reproving look. The boy flushed, for of course he had not.

"Well let's see what can be done to undo the thing, and I guess I'd better take you in hand, myself. Can't have structurally unsound castles popping up all over the place..." so saying the man laid a gentle hand on the boy's back, and guided him back to the kitchens.



Musings on Possible Past Lives

(Author's note- I have a little over half a bottle of muscadine wine in me right now. The writing and/or editing may reflect that. Sorry.) (Sort of.) (Not really at all.)

I have recently begun reading the Temeraire books by Naomi Novik and I must say- they are fantastic. I mean just freaking awesome. I'd picked one up a few years back and thought the premise was interesting, but it blows my mind that I waited until now to actually read them. They are quite brilliant, and I feel that I am enjoying extra especially much because Nathan strong-armed me into becoming One Who Appreciates O'Brian, so I'm kind of hip to the nautical bidness. Kind of.

But that's not the point of this entry. The point of this entry is to reflect upon the fact that, for some reason, acts of unselfish, unconditional (and often unrequitted/undeserved) love in literature make me cry every single time. Seriously. It's like, I can't read a lot of children's pictures book while in the store 'cos I'll start bawling. And today that got me thinking on why that might be. The only explanation that I can come up with is that, sometime in a past life, I loved like that, and got screwed.

Which in turn got me thinking about my current love, and how it's reciprocal, and what a lovely thing that is. But it also got me thinking about how dangerous love is, with the way it makes you all exposed and vulnerable to someone ripping your entrails out, and you thanking them for the privilege.

Dangerous, dangerous stuff, love.

And all of that got me thinking about Buddhist philosophy, and how desire leads to suffering. And it's true- desire does lead to suffering- and sometimes I'll catch myself shying away from a thing because if I have it then I'll want more of it, and it will just hurt when I can't have it. And I think I'm not the only female of my acquaintance that does that, and it makes me wonder if it's a more feminine thing than a masculine thing, the whole self-denial business.

Anyway I'm glad I got it this time around, and having it was worth all the suffering I went through on the way. I'll even go so far as to say it will be worth all the suffering that will come in the future. Which I guess is why I make as lousy a Buddhist as I do a Christian.


Silent Tick

The boy sat in the empty throne room of his empty palace, watching cold white light reflect off the empty, dark silver walls and gleam off the empty pewter floors. The stairs leading up to the dais that held his throne were cut with precision, casting pure black shadows as sharply defined as their edges. Had there been anyone besides himself to walk those stairs, any stumble might have cost them a limb.

But the boy never stumbled.

Day in and day out, he roamed the corridors of this place, waiting for something he had no name for. He ran his fingers across the smooth, featureless walls as he wandered, counted the steps it took to get from one chamber to another, from one floor to another, from one wing to another.

He was always counting.

The numbers filled his head, filled his palace, filled his days- brought him relief from the silent monotony of this place. He remembered no other, of course, but somehow he knew there was meant to be more than this, this endless repetition of nothing.

He was counting now, as he sat. Counting the razor-sharp swords that hung from his belt (three: one short and two long), counting the bars of metal that formed the base of his throne (twelve: all of equal length), counting his breaths in (nineteen this minute), and counting his breaths out (eighteen).

He wondered if he should count until whatever it was he was waiting for arrived- but he was afraid he would run out of numbers, and that thought filled him with panic. He must never risk running out of numbers, for without them what else was there?

He had begun to count the eyelashes on his lower left eyelid (using the mirrored surface of the short sword) when something happened that changed everything-

A door opened.

Of the one-thousand, four-hundred and thirty-six doors in the palace, there was only one that remained closed at all times: it was also the only door that led to the Outside. The boy counted the times he had attempted to open it: seven-hundred and thirty. He counted the times it had opened: zero.

The boy stared at the door. Or, rather, he stared at the figure framed in the doorway, a figure currently so back lit by blinding white that he could make nothing out of it, save that it appeared to have the same general shape as the boy himself.

The figure walked forward, the way it held itself suggesting that it was not wholly at ease here in the palace. It came closer, and the boy saw that it was a she, and that everywhere that the boy was pale and colorless, she was flush with life and color. At her side hung only one sword- but it's hilt held a rainbow of different jewels.

He wasn't sure, but he thought the sword might be singing.

He counted the number of times he'd heard singing: zero. He wondered how he knew what it was.

The girl began to climb the too-sharp stairs that led to the boy's throne. He counted her steps as she came: six, seven, eight... He counted the times she stumbled: zero.

She stopped when she was face-to-face with him, and he realized that if he were to climb down off the throne he would be shorter than her by a good head. He thought she must be older than he.

They stared into each other's eyes, and as they did so, something clicked into place within the boy's chest.

This is what I've been waiting for, he thought, and began counting his heartbeats. Funny he had never thought to count them before... had they always been there?

"Hello, Faucyl," said the girl. "I've come to bring you home."

(Silent Tick)


Homework! Woo!

So my very bestest friend in the world, Katie, asked me to help her with her homework tonight. It just so happened to segue perfectly with my own "homework" (almost like she planned it... hmm... tricksy...) in that she just needed me to write a quick story to go with a photograph she'd taken. The catch? The story needed to have a specific theme, chosen from amongst Over, Before, After, Beyond, or Into (yes, it's a prepositional thing. More on this once she has her site up and running.) I chose Beyond (ie, relocation). Here is the (mostly-true) story I whipped up...

I grew up moving from place to place- it’s the military way of life. As such, it has never been a big deal, the idea of picking up my life (or abandoning it altogether) and reinventing myself in a new place, amongst new people. It is freedom in the purest sense- the chance to leave everything and make a new start, where no one knows your story. No one knows you. It’s exciting, exhilarating- and I never let anything hold me anywhere. Or anyone hold me, for that matter. More than one bitter ex accused me of relocating just to prove that I could- and maybe they were right. One in particular claimed that I never ran to anything: that I only ever ran away.

He probably was the most right of all.

That changed, however, in the summer of 2007. I was the happiest with my life I had ever been; I was 26 and single, but content with it. I had just been promoted, and genuinely loved my new job. My best friend had recently moved to my city-of-the-moment, and we were sharing an apartment- not to mention a solid circle of friends, a steady influx of social engagements, and a renewed devotion to my art and the culture surrounding it. Life was good, and I really was happy: not looking for anything else.

Which, of course, is when something else found me.

The details of our courtship don’t matter so much- suffice to say he and I fell in love against our better judgment, and our better judgment was screaming pretty loudly about the 3000 miles that separated us. Both of us were fiercely independent, and never would have thought to ask the other to relocate.

So of course that was what was on my mind late one sultry night as I shared the back balcony with the afore-mentioned best friend. We were- well, debating isn’t the word so much as discussing- whether or not I should offer to move cross-country. In theory it wasn’t such a big deal, to pick up and go: after all, I’d done it so very many times before. But the feminist in me truly cringed at the idea of moving for a man, regardless of whether or not he would ever ask it of me. More importantly, however, was this; my life was fantastic! Why would I want to leave it? For the first time in my life, there was not a single thing (or person) to run away from!

Ah, but then again, for the first time in my life, there was something- someone- to run to. Someone who knew who I had been (all the many, many incarnations of that girl), someone who loved who I was, and someone who wanted to stick around to see who I would become in the future. Someone who would give me the jacket off his own back to weather life’s storms, but who would never try to keep me from playing in them. Someone who would make wherever I was home, no matter how many times I changed my mind about where that place was located.

So I made my choice: I ran home (against his protestations that he didn’t want me abandoning anything for him). And it was worth it- because I’ve never felt so free as I do when he’s kissing me.


Anatomy of a Story

So I was working on Brothers again today, and ran into a problem; how, exactly, does one ride a freakin' winged horse? By which I mean, where does one sit? Well that rather comes down to the anatomy of the beastie, doesn't it? Which brings us to- how, exactly, is Pegs put together? Which brings us to (drumroll, please)...

Research time! Woo!

Not research on winged horses, per se (because of course all I've go to go on are other people's potentially illogical imaginations) but rather on horse anatomy, swan anatomy, and how I, personally, shall the interface the twain. Which (in my case) means not just looking things up on the interwebs, but also literally drawing them out. Me being the visual person that I am, I need to see it to really understand it- and drawing helps me do that. I am definitely grateful for my ability to put pen to paper and churn out what I need (although truth be told I probably could have just written the scene and never even mentioned it- but it was bugging me). It also gave me some insight that may never actually show up in the written version of this, but I'll share it (and some other tidbits) with you here just because...

Species-wise, Pegs is kind of a cross between a 'gray' Arabian-esque stallion (but with a larger, more powerful chest, for obvious reasons) and a mute swan (yes, that is an actual breed, not just a description of his inability to vocalize). He is larger than your typical Arabian, and his skeletal system is more like a bird's (complete with air-filled bones and a keel). The wing structure is tweaked just a smidge in that I gave him a cross between the swan's wings and a bat's. Yes, bat. Pegs is a mammal- it makes sense for his wings to have mammalian traits. He has a sort of short skin-sail underneath all those feathers, which is part of what made it a little awkward to place Chrys on his back. But we're working it out...

(I feel like I need to add one last point- Pegs also has divine/monstrous blood flowing through his veins, which gives him that extra little oompf which allows him to fly in spite of it not technically being possible. It also explains the ability to sort of delicately hover without any more effort than a wing flutter- not something you'll see any mortal avian do...)

So anyway, that's what a lot of today's "writing time" went toward. Hopefully me explaining this sort of thing is entertaining rather than annoying. <=)


Brothers, Pt XV

The winged horse had eyes like pools of rich black dye, and right now they were boring into Beautiful Killer’s with an uncomfortable intensity. He felt as though something important was being decided, and it left him afraid to breathe, lest he inadvertently bring about disastrous consequences. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the creature stood, walked over to him, and nuzzled his hair.

Beautiful Killer choked and almost fell over in shock, but instead raised trembling hands to stroke its snowy neck. For some inexplicable reason he found himself crying, and he buried his face in the creature’s mane, inhaling its scent- an odd mixture of feathers, sunshine, some sharp, exotic herb, and- mysteriously enough- ocean spray. The winged horse blew softly against his ear, sounding for all the world like a sea-side lullaby, and for the first time in as long as he could remember, the young man felt at peace.

“His name is Pegs,” said a low, feminine voice behind him. Beautiful Killer froze, hands and face still hidden in the creature’s mane. “He would tell you himself, but he’s mute- which of course you’ve already discerned. Don’t be afraid, Chrys. None of us will harm you.”

Beautiful Killer turned slowly, and it comforted him to feel the creature- to feel Pegs, he corrected- moving to press its weight against his back. Standing there was an achingly lovely woman- he assumed she must be a muse- with dark hair and a wise smile.

“How- how do you know my real name?” he asked, surreptitiously tugging down on the hem of his tunic from where it had hiked indecently up his thigh.

“I am Nemie, one of Pegs’s foster mothers. We are in the business of knowing things.”

“And you can leave off that fidgeting!” cried another voice, its owner invisible. “We promise not to molest any portion of your pretty golden flesh!” This was followed up by a flurry of many feminine giggles, and Chrys almost thought he heard one sultry voice mutter, “I don’t promise anything…” but it may have been the wind.

“Sisters- that is enough,” Nemie said, and the giggling silenced. Chrys, trying to ignore his burning face, stood up and faced her with as much dignity as he could muster.

“Pegs, you say?” he asked, and turned toward the winged horse. It- no, he- tossed his head in agreement. “Pegs, then. Very nice to meet you. Your foster-mother is right: my true name is Chrys, but no one has called me that in years.” Pegs nodded his head again. “And- am I understanding this right? Are you willing to let me ride you, to face Kymera?” Pegs hesitated this time, but finally nodded again.

“First you must master being the passenger of a winged horse, before you can even begin to think of facing anyone down,” Nemie said. Chrys turned back to her.

“Can you help me?” She laughed at this, a full, rich sound that made him somehow less nervous- not his typical response to a woman’s mirth.

“My stars, child, no! As far as we know, no one has ever ridden Pegs, and he is the first and only of his kind. If he allows you upon his back, you must learn from him or no one. We will allow you to stay here for the time being, and we will provision you when you go, but the teaching must be from Pegs alone.”

“I guess… I’ll need that bridle after all,” he said, looking around for it.

“I think not,” her voice was light, but Chrys thought he detected an underlying note of tension. “Bridles are for dumb beasts who cannot understand what you ask of them. Pegs is not a dumb beast, and has no need of a harness of any kind.”

Chrys felt his face flush again. “Of course you’re right. I’m sorry, Pegs, I wasn’t thinking.” Pegs lipped softly at his shoulder, and he knew he was forgiven.

“Now,” said Nemie, “Let us have a meal before things progress any further, shall we? It’s been an emotional day for everyone, and my sisters are dying to meet you.”

“Er,” said Chrys, not entirely certain he’d even be able to eat with so many semi-divine women inspecting him. Pegs leaned against his arm and caught his eye with an expression of amusement, but gave no indication of arguing with his foster mother. No help to be had there. “Alright,” he sighed, and resigned himself to a miserable afternoon of feminine companionship.


Brothers, Pt XIV

If you had asked him, Beautiful Killer never would have thought that an equine face could be capable of conveying human emotions. Now, however, he realized that they absolutely were- or, at least, this one was. The winged horse was staring at him in what could only be described as shocked recognition, and it was totally destroying any half-formed plan Beautiful Killer might have had regarding what to do with the golden bridal. Instead he let the divine gift slip from his fingers to the ground, where it coiled in and around itself like a sulking snake, forgotten in the dirt. He watched, confused and fascinated, as the expression of shock shifted to a strange war of longing and disgust. The creature was trembling, not as though it was afraid, but as though it was waiting to spring into action and hadn’t yet decided which direction to take.

“He- hello,” Beautiful Killer said. The winged horse flinched at the sound of his voice, but still made no movement one way or the other. Beautiful Killer held his hands out in front of him, to show he had no weapon, and the creature flared its nostrils in response.

“I was told to seek you out- that you are the only one who could help me. Will you…” he paused, suddenly unsure of how, exactly, he to explain himself. He was fairly certain this was not what the goddess had intended when she sent him to this mountain, this talking business. But she wasn’t here now, and Beautiful Killer was, and he knew in his gut that not even a gods-crafted device could compel this creature to do anything it didn’t want to. His only hope lay in his limited powers of persuasion, and so he drew himself up and continued.

“Will you listen to what I have to say, and maybe consider helping?”


Pegs blinked in confusion. This reunion was so outside the realm of what he had ever even remotely considered that his brain was doing a bit of a rebellion, turning his thoughts and emotions slippery and difficult to grasp. Here was his brother- long loved and long missed, ached for even now- but his brother was a hero, a thing to be despised, tormented, and perhaps even killed. But he wasn’t acting like a hero, swinging a weapon about and forcing his will upon others- he wanted to talk. To talk. Pegs might have laughed if he hadn’t wanted so desperately to cry, for here was the worst thing of all: he knew Chrys with a deep surety that rose up from his bones- but Chrys very obviously did not know him… and Pegs was incapable of forming the words to explain.

It’s just as Benthie warned, he thought. I have remembered for both of us, but how can I share my memories?

So he did the only thing he could do. He forced himself to relax, and took on an Air of Listening.


Beautiful Killer could tell the moment the winged horse made up its mind. Its body ceased its fine quivering, and it cocked its head at him in a manner that indicated it was, indeed, willing to listen to whatever Beautiful Killer had to say. He let out a sigh of relief and smiled at the creature, and then lowered himself to the ground. After a moment the winged horse did the same, folding its gleaming wings about itself, much like a swan gliding through the water might.

“Can you speak?” he began. The animal shook its head, and Beautiful Killer thought it looked irritated. “I’m sorry- I just didn’t want to assume that you couldn’t, just because you hadn’t. I met a creature that might be cousin to you earlier in my journey, and he spoke his opinions loudly and at length, so I thought maybe… well, never mind.

“They call me Beautiful Killer.”


Pegs let out an indelicate snort at hearing his brother’s epithet. ‘Beautiful Killer’ gave him a rueful grin and continued, “I know. That’s about how I feel about the title, myself. But that’s what they call me, and I’ve been informed that that’s what I am, so I may as well get used to it.” This gave Pegs a momentary twist to his stomach. He, too, might be described as Beautiful Killer, if those doing the naming knew of his exploits. He resolved to reserve judgment until his brother finished his tale.

The story that unfolded was a tangle of accidents and misunderstandings, and by the end of it the only thing Pegs knew for certain was that in order for his brother to be able to go home and not be executed on the way, Chrys (or, rather, Beautiful Killer) must kill the monster Kymera.

Pegs did not like the sound of that, not one bit. He had no intention whatsoever of helping anyone, not even his long-lost twin, kill an innocent monster. Even so... his heart didn’t want to believe that Chrys would really do such a thing. In fact, his heart ached with every fiber of its being for Pegs to move closer, perhaps even to lay his head in his brother’s lap.

And then what?

Pegs stared into Chrys’s burnished-gold eyes, and memories welled up. He remembered their mother’s blood, their aunts’ tears- he remembered dancing in the sand as the little boy laughed, the sense of belonging, of rightness that had been taken from him by the agony of separation. He remembered years and years of a lonely emptiness that none of his foster-mothers, no matter how loving or kind, could ever fill. No, he did not know what would happen if he were to go to his brother, make his allegiance clear- but he knew what would happen if he did not.

Chrys would leave. And he could not bear that a second time.


Vacillating Vampires

Gather close, my children, and let us discuss the difference in what a film could be, and what a film is. It is the reason why watching Daybreakers (as we finally did this evening) left me vaguely irritated, yet I am pretty sure that I will come out of Legion (when I get around to it) perfectly fine.

Now, this is not because I expect Legion to be a totally superior movie to Daybreakers- I don't. Dear Lord, I really, really don't. But the thing is, the premise behind Daybreakers was solid. It was- dare I say it? It was good. Yes, it was a good concept for a vampire movie- addressing the problem of "What happens when everyone has been infected? Who is left to feed on?" So there was potential there, potential to tell a really good freaking story, with lots of good questions and answers and characters and dilemmas and even some nifty vampire science (since, unlike other movies, there is no drive to Avoid Detection By People Who Will Put You In a Lab). So. Much. Potential!

But no. No, no, and no. Instead we end up with some glaring internal logic flaws, some deeply stupid protagonists, and few (if any) relate-able and/or likable characters. And by the way, is anyone else getting sick of whiny vegetarian woe-is-me vampires? (And I say this as someone who genuinely enjoys Twilight...) I tell you what, in my vampire story (which actually started as a giant in-joke between Nathan and myself and sort of inadvertently became more of an Actual Thing) the protagonist does not make due with animal blood... but I digress.

So yes- I enjoyed the movie, but a large part of that enjoyment springs from my ability to bitch about its flaws. Flaws like squandering its potential. ::sigh:: I never actually expected it to be a good movie, but because the premise was so strong I couldn't help but have a little hope.

Not so with Legion.

Nope, I fully expect a thoroughly bad movie with Legion. I mean, come on- end of the world, holed up in a diner, fallen angel Michael defending the soon-to-be-mother-of-the-next-messiah from other, non-fallen angels (sent by a pissed-off God, no less) with a sword and automatic guns. Eff. Yeah. Everything about that movie sounds terrible (well, minus Paul Bettany, whom I sort of adore a lot) but that's part of the appeal for me- there's no pretending to be anything more than what it is- a movie about kicking ass. In a diner. Against freaky-deaky angels who remind us that they're just demons who haven't fallen yet. Brilliant. Social commentary on our squandering of natural resources? Um, no. Decapitation? Probably yes.

And therein lies the rub. Two awful movies, one of which annoyed me and one of which will probably delight me. And why? Hope. Filthy, dirty hope, which has ruined many a good movie for me. Really I need to learn to just go in expecting every movie to be terrible- I'd probably be a much happier movie-patron...

...but then I wouldn't have the fun of bitching about them.


CPW Contamination

I'd like to think that I am, for the most part, a Person in a Good Mood. Obviously I slip into fits of depression (or rage) as much as (if not more so) than the next person, but generally they are transient moods, with Cheerful being the Default. That is what I like to think.

Tonight, however, someone has apparently let slip a Cantankerous Plague Weasel into the house, and it's bitten both myself and my mate, resulting in elongated fangs and scowly expressions. Neither of us is angry with the other, per se- we're just angry in general. So we've been sort of orbiting one another like wary little planetoids, doing our best to avoid a collision. (How many more unrelated metaphors and/or similes can I fit into this paragraph?!) And the infection doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Ugh.

I need some CPWeasel-Stomping Boots.

But now I shall strain my crabby brain to the utmost, and try to think of one creative thing. Just one. Just one teensy, weensy story-seed that might later be nurtured into something real...

(While I'm straining, I'd like to say that Nate and I watched Pandorum tonight, and I pretty much had it pegged from the first Encounter...)

Okay, here we go... aaaany minute now...

Damn it, Muse- what do I pay you for?!

(Maybe she got bitten by the CPWs, too...)


This is What Happens When You Eat Caterpillars

So today was Record a Video day for my long road towards becoming a certified Body Flow instructor (yes, still working towards that). The idea being that I tape myself teaching a class, send it in, and it gets Assessed (yes, the capital is necessary). So all day long I had butterflies ricocheting about my tummy. Fortunately butterflies are pretty negligible, mass-wise, so it's not like they were throwing off my equilibrium or anything, but they were making me feel a smidge woozy.

In preparation for this Event, I wore my very best ninja outfit (all my workout gear these days is black- very slimming for the camera, but also a little tiresome after months on end), pulled my hair up into it's most flattering athletic 'do (ponytail, according to Outside Sources), and even put on makeup. That is right, I did what I only sometimes do for my Real Job: applied concealer, eyeshadow, and mascara. I was ready for that camera!

Well, minus the part that I had not yet actually taught an entire class by myself (team-teaching has been the name of the game). You know. But whatever. I was going to be fine and anyway it's not like this was my one and only shot at making a video. I could re-do it as often as necessary! No need for butterflies, damn it, so quit that fluttering!

(They did not.)

I left Real Job about five minutes early (oh the shame) to ensure that I'd be there at least ten minutes before class, adrenaline humming. Waltzed into the classroom, began chatting with the woman who normally teaches at that time-slot, slowly realized that my mentor wasn't there and then realized...

No camera.

No. Camera.

Apparently wires of communication had gotten crossed somewhere (not to mention my mentor turned out to be ill, which is why she was missing) and there was an Equipment Presence Failure. So after a few minutes of "Holy crap!" scrambling between myself and the regular instructor, it was decided that I'd just go ahead and teach the whole thing by myself, anyway.

And so I did.

I'm pretty proud of myself, actually. I held it together, didn't fall off stage or anything. It was my first time using a headset mic (the class I normally teach is in a smaller studio and doesn't require a mic) so that was a bit of an adjustment, but for the most part I felt really good about it. And the other two instructors who were attending said such nice things to me that I think I couldn't have been that bad. More telling, none of the Regulars was shooting me dirty looks (members are way more harsh in their judgments than instructors, believe it or not) so it really must have been fine.

(Actually, you know what? Screw false modesty. I did well, and I know I did well 'cos I felt it in my gut: and while I wasn't perfect I was a damn site better than most people with the same level of experience. So yay me.) (And if my hands were shaking at any point, at least my voice wasn't.)

And then, since my mentor was ill, I headed up stairs to teach the next class, too. So now my quads are griping at me, but in a good way. And I'm pretty sure I used up most of my nervous energy on today (for nothing, I might add), so whenever the time comes to actually shoot my video, I'll be calm, cool, and collected as a cucumber.

(I know, I know... tell it to the butterflies...)


Here There Be

"That is not possible," her brother insisted, shaking his head.

"Don't be ridiculous, George," Amelie said. "You're looking at it right now."

"That is- that is beside the point. The point is that it's not possible and- obviously something is- wrong... planted... a prank..." he trailed off. Amelie rolled her eyes.

"You're the one that gave it to me, which means that if it's planted, you're the one who planted it. And if that's the case, then please tell me why you'd do such a thing when I obviously never planned on my stupid cat knocking it off the shelf with enough force to crack it open."

"I didn't! I wouldn't even begin to know how... but... the fact remains... impossible!" he spluttered. "You just don't find fossils in igneous rock! You just- you don't."

"You're the geologist," she shrugged, and turned her attention back to the large hunk of obsidian (well, at this point, two medium-sized chunks of obsidian) sitting on her desk. Her brother had given it to her a few years back as a souvenir from his post-dissertation trip to Fiji, and she had always loved it's glassy, swirling facets. "But allow me, the humble outdoors guide, to point out that I am pretty darn sure that thing there," the poked her finger at a curved edge, duller than the surrounding glass it protruded from, "is a fossil. Or, rather, a fossilized egg. Does that get it's own category?"

George made a strangled noise, then managed to find his voice.

"No, Mellie, you don't understand. That right there?" He gestured towards the obsidian. "That was formed when lava cooled. Lava. As in, molten rock from the earth's core. Do you know what can survive being covered in lava?"

"Not much, I'd imagine."

"Not anything!"

"And yet..." she tapped the egg. George threw up his hands.

"Look, that thing- okay, I will grant you that it does look like a fossilized egg. But obviously I just made a mistake about the obsidian- it must be... something... some sort of sedimentary rock I've never encountered..."

"That just so happens to look exactly like obsidian?"

"Argh! I told you it is impossible!" Amelie patted her older brother's curls affectionately and turned her attention back to the impossible egg.

"I bet I know what could survive being covered in lava."

"What?" he snapped.

"A dragon's egg."

The noise he made in response to that defied description.

(Author's note: today's snippet inspired by a hike to the old abandoned quarry at Ruffner Mountain; specifically to a conversation that sprung up between myself, my husband, and my brother-in-law as a result of my extreme Gifted-ness at locating fossils. Perfectly normal fossils of tiny sea creature shells, located in perfectly predictable sedimentary rock... but still...)


Viral Ghost Echoes

Last night's entry got me thinking a lot about death and the afterlife (although to be completely fair it was a friend of mine's most recent art project that probably kick-started me into choosing that topic in the first place). Which in turn brought me back to part of an email I'd written to a (different) friend a few weeks ago about the nature of ghosts. Here is the passage in question:

"Airports that you visit with any sort of regularity are strange places. For me it is primarily because I have made such incredibly strong emotional impressions on myself in such places that I keep seeing little ghost-me's from the corners of my eye- for instance, me crumpled behind a pillar, weeping. It's like a tiny echo of despair that is going to vibrate in that spot for the rest of eternity, regardless of the fact that I was in a pretty damned good mood to be seeing Katie. Maybe that's what ghosts really are- not the spirits of people unable to move on, but solidified emotion. And that's why so many of them seem to be so sad, or so angry."

And that right there is another story-seed. Taken a step further, it could be a story about a person who has the power to dispel echoes- which brings up the physics question of what cancels out an echo? The part of my brain that retained some of what the wonderful Bernie Bates (my Physics 101 instructor) taught me is submitting that sound is a wave, and a wave can be canceled out by another wave of equal but opposite... waviness? Frequency? Whatever, you know what I mean... (yup, art major for a reason). Let's do a quick bit of research to either confirm or deny my suspicions, shall we?

Okay, screw it- research is taking too long and I want to go to bed. Let's take it for granted that I'm right, and we'll do the research later, if it ever gets beyond story-seed idea. So our purported hero/heroine is called upon to get rid of ghosts, but the only way s/he can do it is by creating an event that whips up an emotional frequency equal in intensity to but opposite in direction of the event that created the ghost. In other words, s/he would have to facilitate great joy, or hope, or something along those lines, in the same spot as the haunting... hmmm... Of course, if the ghost is someone's echo rather than their essence, what is the motivation for dispelling it? Maybe it grows... or infects others with its misery/rage... hmmm... viral ghost echoes...

And now that goes into my percolator for a while, and hopefully comes out as a full-on concept rather than just a device/seed... Do feel free to contribute your own thoughts on the subject (just so long as you hereby relinquish all rights and don't mind me straight up stealing your ideas... ;P)