Is not the title of what I’m doing here. That’s the chapter title, as I hope will become clear. I’m … well, we have two more weeks until Mommy gets home, so unless I manage to get my feet under me, it’ll be about three to four weeks until I have anything like a groove back. So to speak. In an effort to bring about just such a shift in my personal condition, I’m pursuing two steps. The first, is more (and more consistent) physical exercise. The other is pursuit of more frequent flow state.

That’s right! I’m going to work at becoming a liquid. Just think of it! Living goop! Actually, that sounds less and less good the more I think on it. I’ll have to pursue the more normal flow state. You know that state, where you completely lose track of time, getting submerged in whatever activity you’re pursuing. Video games are historically an easy route to this, for me, but I don’t do that anymore. I end up losing far too much time, and things stop getting done. Like meals.

Flow is the closest I really understand to fun. People talk about having fun, and doing fun things. When I dig into those experiences from which I’ve derived the most joy in my life, I was so consumed by the activity that I only realized that time had passed – at all – when I surface (often hours later) exhausted by whatever I’d been doing. This is true of snowboarding, or gaming (video or tabletop), and especially of reading.

Well, writing works that way, too. Or at least, it does for me. Some of the time. The best times. But that’s not what this is about. Writing has been a struggle, recently. It’s a season where it’s uphill, both way, in the snow, backwards and barefoot. And so I’m trying a thing. I’m working to incorporate an activity that’s easy to get into (cabinetry is a full-time job, so that’ll have to wait until the kids are older), has a small footprint (ditto, welding and fabrication), and is easy to clean up after.

So I’m going to play the cliché card: I’ve started painting the mess of gaming miniatures that have been languishing for a few years. Really, it was either that, or give them away, the better to use the (admittedly small) space they take up. Well, it’s a small footprint (I mean, they’re 28mm tall, so of course their feet are pretty tiny…), and I can set up and take down on the kitchen table after the kids are in bed.

So, the takeaway is, if everything else is getting funky, and the creative works are gummed up, see if you can get healthy flow (there’s a difference, yes) going in some activity tangential to writing. Or, heckfire and darn-nation, something completely different from writing. But make it something creative. Or at least creative-ish. Restore antique hand tools. Then it’ll be re-creative. But get you some flow. It’ll smooth the way.

Okay! I promised more space fantasy. I’ll be honest, y’all: this scene has nearly been my undoing. Let me warn you up front: it’s a little weird. Not from the content, but the perspectives involved. I’m hoping that’s just from my end, and it’ll read just fine.

Chapter 13: Reverie

Darkness. Sound. Colors. Bewildering blurred shapes accompanied by the most physical wall of noise imaginable. I’d have screamed, but I couldn’t tell if I had a mouth, which was enough to freeze me still. Oddly soft sounds beat on me as whatever covered my eyes was pulled away chunk by chunk.

It went on for a brief eternity that resolved itself so quickly it left me gasping. If indeed, I still had lungs to gasp with. It took far longer for me to realize I was watching recordings moving backward.

Which wasn’t entirely accurate. At first, the blurs sharpened until I realized I was seeing debris leaping away from my perspective. Earth and rock, and then plants and trees, flowed into the distance, melding and twisting apart. The individual bits dwindled and became a cloud which receded away from me under an incandescent sky. From whatever had recorded the scene, rather.

I had just enough presence of mind to attempt the calming exercises I’d learned in the Assault Corps. I suspected they would have worked better if I’d been able to feel my lungs inflating, or even been able to count breaths. I felt as though my body had completely disappeared.

An incomprehensible wave of noise beat at my consciousness. And then again. Each time was subtly different, and I began to detect breaks in the stream. A sense of enormous, intangible presence suffused my lonely existence, and then was gone.

The sky dimmed to a normal blue as the light faded. It resolved itself into a fireball which shrank down and then disappeared. Out of it, a brilliant streak leapt into space from somewhere hundreds of kilometers away.

So abruptly, I wished I could close my eyes to stop seeing it, the world shifted into a granularity that screamed “artificial.” It was too clear. Lines were too sharp.

Somehow, I rose up until I could see the curvature of the planet. From that vantage, I saw the telltale blooms mushroom clouds rising over the horizon. They shrank and were replaced by domes of pure light, which shrank in turn to pinpoints which carved their ravening way up through the atmosphere and into the void.

I realized I was watching some kind of strike from outer space in reverse, but as soon as that occurred, my point of perspective swooped back down toward the now-pristine surface of the planet with sickening speed. My inner ear told me I hadn’t moved, but my view sped over the terrain. Forested hills disappeared behind me as I moved forward at incredible speed. On the horizon, signs of civilization appeared.

But not any civilization with which I was familiar. Buildings stretched toward the sky, but they looked less like artifacts of human hands than something grown. Flowing lines met and merged, sprang apart into soaring bridges that shimmered in the early morning sunlight.

As I drew closer, the very substance of what seemed to be a city resolved into something very like the Tartarium which had swallowed me. At the thought, a flicker of tension flared and just as suddenly faded into the background of my mind. It wasn’t that I wasn’t experiencing it, but rather that it just didn’t matter. I decided calling the astonishing substance after the land of the dead was a poor choice. Especially for something that seemed like it might well be alive. Unfortunately, it was the best I had available to me.

The vision jerked to a halt. My heart leapt into my throat. Or it would have, if I could feel my body. I was more and more convince I was still alive and relatively sane. And intact. My emotions were all functioning. They weren’t even muted, really, just pushed aside. As though something was more important. I turned my mind back to the city scene.

Specks moved about, and I desperately wished I could get close enough to make out details. I was certain from the way the dots moved they were the inhabitants of the alien city. Further, I was certain the hairs on the back of my neck, wherever it was, were standing on end. There was a familiarity to the movements, even if they were in reverse. I needed to see them close up.

The oppressive presence returned and I tensed. The wave of noise hammered on me again, and then again. And again. There were definite sounds. It was as though a speaker was playing a recording under water, and much too loud.

The sense of presence vanished, and a distant roaring filled my ears. My field of view swiveled around and up. A bright spot in the deep blue sky grew. And grew, and grew as the roaring increased to an awful din.

My perspective wheeled dizzyingly until I was face down to the city. The roaring filled reality, and I could see the dots below had stopped moving. A knot of sickening tension bloomed in what I fondly imagined was still my middle. I imagine faces, of whatever shape, turned up at the noise and growing light. Of people walking to work, on the way home, fondly thinking of the next meal or of their families.

I was swiveled back up to face the descending strike. I found it fascinating that I could still feel the effects all this had on my sense of equilibrium, even though I couldn’t actually tell I had a body. That lit a spark of hope in this nightmarish vision.

The incandescent death-blow ravened out of the heavens. Smoke billowed away, leaving a black smear against the cerulean. I knew I wasn’t seeing this through my eyes. The light coming off the orbital penetrator would have seared any merely human retinas, and I felt no pain. More, I couldn’t close my eyes, couldn’t stop seeing it. Which added its own thread of anxiety to my externally suppressed emotional stew.

I wanted to turn away. I imagined I could hear the screams from below as the populace of the city realized they were looking upon their deaths, and the deaths of everything they loved and had built. I just wanted it to stop. I imagined I was screaming it, over and over. But I couldn’t hear anything. Not from me, at least. I couldn’t have heard anything over the all-encompassing crackling, shuddering roar of the incoming strike. I tried, though.

Vile curses, dread imprecations, pleas to gods in whom I didn’t believe. I think I screamed all of them in what should have been the silence of my own mind while the God’s own rage-hammer descended to obliterate those below me. Or I tried to scream. I really couldn’t tell.

With a suddenness that left me incoherent, silence fell. Complete silence. There was no noise, not even the familiar thudding of my own heart. The falling penetrator was a brilliant spark in a sky which was now only blue in the distance. Everything else was lit by the second sun hanging above me.

Chapter 14: Wise Counsel


  1. A little confusing, here and there, but we’re reading it in isolation, and I think it’ll work very well once once it’s finished, and polished a bit. As a meeting of strangers, it’s very convincing.

  2. I like it. It’s still unclear whether or not they’ll “get along”, but the “is he dead?” question is answered, sort of.

    Where to put the chapter break? After the previous scene? The tension is not much resolved here, so after this? After the next scene (where presumably we’ll have a bit more of a clue about this relationship)? So far, I think after the previous scene. This would make a good chapter start.

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