Wednesday, November 7. 2007
This is a rough draft. Posted by The Mad Giggler in Birdwood, NE at 15:51
Author's note: Updated since the original posting.
I'm not sure what Mom did to make us move here, but I've never been more bored in my life. I was an officer in my guild, but now I can't even log in. Dad told me to close my account because we wouldn't have an internet connection here. He didn't tell me that no one would have one. They don't even have cell phones for that matter. It's like I've been taken back in time to a world before civilization began. What did people even do before the internet? Dad said I should find a new hobby like building model airplanes or something. Unfortunately, model airplanes can't get me out of the Lost World, so I'd rather not even bother.
Mom said I should find out what other kids do around here. Easier said than done. Today was my first day in school and no one even acknowledged my existence outside of the teachers adding me to their roll and giving me their tattered old schoolbooks. My algebra book looks like someone's dog vomited on it, but Mr. Green said that was the only one he had left. Not only are parts of it colored unnaturally, but there are weird scribbles and doodling in some of the margins that don't look like any math I've ever seen. I would have just shrugged it off as some bored kid passing the time, but there are numbers here and there in between weird symbols. Supposedly Dad was a math whiz in school, but when I showed him one of the pages, he just shrugged and said it was probably some new technique the teachers here are trying. I hate it when grown-ups try to act smart. Obviously he has no clue, because there's no way the teachers here are trying new techniques.
Since the internet apparently hasn't been invented yet in Birdwood, my usual avenues of information gathering are completely cut off. Back home, I could have posted a scan to the various forums I troll, but I'm not even sure I want to unpack my computer here - it just seems less depressing to have it boxed up than to have it there taunting me. Besides, it's kind of nice to just have a stack of boxes in the corner of my room; it kind of keeps my hopes up that our stay here in the corn fields of Lame might not be permanent. And it kind of drives Mom nuts.
She's been trying hard to make the move easier by being especially efficient around the house. All the old wooden surfaces gleam like they've been polished within the hour, especially the banister by the stairs. I noticed that particularly because it looked it would be a lot of fun to slide down. I was about halfway down when it occurred to me that the blank wall about three feet from the base of the stairs wouldn't be very welcoming if I hit it at top speed, so I tried to perform one of those rolling dives you see in the movies when people jump out of burning cars. The resulting crash made me rethink my budding career as a stuntman and brought Mom in yelling about breaking stuff in a house we haven't even lived in for a week. Whatever. I'm sure it's her fault we're here anyway. Between the cleaning and the incredible meals she's been serving, you'd think she'd recently hired a maid and a cook, but I haven't seen anyone around the house other than Mom's friends coming over to chat with her in the "parlor."
Friday, June 29. 2007
Red Pastures, Part 0002: Elias Station Posted by Ancient of Days in Birdwood, NE at 01:11
[ Probably not the final draft, but I'm posting it anyway because I know Daboo is anxiously awaiting it. ]
Steam flowed from the stack as the train ground to a halt. With a gentle bump, the switchman engaged his lever. There was a sort of satisfaction in knowing that this simple mechanical motion would move thousands of tons of goods from one part of the country to the other. As the engine began to churn forward, the switchman stepped back, glancing casually at the figure lurking at the edge of his vision.
"Back again, old man?" he called good-naturedly. The rag-covered figure simply shifted his weight from one foot to the other, the long burden of solitude making him impatient with the niceties of human interaction.
"Well, come on -" the switchman beckoned. "Are you coming in for a cup, or what?"
Shuffling forward, Elias Dorian met the smaller man near the door to the switchhouse. He shied back when the switchman reached out to place a hand on his shoulder. Grinning and shaking his head, the switchman feigned surrender.
"Right, right...'no touching'. Well, come in." Turning away, the switchman climbed the short flight of stairs and began rummaging in the cupboard for a spare mug. Finding nothing more than an old canning jar, he turned to sink to rinse it out and started as he nearly collided with Elias.
"Good loard, you're a sneaky one!" he exclaimed. "Didn't even hear ya come in. Well, here ya go." He put the dirty jar on the table motioning Elias towards the sink, and reached for the coffee pot. Pouring some into his own mug he hesitated before, at an expectant nod of Elias, he grunted and poured the steaming liquid into the jar. As always, he was surprised at the incredible speed at which Elias' hands moved, emerging from the pile of rags to snatch the jar back, revealing only the briefest glimpse of chocolate-colored skin near the wrists and at the fingers.
"I asked the yardmaster 'bout you. He says you been here longer than anyone, longer maybe than some of the tugs."
"Ellyuz --" the deep croak came from somewhere in Elias' chest, his voice creaking like a rusty hinge. He worked his jaw as if trying to loosen muscles frozen from lack of use.
"My name," he said more clearly. "My name is Elias, and I've lived here for 60 years come September."
The switchman snorted and grinned. "Pull the other one, old man...Elias Station was barely even here 60 years ago. You want me to believe this yard is named after you, you're going to have to age about another 60 years."
Elias nodded, then tipped the jar into his mouth, swallowing the scorching coffee in one long pull. "Right." Smacking his lips, he plunked the jar back on the table, again moving so quickly the switchman could barely follow his movements. "Thanks for the drink. It's been a long time since I had coffee --" His mouth rolled around the word, pronouncing with a distinctly European sound. " -- good night --" Elias murmured, turning his back and fading back into the darkness of the train yard.
Crazy old coot the switchman thought silently, shaking his head again. He drained his own cup -- burning his tongue a bit on the dregs -- rinsed the cup in the sink, and returned to work.
Monday, June 25. 2007
It was early evening, and the sky had shrugged off the violent blue of the day, assuming instead a bleached, purplish color which made the evening star seem too bright and too large. Down the middle of the street, in an erratic pattern, came a young girl. Anyone observing her would find her progress strange, as she walked in unpredictable, sideways jolts, and sometimes came to a complete stop before choosing a new path. At one point she stopped, sighed loudly, and looked upward at the dimming sky, which held no sources of light except the bright star that blazed at her like a shrewd eye, and the dim remaining glow of the vanished sun. She then studied the ground for a moment, and purposefully stepped forward in a diagonal direction. There she stopped, studied the ground again, and again stepped forward in a not-quite-straight direction. In this manner she wove her way slowly forward, and the pattern that emerged was that while she never left the middle of the road, she also never stepped on any crack in the worn and battered asphalt.
Finally, she came to a stop in the center of the street. Or, more accurately, the streets. She had come to a place where the road forked in a Y-shape, and come to a stop in the exact center of the three streets that yawned away into the growing dusk. There was no traffic here, no cars driven by men eager to get home to the picture-perfect dinners prepared by their housewives, no young women with baby strollers casually walking, and no children playing. The girl tossed her blunt-cut, shoulder length blond hair back from her face and removed her backpack. Her eyes flickered uneasily toward the grassy area directly in front of her, and then darted away. She didn't let herself look too long at the gravestones there; they always looked like teeth to her, almost glowing in the fading light.
From her backpack, she pulled a piece of white chalk. Bending down, she drew a quavering circle between herself and the left-hand fork of the Y-intersection. She filled it with two dots and a wobbly line, and the result was an upside-down, squashed-looking face. It seemed to peer dimly down the road. Turning, the girl then drew exactly the same thing again, but this time facing the right-hand fork. And lastly, she turned completely around and drew a third face, this one facing down the long road she had come down.
Next, she carefully pulled three foot-long branches of coniferous leaves out of her pack. Each branch was speckled with bright red berries. She carefully set them down above her white faces, each branch looking like a hat.
And last, she pulled from her backpack a rustly plastic bag which said "Farnsworth's Food and Drug" on the side in pink letters. Inside, dripping with blood, was a freshly cut rump roast. This she set down in the center of the three faces, so that it was in the exact center of the three roads.
This done, she stood up and squared her scrawny shoulders. "At the meeting of the two worlds, this I offer, Trivia," she said into the still evening air, "Queen of Ghosts, with favor look upon me."
She stood for a moment, her mouth set in a grimly satisfied line, and then she turned back the way she had come. This time the light was much dimmer, and she had a difficult time getting over to the sidewalk, where she breathed a sigh of relief. Here, the cracks were much more manageable. She started forward at a jog, her eyes on the sidewalk, and when she had gotten about 100 yards away from the crossroads she yelled, still running, "And HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"
She did not notice, because she never turned around, the long and lean black shape that followed her home.
Saturday, June 23. 2007
An Open Invitation:
You are all invited to take part in an open, collaborative writing effort. The idea behind this project is to have a group story in which each writer contributes a unique storyline, but also tries to build on the ideas of the others who have already written. No one "owns" this idea, and you should NOT feel shy about introducing your own ideas, heroes, conflicts, villians, etc. This story will belong to all writers. However, we do have a basic premise we would like to start from; there are enough inhabitants of our basic world that you should have no trouble finding a faction, family, or character to start with. You can start your character connected to someone else's in some way (some collaboration on this would, of course, be necessary) or you can start your own mini-storyline with characters who don't seem to be tied in to the other storylines, and can meet/interact with other people's characters later, if you choose. You have complete freedom, so long as you stay within the basic world parameters, which are as follows:
For most of the citizens of Birdwood, NE, life in their small town is normal--it's a railroad town that never really entered the information age, and which is, like many small towns, sleepily preoccupied with its local gossip and dimly existing from one day to the next. However, there is far more to Birdwood than most of the inhabitants know. Located at an extremely potent meeting of ley lines, this town is a haven for several different factions of witches. Operating without the knowledge of their own families, these witches present a smiling front to the town, but in secret they have their own triumphs, ambitions, and of course, problems. In addition, because of Birdwood's powerful energies and its fairly central location, some of its witches participate in a very old underground railroad program, moving and protecting witches whose secret has been discovered and who need to migrate to new locations. Thus there is quite a bit of new blood in town at any given point, though whether they stay long or short varies from case to case.
In terms of magic, our desire is to let you be as creative as you would like, but we are going to hold to the Rule of Three for all our witch characters. This ancient rule basically states that, when using magic, whatever you do to someone else will come back upon you threefold, whether good or bad. This is a good reason to be nice to people, and also a good reason to limit your evil...however, dark witches use familiars, which are animals (any animal) whose soul has been linked to the witch's. One of the most important uses of a familiar is that when the Rule of Three comes for you, its evil can be reflected, to some extent, upon the hapless animal instead of the witch. Other real/traditional witchcraft rules such as the power of names, as well as a person's hair or belongings, to control people, can be used. If you can come up with a real aspect of witchcraft you'd like to use, you're welcome to incorporate it. We'd like to stick to "real" rules of witchcraft as much as possible, but there is some room for flexibility here.
The witchcraft has to stay low-key, but there are also the standard ways in which it is exposed to society-at-large: love potions; faith healings; hexes, curses and bindings; the rule of three, as well as a strong tendency towards addiction, keep most of the casual magic users in check.
And lastly, The ley line and the heavy use of magic has also drawn other magical creatures to the area, but friendly and not.
So there it is. Pick a faction, pick a character, pick a conflict, and jump in!
Sunday, June 10. 2007
Red Pastures, Part 0001: ... Posted by Ancient of Days in Birdwood, NE at 17:54
[Note: This is my first entry in what hopefully will prove to be a collaborative fiction exercise among the authors of this blog. I have tenatively called the collective work "Birdwood, NE", because that was the name I picked for the town where the stories will take place...however, the idea ultimately belongs to Daboo, so she may do other things with it.
As my first attempt at writing "noir", this has been incredibly difficult for me so far -- setting the tone, etc. I'm encouraging feedback, especially if you're a fan of noir and can give me tips! Given my inexperience with the material, it will be very slow-going to write this story, so don't get too excited.]
Det. Rick Rutledge groaned as he dropped into a crouch next to the body, his right hand gripping the cigarette dangling from his lips. The feel of the cigarette comforted him. It was here with him, it was something he could trust, it was *real*...and what he was seeing, there on the ground in front of him, simply could not be real. His finger traced a pattern in the air, following the river of blood across the tile and onto the carpet.
The sound of his partner climbing in through the shattered remains of the front door danced around the edges of his attention, but the sound of her voice didn't even register until the third time she called his name.
"Rick? Are you listening to me?"
Rick grunted and pointed at the carpet. "What do you see there?"
Desi tossed her head and pulled her hair back, gathering it in into a pony tail. "I see blood, and lots of it...". Her voice faded as she followed the blood across the carpet. "Is - that's a HAND." Pulling on a glove she stooped to pick it up, then screamed and jumped back when it closed around her wrist. "WHAT THE --?!"
Rick chuckled at her as he pulled his own gloves on. "The muscles think they're still getting signals. But that's not exactly what I wanted you to look at."
Stooping, Rick set his flashlight on the floor, its beam growning long and throwing a dark red memory of blood across the far wall.
"Look...it isn't just resting on the floor. It's growing out of it." He poked hard at the still-twitching palm, and watched the skin and muscle pull against the granite floor.
Desi stood against the wall, her hand clutching her chest. "What do you mean 'growing out of it'? Hands don't grow on the floor, Rick."
Rick grunted again, kneeling on the floor to examine the stone where the hand met it. "What would you call it?" He stood, checking his pants for blood, and bent to pick up his flashlight. "I don't like this, Des...I don't like it one bit. Let's have a look in the basement...all this blood, there's got to be a bod-". The cigarette tumbled from his lips, landing on the cold stone, as Rick stared in horror at the wall behind Desi.
"Rick?" she asked, glancing at the wall. "Rick, what is? What do you see?" The blood drained from his face as he stood rooted to the floor. "Rick, you're starting to piss me off. What's going on with you? RICK!"
Rick started, and looked at Desi. "I don't know." he said, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. "I just get a bad feeling about this. Let's check the basement."
As he turned, the light moved across the blood pool, and the reflection Rick had been staring at moved across the wall creating, invisible to the untrained eye, the number '17' shone in wine-red light.
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