Monday, April 30, 2012

In the Garden Where Monsters Grow

*One of the most exotic and dangerous places I've ever visited was Lady Nightmare's garden, where the most fantastic monstrosities are grown and tended to by her two caretakers...but when the occassional "weed" pops up, it can be worse than what's being cultivated...*

Cudwad cast his gaze back and forth among the various embryos that hung like morbid glass ornaments from the thorny vines. “Uh, which one am I looking for?” he called.

Gnawbone sighed irritably, pausing from his task of turning the thick-shelled eggs in the fire pit. “The salamander. The blue one with the bright red fringes.”

Cudwad finally found the one that he had been sent to harvest, a cobalt blue creature that looked more insect than reptilian, and with gentle, gloved hands, he plucked it free of the Mothervines. “Found it. What does this one do again?”

“Eats dreams. Burns memories. Drowns lost children.” Gnawbone grinned slightly. “Bites idiots.”

Cudwad furrowed his brow, and looked down at the peacefully sleeping beast. “I still can’t get over how Lady Nightmare grows all these…things. I mean, she doesn’t seem very motherly or welcoming…but she ‘loves’ all these monsters.”

Gnawbone shrugged. “You’re trying to apply human tendencies to Lady Nightmare. It’s only going to confuse you. Don’t worry, once the Taint absorbs into your blood a little while longer, it’ll make more sense to you.”

The young boy—although, not much longer would he be one, at least not a human one—glanced at the veins showing through the skin of his arms. Already they were several shades greener than they had been the day before. He had also noticed that morning that his ears were a bit pointier at the tips, and his once blue eyes were slowly shifting to a moon-silver. It was pretty cool.

“Hey, what will that one be?” Cudwad asked, peering at the crimson-red egg that Gnawbone was struggling to turn. It was large enough to sit on, with lines of purple and emerald green covering its surface like cobwebs.

“How should I know? It’s impossible to tell with the eggs most of the time.” Gnawbone finally just shoved the egg until it pivoted around. “Usually it’s something like a dragon or a basilisk. Or a dud. The eggs aren’t as successful as the embryos, but if they do hatch, they are some of the rarest nightmares you’ll ever see. Lady Nightmare’s prized children.”

Cudwad cradled the salamander, biting his lip. “Do you think she’d let me keep one, sometime?”

“What? Keep…one of these? For what, a pet?” Gnawbone laughed. “Trust me, they look harmless when they’re small and sleeping, but there’s a reason they’re called monsters. Just do your job, Cud. No one bends the lady’s rules here.” He pulled back the shaggy white hair by hi left temple, showing the deep burn scars there. “And this was from her being mildly irked, and not for anything I did.”

Cudwad gulped, but then spotted something at Gnawbone’s feet. “Careful, there’s a tiny one right there. Don’t step on it.”

“Where?” Gnawbone looked down at the spot Cudwad pointed to, and then he bent down and picked up a dull, yellowish egg that fit comfortably in his palm. “Odd, this wasn’t here this morning. And there haven’t been any other layings today. Not to mention it’s smaller than the norm.”

“Ooooh, do you think something else laid it here? Like how cowbirds lay their eggs in other birds nests?” Cudwad, still cradling the salamander in one arm, reached out for the yellow egg with his free hand. “If it’s not Lady Nightmare’s, then I can have it!”

“Like a demon’s tongue, you will!”

“Come on, don’t tell her it’s here. I’ll take good care of it. It’s probably just a regular old bird. She’ll just feed it to the monsters if she finds it. Please please please, let me have it.”

Gnawbone scratched his chin, looking the egg over. “Hmm, you know, I bet I could pawn this off as a phoenix egg…yeah, a little gold paint, and I could get some good money for this at the Charmers’ Market. Maybe we should keep it a secret…”

“No, don’t sell it! Give it to me!”

“I’m older than you, so I get first pick of…”

The arguing, of course, woke up the salamander in Cudwad’s arm. Waking a fire salamander should be a slow, careful process, lest you anger the poor thing. Being jostled about in Cudwad’s arm with all that yelling going on is not a good way to awaken a salamander for the first time, proven by the fact that he coughed up a ball of acid before he squirmed out of Cud’s grasp and slithered away among the tangled Mothervines.

The sudden attack by the salamander caused Gnawbone to drop the yellow egg in surprise…right into the pool of acid that the salamander have belched up on the ground.

The two caretakers watched, petrified, as the shell of the egg began to melt in the acid, and it peeled back to reveal something unlike anything they could have ever expected to come from such a tiny, unassuming egg. In other words, it was definitely not a bird…not a reptile or amphibian…not even a monster, which would have been a more pleasant alternative.

“Cud….” For the first time that Cudwad had ever seen, Gnawbone blanched as pale as Death’s horse. “Cud, run…”

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Invention of Time; or "The Moment We All Got Into This Mess"

*This tale of the invention of time was passed down from someone proclaiming to be a descendant of an ancient society of Chronological Chroniclers...and it makes about as much sense as any other theory I have heard...*

He came to the others who were building the Universe
And said,
I’ve made something truly ingenious!
It will set all the Universe in order,
Dispel chaos and randomness,
Set things on a straight, continuing course,
Create predictable routines, measure the lengths of lives,
even predict what may and will happen,
because it will be a basis for intelligent organisms to record
what has happened.
I will call it…Time!

And the others scoffed and jeered,
What a ridiculous invention!
No one will use it, why should they care?
They know the sun rises and sets,
They know someday their lives will end.
Why need to know how long a day is?
Why need to know when one may die?
It will give them nothing but neurosis, impatience,
Anxiety, and fear, waiting for things to happen
When they could be content just living.
As for chaos, randomness, and disorder,
They are silly creatures; give them Time,
And they will only create more chaos
By trying to control it, like a pet.
Nope, put your silly Time away or dispose of it.

But the Time Maker, without the others watching,
Imbedded his creation in the minds
Of a race of creatures he knew would use it,
Live by it, set up their entire civilization around it.
Why us?

Because he knew we’d be the only beings
Who had even the faintest hope
Of programming the clock on a VCR.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Button and Balloon, the World's Greatest Assassins

* The old saying goes, "You can't judge a book by its cover," nor by its title, so it would seem...but sometimes a label holds more weight in how we view someone than we would think...*

Button and Balloon were highly skilled assassins,
The best in the world, the rumor spread ‘round.
Button could slip silently through the smallest of holes,
Balloon, quick and light, could not be held down.

It was said they took out a whole rival gang
With nothing more than a five-inch leather strap,
Their knives were so sharp, that could slash through light
They were the Cut-throat Kings, the Masters of Mishap

Button in his coat hiding his daggers and secrets
Balloon in his night-woven cloak and domino mask
Were a formidable sight (if they allowed you to see them),
They never failed when given a terrible task

But in truth, it was rare that these assassins
Drew a knife or gun, to cease their prey’s breath.
More often than not, all they did was give their names
And their victims laughed themselves to death.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Poem to Completely Mess Up Your Mind

*Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to the compositions I come across in my can often just be the ramblings of a madman, or just someone trying to twist your mind into knots. Makes you wonder where, exactly, this kind of verbose contemplation comes from...*

Maudlin as a mandolin
Brackish as a radish
Uxorious as euphoria
Obsequious as obnoxiousness
Egregious as an egret’s goose
Mesonoxian as Mesopotamia
Acersecomic  as an acceleration
Calamistrate your calamari
And Pandiculate like you are immaculate

Perhaps I have circumnavigated my interpretations
All I am saying is that Adoxography is important,
This is as loquacious as a liquidation of lexotanil.

…but you already knew that, right?
Thank you for your coquettishness .

A Very Important Date

*Some stories you are so familiar with, you might not realize how different the same story looks from another point of view...*

I had never been late for an appointment in my entire life—punctuality is my most prized virtue. But while I was having the most succulent lunch in the park, on the grass next to me appeared a box. It is not unusual in my line of work for boxes and messages to suddenly poof into existence when needed. This box, accompanied by a card, had the royal insignia of a heart and crown on it, which indicated it was from my employer. The card simply read, “Croquet game in ten minutes. If you are late, ask the frog what I will do.” Naturally, the frog was what was inside the box…or at least its head was.

Ten minutes! I hurried as quickly as my legs would carry me, back to the tunnel that had brought me to the park in the first place. If I had not been in such a panicked state, I’m sure I would have noticed that I was being followed. Apparently, rabbits in waistcoats were a curious sight in that particular park, and it drew the attention of one onlooker who, coincidentally, happened to be petite enough to follow me into the hole.

I made my way down the tunnel and through the underground hallways with ease—until I realized I lost the key to the door I needed to go through to get back home. Soon enough, however, the key materialized out of the air, and I quickly unlocked the door and jumped through. But as I continued along, I was suddenly ambushed from behind by an unexpected tidal wave that washed me, and several of my animal neighbors, out into an impromptu sea. I knew that sort of thing only happened when someone was silly enough to consume an “Eat Me” candy and then cried. Why someone would cry after eating something delicious, I cannot comprehend.

From there, I was only further hindered. I sprinted home to gather my gloves, but my housekeeper Mary Ann, who knew where my gloves were, was nowhere to be found. When I finally did find her (looking very different than usual—and having no idea what I was talking about, but she can be difficult that way), she turned into a monster and grew so large that she completely filled my house. I would tend to it later, as I was now very late. Along my way, I was nearly knocked off my feet by a runaway piglet in baby clothes, I was harassed by that awful grinning cat who likes to disappear and yank my tail, and I was accosted by that moping Mock Turtle who never stops moaning about not being able to dance.

Thankfully I was able to don my court outfit and arrive at the croquet game before my employer noticed I was tardy, as she was distracted by an incident involving fraudulently painted roses (the gardeners were instantly liquidated and decapitated). I was just in time to oversee a trial; apparently the Knave was accused of stealing some of my employer’s favorite pastries. And my odd pursuer was there as well, clearly an insane person given how bizarrely logical she was acting.

How I get through my days sometimes with my head intact is a wonder…

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Danger of Muses: A Documented Exorcism

*Again, we delve into the depths of the bizarre. This time we get a documentation of an exocism, quite unlike any you may have read about or seen in the movies before...*

The heavy oak door slowly creaked open to reveal the man standing in the percussively pouring rain, the only noise in the otherwise tranquil night. The man, tall and somewhat portly, with weather-beaten skin and a silver halo of hair encircling a smooth scalp freely exposed to the expansive consciousness of the universe, cleared his throat. “I’m here for the…uh…exorcism,” he said.
The gaunt figure inside the doorway pursed his lips, narrowing his eyes on this seemingly average man. He stood back to give the man entry. “Mr. Braithwaite, isn’t it?”
“You can call me Roy,” the man replied, and he collapsed his ragged umbrella as he walked in. “Are you the one who called me?”
“Mr. Nevermore,” the host introduced himself, but did not extend a hand in welcome, nor offer to take Roy’s drenched jacket. He simply turned and led Roy up a grand flight of stairs to the second floor of the mansion.
Roy took in the interior of this impressive bastion. This was a house that most people avoided, a harrowing hall infested by whispered rumors and poisoned legacies that left stains of hatred, corruption and fear in its walls. Roy always took gossip with a grain of salt, given its bland flavor, but he couldn’t help but admit to himself that this place, and its occupants, made him slightly queasy.
“If I may be frank,” Roy said, “I’m surprised you requested me for this…occasion. Normally exorcisms are performed by—”
Mr. Nevermore tensely sucked in air through his teeth. He did not stop walking, but turned his head to look at Roy over his hunched shoulder. “I am aware that you are not a priest. This possession is unlike that of the standard variety.”
“How so?”
“You will see.”
Roy thought he saw Mr. Nevermore make a tiny grin before turning his wrinkled face back to the front.
The two walked down a dimly lit corridor, the walls lined with portraits of unsmiling people shrouded in Edwardian dress and mystery. Roy assessed the paintings, appreciating their simple, antiquated beauty, although already he was thinking of ways he could have helped guide the amateur painter to help bring out the artistic exuberance that was clearly being held back in these subdued commissions. That was what Roy did, after all, as a mentor at the artists’ colony, aptly if not pretentiously named Inspirescape. He had been culturing the seeds of imagination and passion in young potential artists for years, many which would blossom into vibrant dream-weavers, and a few that would wither under the competition and fade away like photographs exposed to too much sunlight.
Mr. Nevermore stopped outside a bedroom door, placing a hand on the doorknob but not turning it yet. “Perhaps I should prepare you by telling you that what you are about to see might be a bit disorienting at first. Or perhaps you are used to this sort of…” The master of the house slid his teeth over his tongue, as if the next word had a bitter taste to it. “Creativity.”
Roy wrinkled his brow, not sure what Mr. Nevermore meant. All that Roy had been told over the phone was that a member of this household was being subjected to a possession of the foulest kind—a perversion not only of the inner self but it had bled all the way out to the outer self, something that rattled everyone who lived here to their very core. Given the nature of the mansion’s residents (from what Roy understood, through the sparse research he gathered), it had surprised him that not only had Mr. Nevermore requested his services to dispatch the unwelcome invader, but that the Nevermores would be so shaken by a possession—apparently, such things were not new to these people, as the mansion’s history was riddled with such occurrences. Roy also couldn’t understand what “creativity” would have to do with it, unless this possessive entity was forcing its host to perform circus-style acrobatics around the room.
When Mr. Nevermore opened the door, Roy’s eyes widened in astonishment and bewilderment. The entire room before him was a living, breathing oil painting, a metaphysical garden of animal-like flora and otherworldly creatures from the deepest depths of the subconscious. Everything was augmented with dazzling dreamlike colors and surreal shapes and constantly shifting brushstrokes, as if an invisible painter’s hand was continually adding more and more to this masterpiece.
“It is astounding,” Roy mused.
“Astoundingly horrid,” Mr. Nevermore said curtly. “And it is putting my dear niece in much turmoil. All of this…this…” He gestured towards the whole span of the room. “The physical medium creating this mess is my niece herself. She is being twisted and pulled apart with every new eyesore that pops into existence. Do you know what it feels like to be shredded hours upon hours so some parasite can make this abominable art show?”
Roy took in the room, scanning carefully for all the details, and his eye caught something that did not seem to fit with the rest of this artwork. Sure enough, consumed by the layers of pulsating paint, there was a faint face in the upper wall to the left, a female face stretched in anguish and terror, eyes pinched shut and teeth bared in a mask of pain. It put a pang in Roy’s heart, as he detested the idea that something was creating art by putting another through such torture. Then something struck him as odd—that is, odder than this situation already was.
“This…style…seems familiar,” he though aloud.
Mr. Nevermore glowered at him. “Does it, now? I thought as much. This is why I requested you. I assumed, since you are from the art colony and you deal with students who take on projects too ambitious for their puny minds, that this might be one of yours?”
The art mentor puzzled over this for a while. The heavy use of crimson and violet…the reoccurring theme of dark blue splatters…but it was when he saw a blurry image prowling in the corner, that of a yellow chameleon wearing a black-and-purple Venetian mask, that it clicked for him. One of his students commonly put this enigmatic creature into her artwork, as she said it was her “transformative totem,” her animal guide to unleashing her creative prowess.
Oh God, not Paulina again.
Roy wiped a hand over his face. “I apologize, Mr. Nevermore. This is the work of one of my…more passionate students. She’s been trying for months to create a new form of organic art, something with its own ‘spirit,’ as she says. I had no idea she would go to these lengths. She tends to get carried away. You’ll have to forgive her.”
“Forgive nothing!” Mr. Nevermore was livid, quite a turn from the placid demeanor he had presented until now. “Just get that beast out of my niece, immediately!”
Fortunately, Roy understood Paulina well enough after the two years of mentoring her, so enticing her out of Mr. Nevermore’s niece should be moderately easy. Paulina adored Roy—one of those harmless crushes that naive students sometimes developed towards a mentor who gives them too much attention—so she had shared a few basic, borderline-personal secrets with him. In this case, Roy chose to utilize the not-so-secret fact that Paulina was addicted to pear flavored jelly beans. These candies tended to calm her feverish tantrums most of the time, so Roy had gotten in the habit of carrying them on his person wherever he went.
He took the small paper bag of jelly beans out of his pocket, pouring a few into his hand. “Paulina, you have to come out of Miss Nevermore. You’re hurting her, and you can’t use other people against their will to make art. Come out, have a few jelly beans with me, and we’ll go home and talk about this.”
At first, nothing seemed to change. Then Roy noticed that the chameleon with the mask was staring at him fixedly, flicking its tail. Of course, Paulina would hide herself inside of her totem animal.
“Paulina,” Roy addressed the chameleon, “I know you’re in there. I’ll let you have the whole bag of beans if you come out right now.”
The chameleon tentatively crept along the wall until it was positioned right next to Roy’s shoulder. It lashed out its tongue in an attempt to snatch up the bag of jelly beans, but Roy knew her tricks well enough and darted to the side. “No, none of that. Just come out, this is the last time I’m asking. You realize you could be kicked out of the colony for this. It’s against the rules to impose your talents onto others without their consent.”
The chameleon frowned. “That rule in only enforced inside the colony.”
“It applies anywhere,” Roy replied.
The reptilian Paulina hung her head. “Don’t you even like what I’ve painted? It’s much prettier than how she normally looks.”
Roy sighed. “I will give you a thorough critique of what I think about this when we get back to Inspirescape. Now stop this nonsense. I’m getting angry.”
That did it. The chameleon instantly recoiled at Roy’s impending anger, and it crawled down onto the floor and sat. Everything in the room started peeling away, like centuries-old wallpaper, curling backwards and flaking away until all the brilliantly colored whimsy dissipated, returning the room to its original stark state. There was Mr. Nevermore’s niece, lying on the floor, sobbing dramatically while trying to take in deep breaths to recover. She was a grotesque-looking thing, something like a bloated crocodile with a gluttonous woman’s face, her four arms and six legs like overstuffed bratwurst, and curled tusks that protruded from her rhinoceros lips.
The chameleon’s fa├žade dissolved away to reveal a petite woman of fifteen years, a startling contrast to the niece that she had been controlling. Paulina was plain with hints of prettiness, with long teal-streaked hair framing a round face, and her slight build huddled beneath a smock shirt and jeans too baggy for her. She stared up at Roy with her chocolate brown puppy-dog eyes.
“There we go, much better.” Roy smiled, reaching down and helping Paulina up onto her feet. He turned and looked at Mr. Nevermore. “Once again, I apologize on my student’s behalf. I promise it won’t happen again.”
Mr. Nevermore scratched his head, the spot right between the two spiraling impala horns poking up from his scaly scalp. He snarled his two rows of jagged brown teeth, and his blood-scarlet eyes narrowed into splinter-thin slits. “Mr. Braithwaite, we demons came to this house over a century ago to be left alone, so we don’t have to deal with you pitiful humans anymore. But you obnoxious artists, coming along with your imagination and your vivacious souls, and tormenting us poor devils! When we possess you humans, we at least have the dignity to keep you intact, not spattering you all over the room in a rainbow-vomit mess! Make sure that little brat never comes here again, or I’ll devour the flesh off of both of you!”
As Roy escorted Paulina out of the mansion, both of them huddling under his umbrella as they walked across the street to his car, Roy couldn’t help but grin a little. He didn’t take Mr. Nevermore’s threat very seriously, given that the demons were more terrified of artists than the other way around. Plus, it was about time the demons saw things from the other side of the mirror—possessions were unpleasant experiences, and maybe the Nevermore clan would think twice before ever considering initiating a possession themselves, ever again.

Recipe of the Day: “A Cure for Love Sickness”

*The chef for this recipe must have been a bit jaded about love and its possibilities. But at least he was honest enough to include the possible side effects of his creation...*

A Cure for Love Sickness

1 cup of common sense
1/3 cup of reason
2 tbsp. independence
1 pinch of self control (to season)
1 tsp. of personal goals or unclouded vision
1/2 tsp. of "I'd rather have my own life"
A dash of 100% self-oriented decision
A drop of your true colors (to scare off a husband or wife)

Mix together until well blended, then freeze overnight.
Drink up, and all your adorations will be forgotten.
Use when necessary, until you are cured of love’s blight.
(Side effects may include loneliness, regret, and feeling rotten)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Diary of a Pitbull Poker Player

* Perhaps you have seen the popular series of paintings by C.M. Coolidge entitled "Dogs Playing Poker." Naturally, we chuckle at the idea of canines sitting down to play cards, but the inspiration for those paintings had to come from somewhere, right?*

1906-New York
I never thought much about the meaning of a song. Just give me some good howlin’, and I’d join in. That was what meant brotherhood to me—no shiny horns or scratchy strings, just good ol’ yowling, with the subtle symphony of the city at night humming around you.
Good ol’ Summertime…that’s the song, I think. I never quite understood the words, but the way those folks were singing it on the street corner, right outside the hospital, I could feel it was about a better time, a time when you would spend lazy days with your best friends, running through the sun-drenched grass, playing catch, maybe even chasing a car or two.
Boomer always loved chasing cars. I always warned him, “Boomer, you got to be careful; you got those stubby short legs, and waddling won’t get you out of oncoming traffic.” Funny how I was always the one looking out for him, but it’s my fault he’s laid up right now, in this flea-ridden dive, getting stitched up by some fumbling-fingered doctor.
It had started with the card game. It was Thursday-night tradition for me and my pack, and we had become renowned in the pubs we would frequent to play. We were quite a sight, all different breeds and walks of life, coming together and dueling with the deck for hours. We even caught the eye of some local painter—a Mr. Coolidge, I think his name was—who insisted on doing a couple portraits of us during our games. They were some mighty nice paintings. Even ended up in a couple advertisements.
But the game last night turned ugly—it happens, when you rub one of us the wrong way, or you get a bit tipsy and start flappin’ your jowls, but usually we laugh it off and buy another round to douse the fire. But not with Boomer, no. Bulldogs tend to be bull-headed; maybe that’s why they call ‘em bulldogs. He was getting in a bad row with a Russian Hound that I had invited to our game. Boomer snapped at him, claiming that he caught the Red red-handed with spare cards under the table, which didn’t sit well with the Russian.
All I had meant to do was stop things before the Russian mauled him into chutney. I grabbed Boomer by the scruff of his neck and held him down on the floor, with my jaws around his throat, only to show dominance and get Boomer stand down. Guess I didn’t know my own strength…I might’ve had one too many shots and lost control, ‘cause next thing I know, I’m tasting blood in my mouth…
As I was gettin’ up the nerve to walk into the vet’s, and I heard some folks crooning that song on the corner, I was praying that when I saw Boomer again, that he’d forgive me. Praying we could still get those dog days of summer back…

Why Peter Pan's Shadow Ran Away

*There is always more to a story than what we first hear about it. Sometimes those "unknown" sides of the story remain silent because they do not have a voice, but one thing an Imaginalchemist knows is how to give those mute witnesses a chance to speak...even if they are mere shadows.*

Even I get tired of the darkness.
All the thievery
All the bloodshed
All the innocence distorted and spoiled
He acts like it is all fun and games
Feeding pirates to ravenous crocodiles
Feeding flesh to his dagger
Sacrificing orphans to swordplay and war

This is where children never grow up?
Because they never get the chance to
Never Neverland
Never never light
Never never dream
Always always feral
Always always darkness in their hearts
And I am tired of the darkness.

Somewhere beyond the second star
Somewhere there is a brighter light
Shadows cannot exist without light
So I tear my toes off where they touch his
And seek out that tiny, quivering glow
Through a window
In a bedroom
Where there is warmth and love and sleeping children
Who have never known bloodshed
Never never hated
Never never slaughtered
Always always dream with the light on
A little candlelight for a little bit of shadow
That can never never go back to the darkness.

Monday, April 23, 2012

"A Note from Pestilence to the Other Horsemen of the Apocalypse"

*Another lost letter that I came across quite by accident...apparently, some apocalyptic entities start to act a little more human after a few millenia of waiting for the world to end...*

I will not apologize for the black plague.
(I am actually quite proud of that one.)
I will not apologize for the STDs.
Although, I admit, that one was out of pure jealousy.
Not fair for one’s lot in existence to be a perpetual virgin.
I will not apologize for all the horrid things
That eat away at organs, brains, bones, and blood.
Not anymore than you would apologize for
the droughts, lack of money, and blights
that keep the poor starving–
or the anorexia, bulimia, and vanity
that keep the rich starving themselves.
Nor would you apologize for the greed and lust
that prompt nations to battle–
But let’s be honest, it never took you that much
effort to motivate them. You barely even nudge.
And I know, after all these millennia, YOU would never apologize
for the natural course of things, how you never allowed
Just one person or creature to be immortal.
But, maybe, I feel a bit sorry that I’ll never truly understand.
That I’ve spent all this time making infections
Rather than contemplating reflections.
I’ve concocted soups of virus and bacteria
But never enjoyed the scent of the blooming wisteria.
Maybe it’s taken this long for me to see things anew.
Or maybe I’m coming down with something too.

Recipe of the Day: "100% Electric Sushi"

*While the results of this recipe may not always be consistent or concrete, I have found this a stimulating concoction for those moments when one is feeling less than inspired.*
“100% Electric Sushi”
20% avocado green= the warrior
10% cucumber crisp= the analyst
10% carrot shards= the stargazer
30% rice droplets= the dream collector
10% nori seaweed= the soul fisherman
20% crab= when I haven’t had my coffee
Then a jolt
A lightning bolt
A storm of the swirling, sushi-fied brain
And then I feel complete again

The Tale of the Dream-Bits Frankenstein Creature

*This is a rather sad tale of what happens when dreams go unfulfilled, but at least there is always a chance to rediscover them, or for the lost dreams to send us a message.*

Six feathers
Two marbles of glass
Faux Leather
A porcelain doll body
Skeleton of bits of brass
An old iron key for my heart
With nothing to unlock
Stitched together by frayed threads, a bit shoddy
Even when I look in a mirror, I’m shocked
I still reject my jig-saw puzzle parts

Too many convoluted hopes and wishes
Without meaning
Slapped together, wanting too much
This is the mess you get when you rush
When you skimp on the beauty of proper dreaming
When your “destiny in life” so often switches

So rather than stayed locked away in shame
I set out on the sea, on an old mandolin
Padding with the spoon meant to stir up the sparks
That my Birth-maker was meant to laddle in
To my life-brew, giving me purpose and name
But instead I’m just broken beliefs and parts

Then one day I sunk, embracing the cool fingers
Of this endless Magellan-marked sea
But even the perfect clear waters rejected me
So it dragged me to the bottom of this well
Where to this day I patiently linger
As children toss in coins, making wishes
Do these children hope I have their hopes to sell?
Each metal disk is a fragment of what I could be
How I wish I could tell them, “Hold onto your dream,
Don’t just toss it down here with the fishes,”
But I guess dreams aren’t as precious as they seem
If they can end up at the bottom of wells, like me.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Lost Letter from an Abandoned Toy to its First Owner

*I come across many lost letters through the years, and I retain the ones of a more atypical nature. Names have been changed here to protect the innocent (or not so innocent), but the bond between a young child and its favorite toy never changes, at least, not for the toy...*

Dearest Cheyenne,
I am not quite sure where to begin. It has been such a long time…all the years of tea parties, mud baths in the backyard, slumber parties…they all seem like carousel whimsy and cotton-candy-with-caramel dreams to me now. (I still remember your favorite carnival food.)
But I write to you now because I finally realize why you gave me up. At first I blamed your mother, urging you to give away all your stuffed toys because you were too “old” for them. But I knew you were too headstrong, too proud of your “royal court” to just throw us away on a parental command (I still have the cardboard crown you made for me…King Wuggles of the Kingdom of Kaloo! How I loved that). I realized that was the same time that boy started to visit you more often…and how you would snuggle him the way you did with me. I was very confused, since he was not filled with stuffing so I couldn’t imagine he was very cuddly. But I remembered how he would take you to movies, and buy you gifts, and he had that nice car I saw out your bedroom window. Now I see…how could I have competed with that? You needed someone to take care of you, to give you everything you could ever want.
So through the years, as I was passed from child to child, my drive gnawed away at me, for I was determined not to return to you until I could offer more than that boy could. Finally, I ended up in the hands of the eight year old daughter of a foreign ambassador, and while on a diplomatic meeting to a small island nation off the coast of South America, she offered me as a gift to the Governor’s young son. When I discovered that the Governor had an obsessive belief in angels and spirits, I revealed my cognizance to him and he immediately took it as a sign that he was a prophet and should follow my holy word. So I convinced him to declare war on the “unholy blasphemers” on the mainland (you may have seen that in the newspapers or on TV), and once the nation’s resources and manpower were depleted enough, I led an insurgence of toys to overwhelm the nation and begin a new regime. After some careful negotiations with the mainland countries, I am set quite well for a long time.
So, now I am the ruler of my own country, I have an army of toys at my command, a beautiful view of the ocean from my villa, and I can give you everything you ever desired. Humans are not allowed as residents here, except on one stipulation…
What I wish to ask of you, my beloved Cheyenne…will you marry me? (I saw your status on Facebook says “single”…and you look stunning in your picture)

King (for real) Wuggles of the Island Nation of Kaloo (formerly Bonaire)

When the Bottle is Lost

*This story was dictated to me by a cognizant fish bowl, who claimed to have the prophetic powers to see events in the future...but only in the realm of glass objects. Or perhaps I was hallucinating again. Either way, this story was awarded Honorable Mention in the now extinct Writer's Journal magazine's Write to Win Contest back in October 2010...*

Crushing the can militia was the mission of the bottle brigade, who stood with their necks straight and tall in the dawning sun, shining a myriad of iridescent colors. It has been known, however, that bottles can be very easily deceived in their rigid pride, and the cans had learned to exploit the bottles’ transparent weaknesses.

It was difficult to say what it was that had begun the wars between the Bottalion and the Can Destined. They had been bitter enemies for as long as the Land of Full had existed (which, according to the writing on the wall at the edge of the world, the country’s title literally translated into Landfill, but given that their world was already full to capacity, the name became Land-Full, and then the more elegant Land of Full). While the most obvious reason would seem to be material—the Bottalion believed that glass was far superior to metal, and the Can Destined argued that their cylindrical beauty was perfection—their clash of faith was more plausible for such deep-rooted hatred. The bottles were adamant that they were the first children of the gods, as they had unearthed the remains of century-old clergies who bore the mantels of the almighty Pepsi, the glorious Coca-Cola, and all-wise Budweiser, among many other undeniable deities. The Can Destined countered that they clearly were the chosen ones, as their ancestors were born with the marking of the gods directly onto their skins, not the flimsy little cravats that the bottle worshippers wore.
In the beginning, battles were relatively fruitless; all that either side could do was roll downhill and, with luck more than accuracy, collide into each other. Over time, both societies learned to strategize. The Bottalion occupied the land by the leaking drainage pipes, where a swamp of viscous puddles made the perfect defense against the Can Destined and their potent fear of the Rust—although, had the cans realized that most of them were coated against corrosion, they might have not fretted so much, but enough rumors had been spread about the plague that it gave them grounds to fear. The cans, meanwhile, took to the highest precipices amassed from the shells of wheel-footed giants, where gravity would be one of their best weapons against the breakable bottles.
Over time, the tension on both sides led to ridiculous rules. The bottles, deeming that wearing a metal cap was now a declaration of Can Alliance, banned the wearing of any cap, with the exception of a cork. The cans had ordered that all tops and lids should be popped if they had not already, and anyone who resisted was obviously hiding something and should be suspected of espionage. Plastic caps or lids were out of the question, since for both the Bottalion and the Can Destined, plastic was the ultimate heresy—even to speak of it would surely bring the fall of everything good and glass, or everything untainted and tin.
Now the greatest of all battles was approaching, and the trigger to this impending obliteration had been, in fact, an attempt to bring an end to the wars once and for all.

It was all because of an ink bottle named Blot, who for many years had avoided the wars since he was one of the last bottles to still have usable ink, which he cherished more than anything and didn’t want to risk spilling in senseless violence. When a new edict stated that all bottles, regardless of design or purpose, must defeat one of those savage cans in battle, Blot’s only choice was desertion. In the outskirts of the Bottle region, he was found by an aluminum can with duct tape wrapped around its body, to cover the crest of his faction. Blot, being deathly afraid of cans, stood paralyzed.
“Don’t be afraid,” the can said calmly. “I am the leader of a resistance group that promotes peace, comprised of both bottles and cans alike. We will give you shelter and safety, if you will join our cause.”
Blot joined the resistance group, the Container Coalition. The Coalition leader, known simply as RC, devised a theory about Blot’s ink.
“I have seen paper with inked words,” RC said, “scribed by a long-lost race whose intent was to make their thoughts accepted by the masses. Ink must be tangible thought. If you could just put one drop of your ink into the leaders of both the Can Destined and the Bottalion, then they will think like you do. They would no longer be hollow, but have a drop of true thought inside of them. If they can learn to think, then they can learn how to solve their problems without war. This will be for the good of all our fellow can…and bottle, of course.”
So a plan was set. RC knew how he could get Blot in to see a family of can dignitaries who could help them. There was also a bottle in the Container Coalition, named Liter, who claimed he could get them to see the royal family of the Bottalion.
The Land of Full was eerily quiet as Blot, RC and Liter scuttled their way over the landscape of refuse during the midnight hours. They were well into Can Territory, and they hid as flanks of tin patrols rolled by.
“We’re not too far now,” RC whispered to Blot and Liter. “I’ll go on ahead to make sure our rendezvous hasn’t been compromised.”
But RC had not rolled more than ten feet, when a pile of garbage suddenly toppled over. A bowling ball from atop the pile landed smack on RC with a sickening crunch. The can was squashed flat, the most horrible demise for a can.
Blot, horrified, dashed over to the bowling ball and threw himself against it to get it off his friend. The noise of the ball’s landing had attracted a can patrol group, who immediately approached and rolled the ball away.
“I recognize this can,” one of the patrol said. “He is of the Royal Crown family! The prince has been killed by a glassassin!”
Blot rolled away as fast as he could as the can patrol pursued him. He did not know where he could go or what to do. Then he caught sight of Liter, who beckoned him to follow. They hid from the patrol behind a crate, until the cans gave up the search and went back to base to report.
Blot was inconsolable. “Poor RC…it was as if that ball that fell on him was…was set there!”
“Like a trap,” Liter agreed.
“Someone knew we were coming…but how did our plan leak out? Someone in the Coalition must have betrayed us!”
“Undoubtedly,” Liter replied.
Blot was silent. The two bottles just stood there for a moment. Blot scooted a few inches away. “You…you set this up…”
Liter did not say anything. He hobbled closer to the ink bottle.
Blot backed away a bit more, but then realized the crate was situated next to the ledge of a ravine that went a long way down. “Why? How could you?”
“My people have infiltrated both your Bottalion and the Can Destined to ensure their continued hostility, and it was my job to monitor the Coalition. They aren’t much of a threat. You, however, present a possibility of ruining our future. But now, with the cans thinking a bottle has killed their prince, they all will wipe out one another in vengeance, and we can rise to power.”
Blot lunged at the taller bottle, hoping his density would put a crack in Liter that would stun him long enough for escape. But Blot bounced right off, and all Liter had was a dent.
Then the dent popped out, leaving no mark.
Blot trembled. “You’re…you’re plastic!”
“Yes,” Liter said. “You’ve probably never understood why you were taught to never speak of us. We Plastic neither crack nor dent. We don’t rust, and we don’t break. We are better than glass or tin, and your leaders know this. Yet, if we attacked the bottles and cans directly, you two might combine forces against us, and you would outnumber us. It is easier for you two to destroy one another, and then we will initiate a more peaceful, better controlled regime.”
Blot thought fast. “Wait! I could use my ink to sway both sides to welcome the Plastic. There doesn’t have to be war, and all three containers can accept one another!”
“I’m afraid I can’t risk that. You may sway the Bottalion and the Can Destined to join forces against us. I’m sorry.”
With a nudge, Liter sent Blot toppling over the ledge, spinning top over bottom downwards before shattering onto the jagged rocks below.

A few weeks later, the Plastic Parliament issued an edict that all pens, ink cartridges, ink pads, or anything that carried the dangerous mind-rotting disease called Ink should be reported, and immediately destroyed.

Malstof's Mechanical Moons

* Perhaps one of the more unusual stories of my archives, this is a bit of a cautionary tale that illustrates how if you give some people an inch, they'll take a foot...or in this case, an entire moon...*

Malstof Briner was tired of building mechanical moons. He had gotten into it entirely by accident—well, sort of. Before his career, Malstof had been confined to a suspended prison, not aware of any crime he may have perpetrated to deserve it, under the watch of the all-seeing “Sentinel.” The Sentinel did not cause him any malice, but neither did it show any love other than passing by the outside of the cell every now and then, its massive tendril-laced eyes observing him with mild interest.
Naturally, Malstof was bored in his penitentiary, until one day an abrupt tear in space appeared inside his cell, and out popped a silver ball, no bigger than Malstof’s eye.
Malstof poked amusingly at it until the ball zapped him. He instantly recoiled, but then the ball spoke.
“I apologize. It was necessary to make physical contact with you to acquire your DNA, so my database could provide translation in your native language. I am in need of a life form capable of mechanical engineering and mathematical computation. Are you such a life form?”
Malstof worried that if he said no, the pretty ball might go away. So he said yes.
The ball continued. “I am from a pocket galaxy on an adjacent plane of existence to yours. Once, my planet had twenty moons orbiting it until they were disintegrated from the test runs of our military’s newest laser cannon.
“Now the water tides are erratic, and our flora and fauna are shrinking away. We must have an organism not only capable of engineering and construction, but one of appropriate size who can build new moons. My people are lacking the resources to construct, let alone launch, an entire moon into orbit. In exchange for your services, we will reward you handsomely.”
Malstof reveled in his excitement. He could be set free of this prison, taken to some wonderful place with no Sentinels or walls or boredom. He could eat delicious food, rather than the bland nutrients provided for him here. So, having no idea how to build a moon—or even what a moon was—he complied. 

The vessel led him through the dimensional tear, and fortunately for Malstof, the space around the alien planet was not too different from the air he breathed in his own world (something the alien scout had taken into account during his search). The inhabitants of the mauve-and-orange planet—which Malstof could only liken in size to that of his cell times five or six—were not afraid of him. In fact, some immediately regarded him as a savior deity, building shrines in honor of him. But, of course, the inevitable problem arose: how was Malstof supposed to build them their moons?
There were a few copper asteroids that drifted through the region, but the asteroids were too large and moved too fast for the aliens to harness for materials. They were not too large for Malstof, however, who managed to catch one entirely by chance (when it came hurtling out of space and smacked him in the stomach). As he mulled over this chunk of metal, something odd took hold of him—perhaps it was the slight difference of elements in the planet’s atmosphere, or maybe something happened when he had been transported through the dimensional tear—but he began to think. Thinking led to calculating, which led to understanding, which led to invention.
He labored until his digits were stiff and sore, but when he finished, his first mechanical moon was a lovely gizmo of cogs and pistons and plates. Once he released it into orbit, it found itself a comfortable path to circle the planet. Nineteen more moons were constructed, until the aliens’ sky was once again full of shining balloons.
But then the aliens got a brilliant idea—why stop there? There were nearby inhabited planets that only had one or two moons. Surely they would like to expand their celestial collection, or replace their insubstantial moons with impenetrable metallic orbs. So they ordered Malstof to keep building more and more, and surprisingly, the mechanical moons became highly demanded across the galaxy, particularly for overpopulated planets who wanted additional moons to dump their “excess:” trash or convicts or certain species of useless animals. Even one planet created a planetary tax, and for those who could not afford to pay it, they were given a one way ticket to the “Lunar Lots,” far away from the respectable taxpayers who deserved to live on the home planet.
Eventually, it occurred to Malstof that he was due for a vacation. In fact, retirement sounded pretty nice about now, and at least the one nice thing about his old prison was that he had never been forced to work like a slave. So he scuttled his way back to where the dimensional tear was, but he could see that by now it was healing itself, and there was barely any doorway left at all. So, despite or maybe because of his newly acquired intelligence, he figured he could break through the tear if he only had something strong and large enough to do so.
He grabbed the largest moon he had built—thus sending the planet’s tides and gravity off kilter again, most likely—and chucked it with all of his might at the tear. The resulting implosion, sucking him straight through with such force it exploded his prison cell on the other side, created quite a mess. All that Malstof could comprehend was that it became bright, and he was very cold, unable to move, and could no longer breathe. Suffocation set in quickly, but for the first time in his short life, he was finally free.

The Sentinel, known as nine-year-old Timmy Baxter, returned to his bedroom after school to a surprise, wondering how exactly his sea monkey tank—and his one remaining sea monkey—had managed to spill all over his dresser.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Ballad of Plum, Chapter Five (Finale)

CHAPTER FIVE—The Tree and the Queen

Her Majesty glowered down from her throne,

No trace of warmth in her eyes, only malice.

Her skin was gray and withered like shriveled stone,

Her aura of hatred hung heavy in the palace.

She smiled as the young girl walked up,

Plum, of sinewy limb and pink blossom hair,

Once a tree, born of Her Majesty’s seed of luck

Now a lady, far more gentle and fair.

“Your Majesty,” Plum said, “I understand

That we are of the same soul, you and I.

You have been burning and ravaging the land

To find me, so to your wishes I’ll comply.

But you must stop burning the forest, leave the trees be.

Forgive the Karmaburra, he meant you no harm.

For my friend Fire-eater, perhaps leave a piece of me

For him to burn for food, maybe a leg or an arm.

And once your good fortune has been restored,

Please share it with your people, who need it more.”

Her Majesty’s voice thundered and boomed,

“How dare you talk down to me!

I dictate all fates, blessed or doomed,

You were a mistake! I am Her Majesty!

I could burn down the whole forest if I desire,

What do I care for your useless old trees?

I can clear it to further build my empire,

Or just destroy it, merely because I please.

I’ll roast that Karmaburra on a spit

That traitorous bird will make nice tender meat.

The fire-eater I’ll lock away in a damp dark pit

Until he wastes away, with no fire to eat!

And share my good fortune? With others? Never!

It’s mine, let the world rot for all I care.

I have no fear of plagues, or disasters, or whatever.

If the world ends for others, I’m not going anywhere.

That’s exactly what I’ll permit, if you don’t give

Your heart to me this instant! Don’t you dare cry.

It is only important that I, Her Majesty, live.

You are only a plum tree, who cares if you die?”

Plum plucked something from behind her ear.

“I am sorry you are so cruel and cold.

But before you eat me, I have something here

That may give you good luck, so it’s been told.

It is the only fruit I have ever produced,

One single plum, a bit unripe and small.

Plums bring good fortune, and you could use

The luck more than I, after all.”

And Her Majesty, thinking this was her prize,

Snatched up the plum and ravenously ate.

But Plum, taught be the old trees so wise

Knew that the tiny plum held her fate.

For the plum was not her heart, nor her soul,

But the flesh that protects the seed, the future.

The essence that makes good fortune whole:

The human capacity to care and nurture.

For good fortune comes to those who claim it,

Who believe in goodness and are willing to share.

Bad luck clings to those who blame it

And dwell lonely in its cursed cloak of despair.

So Her Majesty, once the Fortune Queen,

Having tasted the fruit of hope and kindness

Remembered the feeling of bestowing good luck

On others, and was freed from her blindness.

And Plum reached out, her fingers entwining

Around Her Majesty, then her arms and hair,

Until the two came together, their beings binding

Until a great strong tree was rooted there.

And it broke through the castle roof, growing

Its branches bursting forth a plethora of plums

The people looked on in amazement, knowing

That there must be a plum on that tree for everyone.

So the plums were gifted, one to each subject

And good luck returned to heal the glum.

They doused the forest fires, so they could protect

The old trees, in honor of goodhearted Plum.

The fire-eater guarded the plum tree the rest of his days,

From the lightning of storms and wily fruit thieves.

The Karmaburra flew the world to spread this story

To everyone, like you, who willingly believes.

The Ballad of Plum, Chapter Four

CHAPTER FOUR—The Price of Misfortune

“DO NOT GO FURTHER!” cried a bird
As it circled above, being a hassle
While down below the girl with pink blossom-hair
And the fiery sprite walked up to the castle.
“I know you two: Plum, the girl born a tree
Who uprooted herself in the deep wood.
And the fire-eater, the sprite who craves flame
And is usually up to no good.
You have come all this way to see Her Majesty,
But I warn you, turn away, go back!
You will find no mercy or compassion here,
You will only end up as Her Majesty’s snack!”

“Who are you, little bird?” asked Plum,
“How do you know us? Why are you here?
How do you know Her Majesty’s cruelty?
Why do you instill us with such fear?”

“I’m the Karmaburra, a keeper of universal balance.
I once belonged to Her Majesty, happily serving
When she was once known as the Fortune Queen
And granted good and bad luck to those deserving.
But then she grew selfish, hoarding all good fortune
For herself, and only giving her subjects bad.
She became rich and powerful, the people poor and weak
I tell you, I was tired of us being had!
So I decided to steal away her luck powers
But such magic is tied to a person’s soul,
So while she slept, I plucked out her soul-seed
And I escaped before she knew what I stole.
I dropped the seed in the deep ancient wood,
Hoping it might be lost from her forever.
But one day I flew over the spot, and saw
A plum tree was growing, and it was quite clever,
For it learned to grow feet and walked away,
And now it is standing here before me today.”

“So Her Majesty is burning down the forest,
Looking for her soul in the soil, which is me?”
Plum was quite frightened, but stood straight and tall,
And said, “Let me in to see Her Majesty.”

“So you ARE quite dumb,” said the fire-eater.
“Did you hear the bird? About the snack?
She wants her soul-seed, which is within you,
She’ll devour you if you don’t turn back.”

“Perhaps it is destined, or just my ill luck,
But I can’t let the old trees suffer and die in flame.
Maybe there is something I can do to make things right,
I’m not afraid of Her Majesty, if we are one in the same.”

So Plum thanked the Karmaburra for his warning,
Thanked the fire-eater for guiding her there,
And then entered the place of Her Majesty,
To face whatever fate awaited her in this lair.