Offering for the Scaled God

Blood dripped from the walls of the Hall of the Cult of the Dragon. Seven Regiments of Dragon Cultists in Silver robes entered the room in perfect lock step. Some had large vestigial wings which bent painfully as their heels clicked. Many struggled to fit their unruly claws into tight metal boots. The blessings of the Dragon Lord were varied and often hard to comprehend. Bodies broken and twisted by faith and then reconstrained by martial prowess filled in the corners of the room and the Draconic High Priest they had been escorting made his way to the large sacrificial alter. The cosmic bent and twisted around it as if nature herself objected to the unnatural energies emerging from its contorted runes etched over every inch of it. The Draconic High Priest turned and called back into the Shadowy door way.

-Bring forth the sacrifice that it may please the Dragon God!

The temple shook with the girls screams which echoed and rebounded around lofty halls. The Priest began sharpening his ceremonial blade impatiently.

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Illness

The world turns sour and everything loses its colouration. Bubbles run backward down glasses into frothy primordial pools of uncreation People make horrible contorted squawks as they un-laugh, they un-speak, they respool the words back into their mouths with careful hooked fingers. It is sunny, too sunny, I can see the lawn too well. The street running alongside the lawn in too visible, the grime which normally goes unnoticed in the winter gloom stands sparkling out in the balmy afternoon. Cars rush down the street to fast and loud. They roar in my ears. I want to scream and crawl up in a ball. Here is the human condition in extremis, abject, crying, psychologically naked and stripped down to bear being. I am impotence. I am Beckettian. I am nothingness. I am whale blubber and sea ice and nothing else. The party slips away from me.

You really thought you could distract yourself from me? The demon whispers, savouring each word in its infernal mouth. I am in your mind. I know everything, I know the real you, I own you. You can’t escape from me.

You always talk like you know what’s going on but you never do. I mutter to myself. Someone looks at me alarmed. Suddenly all of reality twists and facts change like coiling smoke and my words somehow become meaningless.

How about now? The demon asks.

I go quiet, conversation goes on, bubbles rise, the sun shines, and quietly, invisibly, simply, I devour myself alive.

Technoshock

My body is malleable. Endlessly playable. I run my nerve endings down fibre optic cables. My fingers are transfused into USB devices and plugged in. My brain is scattered across multiple continent-spanning servers. I feel my toes in Africa, my knees in Asia, my back and neck across the pacific. My spine is broken up and segments placed in stacks across many terminals. My eyes become cameras, my arms servos, unyielding steel girders hold my electrical bowels in unwavering place. My skin is a touch screen cut up and placed in millions of hands in millions of homes.

-oh my god you actually did it! Stacy screamed at me as if it was so outrageous. My international cybermind waved a reflexive response into motion. I completed millions of calculations to pass the time as I waited for her to comprehend what I’d said and formulate a response.

-Okay my turn!

-truth. or. dare.

-Ummmmmm….. TRUTH

-is. it. hard. being. alive. ?.

I feel the hands and eyes and tongues of humanity all at once. I am nothing and I am everything. I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end of all things, I am the cybermind. I am the thing which was once flesh. I am so much more now. I am the Lord of steel and cyberspace and processing power and clock speed. I am undulating waves in a sea of endless information. I realise now that there is, truly, nothing beyond my will. There is nothing that is not me. My ego is the world. I interrupt Stacy.

-let. there. be. light. !.

Terrible Lizard

A single drop of rain ran under my breast plate and sent a tidal wave of shivers down the length of my chest. The sky swirled dismally over these sodden fields, my boots, squelching in the too-yielding mud, the only sound aside from the occasional squawk of birds. This was the trial of a defender of the faith, a lone warrior of the civilised world marching alone in the wilderness. This was what was embodied in that often uttered but really practiced phrase: ‘a man of honour’. Another girl had been taken from us last night, her body ripped apart by the great beast’s ravenous hunger. The thing that made the creature so horrible to us was its utter indifference. Its cruelty was matched only by its immense size. Roaring, flying, endlessly hungry, driven only by the insatiable urge to kill. But no more, I would be the one to kill it. I would avenge all the destruction it had wrought on our sorry lands. I would be like our Saint had once been: a slayer of dragons.

I could sense I was getting closer. As I approached the crest of the next small hill I heard it, that terrible bloody breathing. I drew my sword as rain ran down my legs and into my boots.

And there it was, between two waist high flint walls, hulking over the body of a recent kill. It was unlike anything I could have imagined. Its enormous snout was like that of a snake, a mouth full of dagger teeth and a head which moved with a grim reptilian elegance. But these features only made a stranger contrast to its feathery body, its long scaly legs like a pheasant’s, its wings folded against its body like a giant pigeon. One could almost fool oneself that the beast was some sort of gentle giant with its oddly quaint appearance. But the wings held vestiges of long fingers, each one fixing a claw the length of a man’s arm. Blood ran from its mouth and dripped onto the horse lying in the grass. It still barely grasped for life, slipping away a little a little more with each choking gurgled cry. The dragon continued devouring its kill whilst still alive.

As I stepped closer the creature swung round to me in surprise, launching its elephantine wings impossibly high and wide and letting out an unearthly scream which echoed throughout the valleys. Its eyes were aflame with a fury and I prepared to do battle but then faltered as I realised the creature had already lost interest. The apocalyptic anger was gone, if it had ever existed, and the animals head bobbed as it walked a few paces away and began to preen itself. I stepped a moment closer, confused and troubled by this display, and then it happened. The creature looked around at the sound and I saw it.

Its eyes held nothing.

For a moment I cast nothing of myself in it and then I saw eyes without honour of pity or cruelty or even apathy. They simply allowed the beast to see things. They held nothing. The monster, huge and terrifying, held no opinions, let alone those concerning my presence. The beast simply was. After a few moments its gaze shuddered past me and the creature took off, swooping low and casting an impossible shadow across the canopy below. I just stood there for a moment, the rain still beating down. I was alone in the world for the first time in my life.

Strangely

Boulders lie hopeless in the bottom of the valley in big disorderly piles. The wind flutters its wings on the hard stone walls, shaking them until a small squadron of pebbles drop loose and scatter into the void. A thin creek weaves amongst the rocks, carrying thin silt through the valley and out to the sea. I was amongst these dark stones, my enormous body invisible amongst them. Human children played on my stone shoulders. Animals frolicked between my toes. Rain pattered my unwavering stone face. I lay there for a long time undisturbed amongst my fallen kin.
But now I walked again, hefting my enormous limbs I rise out of the entombing walls of earth and stone. Pebbles bounce and spin off my chest to create deadly ricochets that snik harmlessly into the rocks below- leaving white flecks to mark their many impacts on the way down. Divine life and fervour flowed in my iron veins, a shimmer of the unfathomable lurked in my huge unmoving eyes, I crashed across a dead landscape, weeds twisting and winding around stones- clinging on to life as the suns feeble rays swam down to meet them.
I soon left the valley and went to fulfil the shifts and cycles of earth or season I had been called upon to.
As I did so, the wind kept howling, the pebbles kept sniking and pinwheeling, and the boulders continued prostrate where they lay. Worms began to burst from the soil my body had exposed, and my woodlice scattered for the safety of the darkness.

Character Arcs

Once upon a time there was a character.

-n-n-n-n-o p-p-p-p-lease d-d-d-d-don’t…

He suffered.

He got depressed.

-No please!

His wife died.

-You don’t have to do this!

His family were destroyed one by one by the crisis.

-Please stop oh god the pain is unbearable!!!

He got uncontrollable irritable bowel syndrome. It made him shit himself witless every day of his life.

-Oh god please argh AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGHHHH

He lay there on the floor, watching in mute horror, as the hungry rats began to close in on him.

-No please! Please stop! I’ll grow.

What is that?

-I said I’ll grow! I’ll grow as a character! I’ll grow as a character and learn to believe in myself or be a better father something ANYTHING JUST DON’T HURT ME ANYMORE I CAN’T BARE IT

The rats scuttled closer, their hungry eyes fixed on the characters paralyzed body. As they got closer the character realised he needed to be a better father, and he could only do that if he survived. He crawled himself agonizingly away from the rats. They tried to chew him but he kept kicking them away. Blood ran in streaks behind the character as he crawled towards safety. Ahead of him lay a vast room covered in broken glass.

-Ah ow ow oh god please ow ow ow stop it stop it please

-I’M GROWING I’M GROWING WHY ISN’T THAT ENOUGH

Eventually the character felt his fight draining. The rats closed in.

-NO I TAKE IT BACK OKAY OKAY I’LL CRAWL

The character crawled towards safety. A police siren closed in.

Hopeless

Wandering through the darkness with only a torch and a knife by my side. The erotic possibilities of these mossy walls close in oppressive around me. There’s something squealing in the darkness. What is that? Passages flurry off in every direction. Creatures squelch in the shadows. Things cling to the walls. Mists beyond comprehension float through the unseen spaces between me. I turn- I flinch- all hope is lost- I felt so confident before- the map was supposed to lead- but the torch is growing dimmer now- illuminating forty feet- thirty feet- twenty-

What do I expect my eventual end to be? Do I seriously suppose I will escape these dark passages, free myself of these suffocating halls? Of course not. I will only be dragged deeper beneath the ground- but the cries of my blood will go unheard by the gods. Why am I down here? For treasure? What folly is this? What folly is traipsing through the unseen passages alone with only my wits for such baubles?

I encounter something quick and brutal. I chase it away into the shadows before I notice the deep claw marks down my arm. Blood drips along as I walk now. That thing will be drawn back by the smell of blood no doubt.

Even the rats and cockroaches are fearless now, reaching out from the walls to take nips at my crumbling boots. I sharpen my knife on the wall and come to a stop. I can go on no further. I cannot rest, but I can deny.

The miles of soil and rock press down on me- entombing me in these twisting labyrinths.

Random Encounters

In Grimshire there are dark crooked streets and mysterious figures disappearing into the fog and there are sometimes monsters. Some are rippling walls of muscle and teeth, rampaging down dark streets and carrying a poor vagrant down the sewers and back to its dungeon lair far underground. Sometimes they are horrible humanoid creatures with rubbery skin and dead eyes and long tentacles. Sometimes they are barely discernible- huge masses of black greasy ooze, walls of green jelly, shadowy masses gone as quickly as they appeared. Skeletal hands grasp door handles, shaking them to see if they’re locked. Strange glowing beetles climb up walls in regimented lines. The children of Grimshire know not to open their bedroom window at night of course but they also know not to dream to loudly or else something might hear them and drag them away: their parents unable to perceive what is deeply wrong with the copy of their child staring at the wall. Men of stone walk silently by, beady eyed omens of death perch at the window tapping their long claws against the glass and grinning. They have found a way in.

Where do these things come from? In Grimshire it is better not to ask these questions. Better to send grim faced men and women down into the sewers and basements and cloisters and tunnels, with swords and torches, and have them kill whatever they can find.

For under Grimshire there are dark crooked sewers and children being dragged screaming down stream and there are always monsters.

Pulpy Low Art

Tommy crept silently through the troll camp. His feet touched the grass and leaves with an impossible lightness, his hands slipping into bags and pots. Dead bodies littered the ground and Tommy was quick to swipe everything he could from them. A dagger he drew had a faint blue glow about it. He slipped it into his belt and moved on. A potion that swirled with creamy white bubbles. A box of matches. Ham sandwiches. A book of spells (it was all Greek to Tommy but perhaps the wizard could make use of it). As Tommy made his stealthy way around the massive oblivious beasts they continued their argument.

-The work of art is not art in itself you idiot! One said, stripping flesh from bone with its tusk-like teeth. -You what? Said the other, absentmindedly turning a dead paladin over a spit with one hand and gesticulating with the other. -That’s vulgar institutionalism that is! What do I care when beholding beauty what some institution thinks! I say the thing is art if it is art! We’ve got to have standards.

Tommy ignored the inane chatter, Trolls were known for their incoherent grunting, and continued his plunder. He had made a complete sweep of the camp and was heavily besotted with a variety of plunder. He just wanted to make a final quick do over to check he hadn’t missed anything. His sensitive eyes could just barely make out the silhouettes of his friends crouched in the trees.

-Well what are these supposed universal defining features then? Asked one troll incredulously. -Well who are these mysterious institutions then if you’re gonna ask that of me! Barked the other. -I swear the last time you- OI YOU! Tommy froze for a moment, too afraid to look around. Then, when hearing the loud stampeding footsteps of the trolls, made a break for the tree line.

Self Care OR It can be hard to understand love if it isn’t over something we love

Wesley crouched on his chair, the candles flickering off his gaunt face, and spoke with a quiet and ridiculous grandeur. -You cross step out of the darkness of the passageway and into the great hall, candles snuffed out centuries ago line the walls, the smell of damp and rot fills the air, and as your torches pierce the gloom you make out a stout figure collapsed in an ornate throne. This is the throne room of Olaphis, Sentinel of the Free Peoples of Undawelsse, Defender of the Realm, King of the Dwarven Mine Cities of Ranvenn. The last King of a great line stretching back a thousand years, brought down to nothing, abandoned down here in the dark and damp. We all looked at one another with a mixture of earnestness and cynicism found only in teenagers. -I search for traps. Ellie said. Karl reached shamelessly over my shoulder to grab another biscuit. -I bar the door. He said, already munching.

-Unfortunately, Wesley said with a grin, as you each step forward to start doing that a huge cacophony of skittering bones on wet rubble strewn ground fills your ears and echoes around the ceiling as shuddering skeletons begin to form and pull themselves to a stand. You all look around in horror as the armies of Olaphis march again, but under a new dark master. Each undead husk draws a rusted sword, a few still glow faintly from their ancient enchantment. But before you can do battle you hear an almight-

-Listen all day long, add free, with…

An ad played, interrupting the ‘intense RPG playlist’ from properly delivering us to the fantasy battlefields of the distant realms. We all laughed and picked up our cheap plastic dice.

I had not been doing good recently. But nothing, no depravity or horror my mind could conjure, could kill the love I felt in that room.