Just Another Thursday – Indepentional

Harvey reached out quick as a viper, grabbing the mug before it drifted off the table. The lukewarm liquid inside sloshed heavily and splashed onto his hand.

“Argh, damnit.” He muttered to himself while he sat back down in his office chair with his tea-mug in hand. The office was running out of mugs already, no need to remove another permanently from the stock. Harvey grimaced slightly as he saw the pile of tea-leaves at the bottom of his mug then downed the contents. He almost shuddered at the thought of having to drink it even colder than that but Lord knows he had done worse for the Gorville Mobile Acquisitions company.

Harvey looked over his desk. Besides his trusty mug it was covered in documents, pens, ink-pots and the remnants of his breakfast. His briefcase rested against the side of the table, one clasp unable to close, and his jacket and hat hanging off the old coat-stand.

“Hey Rommy, when’s shift-change?” Harvey shouted across the way to the office opposite while pulling back on the sleeve of his shirt to reveal his battered wristwatch. The strap was giving way, too.

“Urhg, at 12 I think!” His colleague shouted back. Harvey checked the wrist-watch. 11:47.

“That’s in 10 minutes Rommy, we better get ready,” He could hear Rommy grumbling in response. Harvey clicked his briefcase open and shoved the papers on his desk into it before snapping it shut again, “Don’t want to keep the chief waiting.”. The mug went into a drawer with his name on it. Finally he pulled on the tweed jacket, put his old hat on and grabbed his umbrella from the holder. Rommy emerged from his cubicle in a similar getup.

Harvey checked his wrist-watch again. 11:57. Not enough time for anything. “Right Rommy, let’s go.” His colleague followed him to the door leading out of the office. A faded picture by the door depicted a kitten hanging from a pole and the supposedly-motivational text HANG IN THERE. Harvey had never felt it worked for him.

He screwed his hat on tighter and opened the door. Immediately the smell of salty seawater struck his nostrils. Shouts rang across the office-deck as other employees worked in the rafters to raise the sails.

A voice called down from the crow’s nest above the deck. “Scraper sighted off the port side!”

The call was met with more shouts from the deck and helm. Harvey’s trained sea-legs could feel the boat shifting ever so slightly to port side, to catch the ‘Scraper before it could escape. Their flag hung flew atop the crow’s nest, a skull with a worker’s cap on and 2 ink-pens behind it. The deck was teeming with workers securing sails or preparing for the ‘Scraper. So much so that Harvey didn’t notice his two colleagues before they clapped him on the shoulder.

“Hello Harvey, punctual as always.” Said old Burts. The older man’s head shone in the midday sun. He must have lost his hat. The other man, a fellow called Lars, simply did a small wave as greeting.

“You’re welcome Burts.” Harvey replied, trying to keep the sarcasm out of his voice. It was his job, after all.

“Make sure you see the chief before taking your posts.” Burts said before clapping him on the shoulder again and walking past, opening the door behind Harvey with a creak.

“Chief’s at the helm.” Rommy said as he strode off, weaving past other deckhands. The deck swayed to and fro now that they were beginning to move at speed but no-one seemed affected by it, their sea-legs well up to the task. Another spray of sea-air hit Harvey’s nostrils as he set off for the helm. Now that he knew, he could see their captain at the wheel, the buttons on his suit gleaming in the sun.

While he hurried along the deck more shouting erupted from the crow’s nest. The ‘Scraper had spotted their approach. Little wonder, thought Harvey, we’re hardly difficult to spot. They were too close for the ‘Scraper to escape but it would make the chase a little longer.

Harvey arrived just at the tail-end of Rommy’s greeting. “-Harvey Bernstead, reporting, sir!”

Captain Gorville received the greeting with a grumble and turned the wheel. The office building Gorville Mobile Acquisitions used as their base turned with it, tilting slightly in its cruise along the plains. In the distance the crew of the ‘Scraper were scrambling about the deck like ants, trying to put some distance between them and their new pursuer.

“Ready the men, we’re boarding as soon as possible. And ready the cannons as well,” Captain Gorville said, “It’s been too long since we had an Acquisition.”

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


The Late Boy – Indepentional

“Karina! Peter!” Graham called out to the two family dogs when the two crossbreeds rounded a corner and ran excitedly down a side-path. Like any forest, paths were everywhere and all held something of interest to a pair of sniffing dog-noses.

“Come!” He shouted rounding the corner. Some of these things of interest were other dogs or people out for a hike in the woods, not all of which were equally appreciative or fond of the Hormes family dogs sniffy at their bums or heels. Fortunately this time it seemed to just be a pile of horse-droppings, large green-brown lumps covered in squishy hay lying by the side of the path. The cold autumn wind was blowing towards him, carrying the scents of wet leaves and horse-dung. Unpleasant components resulting in an unpleasant mix. A whinnying noise in the distance, down by the shore, caught Graham’s attention. Maybe I should leash the dogs back up if there’s horses in the forest. He pondered while he looked over the dogs sniffing away at the dung. Sniff all you want but if you start eating it then I’m stepping in. Graham had barely finished the thought before Karina dove in to bite off a small lump of the green-brown dung. They had done similarly many times before and it had never seemed to harm them but Graham thought it was a bit disgusting.

“Karina! Stop!” He exclaimed, tugging gently on the leash. Karina’s ears sunk at the admonishment but she turned and leaped over to Graham with her tail wagging, getting a few scratches behind her floppy ears. Peter too seemed to dismiss interest in the dung and padded over for some scratches. Again Graham heard a whinnying, this time in nearly the exact opposite direction. What’s weird about that? Graham couldn’t shake a sudden hint of unease. So he leashed the dogs again and decided to head for home. Both Karina and Peter had done their business anyways. He could just let them into the yard. Plenty of leaf-piles for them to play with.

While the dogs sniffed at a pile of leaves Graham tried to figure which was the fastest way home from where he was. If he went back out of the forest path and to the right, they would come back to where they had entered the forest then they could go up along the road to the family home. Karina and Peter never seemed to mind the route.

“Karina, Peter, come!” Graham said and began stomping away, only having to tug a little to get Karina to leave the pile of dung behind. The autumn air was crisp and fresh-smelling without being oppressively cold and the sky was relatively clear. All in all a pleasant walk. Graham thought as he greeted another dog-walker out for a stroll, their respective dogs briefly sniffing at each other’s rumps but showing no particular interest. Again Graham heard a whinnying, this time up ahead on the path so he took an extra careful hold on the leashes. Karina and Peter had never gotten along well with horses and he was determined they shouldn’t cause trouble, or worse, GET in trouble.

Another whinny, this time  down by the shore. Then Graham realised what had been bugging him about the horses. The whinnying never changed in pitch or tone and every time he had heard it, it sounded to be the same distance away. And from his current place in the forest, if they were prancing around in a direct line from him to the shore, they would be out in the fjord, far out of a horse’s depth.

“Let’s, uh, go home, shall we?” He mumbled for his own benefit, the two dogs paying little attention to his talk and more to the edge of bushes and trees that they were passing. Before long they were walking out of the forest, not having met any horses or other dog-walkers.

The dogs walked ahead of Graham on their leashes, only occasionally having to be forced back onto the sidewalk either by command or by tugging on the leash. That was quite normal. But then they stopped. Both Karina and Peter stopped padding along and instead stared down one of the driveways, looking at something beyond the corner of the house that was blocking Graham’s view.

“What’s up pups?” Graham asked as he cleared the corner. Following their gaze he looked down past the parked car and into their driveway and both Karina and Peter bounced forwards, still staring at what Graham had only gotten a glimpse of on the garage building, and began barking their heads off, sharp and violent sounds that would well be heard across the entire neighborhood.

He yanked hard on the leads. “Stop! Quieten down you two, Karina, Peter!” That didn’t stop them. At most they backed up a couple of steps, still barking like a couple of hell-hounds. Graham decided the leash wouldn’t do it so he quickly strode up beside the dogs and reached in under them, scooping them up and holding them tight. Their loud barks sounded especially harsh right next to his ears. After nervously looking about to see how many were staring at him and his barking dogs from their homes, No-one at all?, he stood up, still-barking dogs restrained in his arms, and got a good look at what they had been barking at.

What was that? It looked so lifelike, but that couldn’t be right, could it? Maybe it was a statue? His thoughts were interrupted by a new bout of barking from Karina and Peter and their struggling to get free of the confines of his arms. With another hurried look at the windows around the street Graham moved on, a tight hold on Karina and Peter still struggling to get free. He couldn’t get the image out of his head, even has the dogs calmed their barking and he let them down. They practically led him home, running the leashes taut. Though both Karina and Peter had been barking their heads off just a moment ago but no-one had come to look. In fact, the street seemed more abandoned than usual, no other people, no cars on the road adjacent.

Before he realised it, they were home, Karina and Peter casually pawing at the locked door, the older Peter occasionally looking back at him expectantly. Graham fished out his keys while sending nervous glances up the driveway. The dogs leaped inside as the door opened and Graham followed suit after knocking some dirt off his boots. The dogs were taken off their leashes and allowed to run into the house, Peter crawling into his dog-bed and Karina running to the pantry as she usually did to beg for treats. Graham began taking off his coat but he only got one arm out before the image from before sprang back into his mind. He could go check it out how he didn’t have his dogs with him, so they wouldn’t be barking the whole neighborhood down. Making his mind up he quickly put the coat back on and zipped it before walking out the door and locking it, Both Karina and Peter looking on mournfully as he did so.

He jogged on the way over, being both curious and wanting to be back home. There was the same stillness to the streets, no-one else out for walk or a drive and no dogs in the yards marking his passing. He got to the house from before. He stopped and stared, flipping out his phone to zoom in for a closer look.

A rope hung down from the roof of the wooden garage house ending in a noose. The rope itself seemed old and worn even from this distance, a few droplets of water dripping onto the paved ground despite it not having rained or snowed for a few days. The noose was bound around the neck of a hound-like thing that looked like an incredibly life-like statue, light-brown crinkled skin. It stood on the very tip-toes of its hind-paws, back against the wall of the garage and stomach out towards Graham. From his position it looked opened, for lack of a better word, but it was too dark and far away for him to see much. Compelled by his curiosity he took a few steps closer.

There was no sound when the rope gave way and the ‘statue’ tumbled onto a side and onto the ground. Now he could see the head of it more clearly. It seemed to have no ears and the eyes were deep pits in its face, a tiny pin-prick eye visible in both sockets. Graham was still wondering if he was reponsible for it falling when the statue moved, a gaunt paw stomping onto the stone-covered driveway. Graham was transfixed, simply staring as the creature got up. The skin moved and flexed, cracking in places as the dried-up dog stood back up while returning Graham’s stare, its pin-prick eyes unblinking. It barked with a deeply unpleasant noise, far too deep a sound from such a gaunt being. But the bark brought Graham out of his trance and he tried to back away, turn and run in the same moment, instead falling onto his side, scrabbling to get back up as he could see the dog-thing coming closer, its quiet footfalls the only noise in his world. It seemed in no hurry, leisurely padding towards him even as he regained his footing and turned, running as fast as he dared out the driveway and round the corner. Again the street was deserted but this time the silence was downright eerie.

Graham had gotten a dozen paces up the road when he stopped and turned, gasping for breath. He had never been in shape but now he feverishly wished he was. There it was, the dog-like thing almost within arms reach, those pin-prick eyes staring at him, the soggy roap still dragging behind it. Graham jumped backwards and sprinted again while sucking down air. Even his own footfalls seemed quietened in comparison to the near-thunderous padding of the dog-thing behind him. It seemed leisurely, unhurried. But still it kept pace, never more than a pace or two behind them, occasionally barking with the same grave-depth tone. As Graham rounded the corner into his own driveway he put his foot in a pile of wet leaves and he could feel his balance going before his side slammed into the paved driveway, knocking the wind out of him. He was trying in vain to lift himself up on his elbow when the dog-thing padded into view, patiently staring at him with those pin-prick eyes. A line appeared along the underside of its gaunt head and it opened its mouth, a black pit full of tiny glistening teeth and then it advanced on him, the sound of its footfalls the only sound in the world.

Bark bark! Behind the dog-thing Graham could hear Karina and Peter barking like mad, barking like they had earlier. For once Graham was glad of it, hoping that they would wake up the whole neighborhood, bark down the house. The black pit with those glistening teeth on the dog-things face disappeared and those pin-prick eyes left him as the dog-thing padded out of sight and away. Graham couldn’t see it, still prone in the cold drive-way as he was, but he knew it was gone. Slowly and painfully he got up and looked around then out the driveway and down the street and road. No sign of it, and in fact a few other walkers and cars had arrived, returning home from work or whatnot, parking and checking mailboxes without shouting about a dead dog-thing wandering the streets. Numbly Graham got up and walked inside, sitting down beside his agitated dogs and hugging them both, silently wondering what had just happened and if he had imagined it all.

The Colour of Rust – Indepentional

With a groan He awoke, stretching his arms and legs to try and shake off the weakness of sleep. His eyes opened to a beach, the ocean waters calmly lapping at the sand and rocks. There seemed to be no other people around. Where was He? And more important, what was his name? Those two vital pieces of information were completely unknown to Him. He was lying in the sand with nothing on his person. So much nothing that he was in fact naked. He kept low, not wanting to be seen in his privates despite the loneliness of his surroundings. A bit further down the beach He spied a pair of sand-spattered trousers. Staying low to the ground He scrambled over and tugged at them. The motion disturbed the sand, shifting it to reveal a pair of feet sticking out the end. He jumped back in surprise more than horror. It occurred to Him that it was a body, a dead person, but that bothered Him surprisingly little. He tugged on the trouser-leg a little more to ensure the former owner was in fact dead before painstakingly and quietly claiming the leg-wear for himself.

He quickly left the open beach and found a little clump of trees to hide under. He didn’t know where or who He was, let alone where He could go. For now He figured He should look for other people, see what He could find.

Days passed as He slowly travelled, keeping to shadows and hiding places as much as He could. Occasionally He would find caches of food and water but little else of use. Buildings were visible in the horizon but were clearly abandoned, walls smashed and windows in pieces. Some nights He heard distant shouts and gunfire, but beyond that He was without human contact.

Night slowly fell outside his hiding hole. The total darkness of a night with no electrical lighting. He stayed hunched besides his little fire, anxious about the little light it spilled onto the rocks visible from the entrance to his little cave and who might see it.

Hours went by by the fire, even as it slowly reduced itself to embers. But just before He drifted off to sleep, he heard shouts outside the cave. He didn’t recognise the voices but when you couldn’t even remember your own name, who’s to say you could remember anyone else? Cautiously he got up and left the cave. A scattered group of torches was marching through the night, illuminating a group of 4 men and women in patched-up hazmat suits. Each held a pistol of some sort in one hand and a lit torch in their other, except the front-woman who had some long rifle with a flashlight attached with some sort of wire. They were all looking around as they marched, shouting a name. Julian-82, Julian-82. For all He knew it could be Him and they were the only people He had seen up-close for what felt like days. He considered running back into the cave to make his own torch but the fire was just embers now. It would take too long to light. So he ran towards the group while trying to ignore the night chill. They stopped their march as he got close, moving into a semi-circle around him when he stopped. He could see the answer to his silent question in their faces that showed no recognition.

One of the men holding torches stepped forward. “Who are you?”

“That’s what I don’t know. I was hoping your group would.” He responded.

“Well we don’t. Now scram.” The man levelled his pistol at him but was interrupted before he could pull the trigger.

“Woah woah, wait a moment Krys. He might not be him but maybe he’s seen Julian.” The lead woman urged.

The man sighed but lowered his gun again. “You heard her. Have you seen our missing friend?”

The friendly woman stepped in to describe this ‘Julian’. No recognition. “Sorry to disappoint, but I haven’t seen anyone else for a while, let alone your friend.” He responded before turning away to return to his cave.

He heard the rustle of their firearms again. “Woah woah, who said you could just leave?” The man said.

“Krys, calm down.” The woman chided. He could see that her flashlight was still trained on his back.

“We don’t know this bloke, he could be a spy going back to his friends to tell on us.”

A moment of silence. He dared not turn around. “That is true-”

A burst of gunfire ripped through the night, cutting off the woman’s reply with a gurgle. He didn’t wait to see where it had come from before He was in a sprint to get away as quickly as possible. Behind Him more gunfire and shouting erupted as the ambush continued and ‘Krys’ and the rest of that group responded. He had not gotten far before He could see that the ambushers were using his cave as cover so he couldn’t go that way. So He just ran away, as fast and as far as his legs could carry him through the night.

After what felt like hours later, finally exhausted and completely out of breath, He collapsed beneath a rock formation like a giant tripod. In the growing morning light it seemed like there was a sheet-metal signboard on top of the rock tripod but He was too tired to think much of it. He was asleep before he had sat all the way down.

Slowly He awoke, stinging his face against the bush He had collapsed under. He still felt  tired and completely battered. So why had he woken up?

Any remaining traces of sleep vanished like snow in a fire when a spear clattered off the stone immediately next to his head. As He scrambled to his feet He noticed that the stone-tip was nearly the colour of rust from dried blood, the haft equally caked in the stuff. He rounded the nearest corner of the rock formation when a metal sword barely missed him to clang against the stone.

“Stand still, little ham!” A woman dressed in skins and combat-camo trousers screeched before drawing the sword back up for another swing. He dived forwards past the woman’s metal-capped knees to avoid the attack, narrowly escaping the second strike and scrambling to keep running and not plant his face in the dirt following the reckless dive. Then He was past the woman shouting behind him, swishing sounds in the air as she swiped more sword-swings at Him, sprinting back the way He had come the night before. A burst of gunfire to his right and a spray of dirt effectively closed off the old path and He changed direction as best He could in the grass that was still wet with morning dew. Another spear sailed uselessly past him and embedded itself in the dirt.

“I just want some cracklin’!” The woman screeched as she continued her pursuit. He seemed faster than her but He could not outrun a hidden gunman, though the sounds of his two pursuers boots grew weaker and weaker as He ran, sucking down as much air as He could, crashing through a small copse of trees to emerge into a larger grass field. Scattered wooden buildings surrounded a wooden hall of sorts in the middle of the field. A painted sign read “Tunder Shack” in cartoon letters next to a brutish face.

Out of breath, He staggered around the corner of the shack and tumbled into a bush. The noises of his pursuers running through the grass on the other side was loud so He hunched as much as He could, quietened his breathing and even closed his eyes. The boots came close, terrifyingly close. The scrape of metal-on-metal as the crazy woman drew her sword and the man messed about with his firearm. Next He heard a rustling of cloth and a burst of static.

One of his pursuers, a man with a darker voice, spoke into what He presumed was a radio. “Hey Pyrion, we found a Naked on the perimeter but lost him around the south corner of the Shack. You see anything?” A long moment passed. He took a deep a breath as He dared when a reply came through the radio.

The dark-voiced man made a ‘Hmm’ noise in response. “We’ll keep looking. Keep an eye out.” Another mumbled reply came back, a rustle of cloth and their boots moved on. He waited until the metal-on-metal sound of the woman’s sheathed sword was out of his hearing before cautiously standing up. They were nowhere to be seen. The sun was behind him by now so there was no need to shield his eyes. On the other side of the palisade was yet another field of green grass. More wooden buildings overlooked the area, one of them a wide tower, the peak dotted with platforms and large windows. In one of them He could see a glint, like sunlight reflected in a spyglass.

Or a sniper’s scope. The thought came to Him in the same instant as a distant shout rang out. “Get domed, nerd!” and He saw a brighter flash from the same window. He had no time to react before his vision exploded in bright red then went black. A bright pain seared through his body before fading almost instantly and his body failed him, collapsing into the red-stained grass.



With a start He woke, hands scrabbling to get out of the sleeping bag and scratch at his face. A moment passed before He calmed and looked at them. Why had He expected them to be covered in his own blood. Furthermore, why was he in a dark cave next to a slowly-smoking campfire. And what was his name?

The Passage of Time – Indepentional

Mivato, the Sacred City on the Hill. It had stood inviolate for nearly a century. Now it seemed to Markato that the Sacred City’s time had come. None had entered Mivato for weeks, though plenty had tried to leave. Of the ones that made it past the walls, few returned. The besieging forces of the Heretic made sure of that. Every few days the Duke and the High Priest assured the populace, the sheep that they were, that the siege would not last long, that it would soon be over. That their God was true and just and on their side. Markato was not so easily fooled. He saw the soldiers, ranks upon ranks, sitting in their tents outside the city walls. He remembered the rocks flung from catapults to impact on those sacred sandstone walls or land in the streets. The streets were not the bustling thoroughfares they had been a month ago. Guards patrolled unceasingly and the few people that did walk the streets walked in groups and hurried along on their business, not stopping to see the great architecture and gardens of their city. Markato tried to stick to the alleyways as much as he could, to avoid the prying eyes of the Duke’s guard.

He pulled the ripped-out page from his pack again. The ink seemed a little worn from the rough treatment but no matter, the prophecy was nearing fulfillment. A brave man of many summers, named after the Sacred City on the Hill, strong of arm and mind, a mind unclouded by delusions and lies. Markato fit all of these criteria, the signs that would indicate the identity of the Awaited One, to take up the Seeking Blade and save the Sacred City in a time of great peril. The Duke hadn’t believed him and the High Priest had been too busy to see him, even when he had announced himself as the Awaited One. When the guard at the door to the High Priest’s chambers looked at him like one might look at drunk man in the street, that was when he decided had must continue on his own. The Duke and the High Priest could not, would not help him. They were ‘clouded by delusions and lies’.

Markato raised his hood and strode onto the street. A few groups of frightened civilians and guards were scattered about on their own business. He turned right and headed down towards the lower areas of town. The Old Garden was close to the inner wall, for its location was part of why Mivato had been built here in the first place almost a millenia ago. At his brisk pace it did not take him long to reach the fence encircling the Garden. Markato knew the Duke had posted guards at all the landmarks of the city. Why the fool was using precious soldiers to guard cultural sites rather than the walls, Markato could not understand. But as soon as he had one of the entrances in view, a clarion of bells sounded across the city. A call to arms. The guards he could see glanced at each other then left in a hurry. The last he saw of them were their cloaks disappearing around the corner towards the walls. The Heretic must be launching an assault. He would need hurry. He leapt from his hiding spot and quickly scanned the area around the gates. No guards in sight so he went inside. Markato scanned the grounds of the Garden. It too seemed empty. Markato did not want to discount the possibility that a few guards had been given orders to stay behind no matter what happened. Sticking to shadows as much as he could, he arrived at the Ziggurat. Like the Garden, it had been here for longer than the city had. In all of recorded history, only two people had ever seen what waited past the Guardian. Zenithra the Saviour, who last drew the Seeking Blade, and the Prophet, his name expunged by the religion the High Priest and the Duke served. The Prophet had not physically entered the Ziggurat but had seen it in a vision, that in the future the Sacred City would be in great peril from an army with great power. Markato knew that to be the army of the Heretic that besieged the city even now. The one mentioned in his prophecy, the Awaited One, was to take up the Seeking Blade and weather the peril to save Mivato.

Looking about the Garden one last time, Markato approached the Ziggurat. It was imposing, constructed with marble from some unknown location. The facade was built as if to channel the gaze towards the door that led inside, and the Guardian that guarded it. A giant marble statue of a powerful lion’s body with the head of a helmed woman, the Guardian denied entry to any who was unworthy and killed those who would try to gain entry by force. Markato stood in front of it with no fear. He was the Awaited One. He would accept its trials and prove it.

The book had been unclear as to the exact nature of the trials, so Markato stood for a minute before anything moved. The Guardian’s stone face animated, great green jade-eyes grinding in their sockets to look at him. “Are you the Awaited One?” It asked with unmoving lips.

“Yes. My name is Markato, named after the Sacred City of Mivato!” He answered, holding up the page he had taken from the Prophet’s book. The Guardian did not spare it even a glance.

“Then you will answer questions three. Answer correctly and be granted entry to the Ziggurat, fail and be turned away. Attempt force and you will be destroyed.” At the last word, the Guardian’s massive stone paws unfolded, black obsidian claws glinting in the sun.

Markato held back the quivering in his voice. “Ask these questions. I will not fail.”

A moment passed. He stood as still as he could, wondering how one would stare down an unblinking golem. “The first question,” the voice boomed, “What has 4 legs at dawn, 2 legs under the midday sun and 3 legs when twilight comes?”

The answer came immediately to Markato’s mind but surely it could not be that obvious. Even a complete simpleton could answer that nursery riddle.

His pondering was interrupted by the gravel-like voice of the Guardian. “Speak!”

“Man! We walk on all 4 when we are born, walk upright as adults and use a cane to assist us in our twilight years.” The Guardian was from another era entirely, after all. What was common knowledge now had been a wise man’s life goal once.

“… Correct. What is the shape of Gaia, the World we all reside on?”

Did the Guardian consider mankind for fools? What are these questions that even a toddler would breeze past?

“Speak!” Again the Guardian would broker no waiting.

“A sphere, not flat as some folk delude themselves to be the truth of Gaia.”

“Correct.” The Guardian’s reply was nearly drowned out by the grinding of stone as the door began to open, showing the darkness inside the Ziggurat. Markato took a step forward without thinking then stopped. Something was missing.

“… What of the third question? You said questions three, not questions two.”

It seemed to him that the golem’s jade-eyes rolled up in their sockets for but a moment. “The third question then. What letters make up the name of the Sacred City of Mivato?”

Again Markato thought that some trickery must be afoot. Any buffoon off the street could have passed this trial.



The Guardian returned to the pose it had when Markato had approached. “Correct.” it answered and the clear gem at its throat flared with a bright light then dimmed and cracked, a jagged line running across it. Markato swore he could hear a faint voice on the wind, saying “finally…” before fading away completely. Before him, the door into the Ziggurat was open and the Guardian defeated. Markato took a deep breath and crossed the threshold. The air inside was dusty and still. He felt he had to take deeper breaths for the same effect as he had to outside. The entranceway was covered in darkness but he quickly arrived in the center. The center of the Ziggurat was lit by a column of light shining down from the ceiling through a pane of glass-like material. Light could pass through but down through the centuries the clear material had remained unbroken. A small pond surrounded a pedestal in the middle, the shadows of fish and lilypads crossing the still waters. Markato’s heart skipped a beat as he saw what was on top of the pedestal. A sword still in its scabbard. The scabbard was wide to allow for the curved edge of the Seeking Blade. Dark-brown leather adorned with gold filigree and coloured gems of some kind. The pommel of the sword was alabaster-white. Markato reverently stepped forward and lifted the sword off the pedestal and held it carefully.

Slowly he chided himself on his care. The Seeking Blade was a weapon of great power, it wouldn’t break from some rough care. With a firm grip he took the scabbard in one hand, the dark leather creaking in his hand, and the handle in his other. With a deep breath he pulled.


Markato stood for a long moment simply staring at the handle now in his hand, the brown edge of rust along  where the lip of the scabbard had met the blade the only thing he could think of. What had felt like creaking before was now a cracking as the dry leather of the scabbard came apart in his hand. Gingerly he upturned the dry scabbard and listened with horror as a few rusty pieces of the blade dropped out and landed on the marble floor. Experimentally he squeezed the handle of the blade, the breath catching in his throat as the ancient wood snapped almost immediately. He stood frozen in place as he looked at the utterly broken weapon. The mostly-intact scabbard in his hand might suffice was a ways to encourage the populace to follow him. It looked important enough. Caught up in his new plan he turned away from the pedestal and sheathed what remained of the weapon. As the crossguard slapped onto the scabbard the dried leather cracked one final time and split down the sides, the metal locket tearing off and clinging onto the stone floor at the threshold of the Ziggurat.

Markato threw the broken and frayed weapon away with a shout of rage as shouts started echoing through the streets that the siege of the Heretic had ended.

It’s The Same, Right? – Indepentional

The trio crept past the threshold of the ruined door, a lantern lighting the way ahead of them. These ruins had been abandoned for centuries.

“Remember,” Jameson said as he crept in front, lit lantern in hand, “If we kill any of the snakes in these ruins, we can’t eat them.”

Rolf stopped in his tracks behind him. “Why, what do you mean?”

“They’re poisonous.” Jameson responded.

Rosa sighed. “Jameson, snakes are venomous, not poisonous.”

“It’s the same, right?” The man in front asked.

“No, it isn’t. Venomous just means you can’t allow them to bite you. You can eat them just fine.”

“Oh.” Jameson responded.

The group continued for a moment before Rolf spoke up again. “Wait, so if you thought they were poisonous, why did you buy anti-venom?”

Jameson pulled up one of the mentioned bottles, small flasks filled with a greenish liquid. “Anti-venom? This is liquor.”

The awkward silence that descended on the group was only briefly broken by the sound of a palm slapping into a face.

After The Trail Is Blazed – Indepentional

After The Trail Is Blazed – Indepentional

Trailnearest chicken-bacon to-go sandwich.”

Andrew’s e-bracelet beeped and his phone vibrated. He stepped lightly aside from the flow of people on he street and pulled his phone from his pocket. The Trail software had accepted the command and overlaid a clear blue path on top of a map of the nearest streets. Andrew skimmed the map and followed the instructions. On a list besides the map were several other suggestions for food on the go but Andrew knew what he wanted, no need to ponder or look around. He stood aside to let a couple of other customers out before entering and walking with sure strides down the aisle to the sandwiches. The Trail map even extended so far as to tell him the shelf he would be looking for. Grabbing two packets for good measure Andrew walked over to the till, paid and then left.

Trail, nearest computer accessories store.”

Again the software put an overlay over the map, this time showing a longer distance than before. Andrew would be crossing 3 bicycle paths and 2 roads on the way and a bright ? on the path denoted a place of interest. He put one sandwich-packet in his backpack and ripped the other open then set back on his path, walking along the press of people while munching his food. Andrew ate the last of the sandwich as he crossed the second of the bicycle paths. He crumbled up the packaging and made a motion to toss it away before stopping himself.

Trail, add nearest bin to current route.”

A branch-like network of detours sprouted on the map, each terminating in a little bin-icon. He choose one at random and continued, dumping the sandwich-packaging as he passed the bin. The rest of the way to the computer store was somewhat windy but Trail kept him on the path. The ‘place of interest’ was a large work of graffiti street-art depicting a man, much like Andrew himself, walking through a landscape while using the Trail app. His e-bracelet beeped. The Trail app could use more photos of this ‘place of interest’ so Andrew snapped a quick photo then continued on his way.

He arrived at the store in short order. It was pretty noisy with a bunch of other customers consulting devices as to what hardware or accessory to buy. He was looking for a cover for his own tablet and he already had a specific one in mind. Trail beeped and the aisle and shelf location bloomed up as text on his screen.

He left almost as quickly as he had entered, tablet-cover in his backpack.

Trailroute to home.”


Trail, route to home.”

No change. His e-bracelet was dark so he pulled his phone up. Fine reception but Trail couldn’t find any connection to the servers. He pressed the Report Issue button but was met with a similar problem. Andrew looked around him. Several other people had just left the store, each mumbling commands to their app but none seemed perplexed.

He sheepishly approached the nearest person, a man with a baseball cap screwed onto a big head. “Erm, excuse me, is your Trail working?”

Surprise, then confusion spread across the man’s face. “Oh sorry, could you repeat that?”

Hadn’t he listened? “Is your Trail app working?”

The man looked just as confused as before but looked down at his screen then turned it towards Andrew. “Of course it does.”

“Odd, mine can’t connect.” Andrew responded. It seemed clear to him that the man wanted to be away.

“Huh. Well just use the report function.”

Andrew inwardly sighed. “Tried that, same problem.”

“Really? Then search for their customer support number. Can’t be hard to find. Excuse me, I really have to go.”

The man was already turning away before Andrew could respond. “Okay, thank you for your time.” He typed “trail customer support” into the phone’s default search function. ‘+45 46926734’. Came up in bold type straight away. Andrew felt he should be sitting down so looked around. The broad street was choked with people using the side-walks and scattered bicycles ran along the middle but in a narrow bit between the two he could see a wooden bench with a large flowering bush growing around a big net of steel bars. Minding that he was walking cross the flow he hurried over and thumbed the support number into his phone as he sat down.

There was no queue. A womanly voice responded in a friendly, yet professional tone. “Yes this is Karin at the Trail help-desk, how can I help?”

“Erm, yes, my Trail app can’t connect to the servers. I would have used the Report function but that also cannot connect.” For some reason his problem sounded outlandish even to himself.

“Hmm, we have no reported server outages. Okay, if you could give me your phone model and Trail user ID, I’ll see what I can find.”

“Cyborg Ac-model, #242982-1984.”

“Right. It seems your user has been temporarily locked. I apologise, it’s an issue on our end, bug in the new version.”

Okay so it wasn’t some odd signal switch-up from the store. “Okay so what can I do?”

“I can unlock your user straight away, the logs don’t show any activity that should lead to a user-lock. Unfortunately it will take about 30 minutes for the app to register the change.” Karin responded in a tired tone.

“Not to be rude but that seems like a long time for what sounds simple.” Andrew responded, trying to sound jovial.

“It is. I apologise again. If you wish for some refund because of disrupted service I can forward you to our PR people.”

Andrew briefly scanned around him. In the distance the city’s cathedral poked above the skyline, its bell-tower visible almost everywhere. He lived pretty close to that and knew the route from the cathedral square by heart. “Thank you for the offer Karin but it shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Okay, if you change your mind, your case is open for another 5 working days. I hope you have a good day and thank you for calling the Trail help-desk”

Andrew thanked the woman for her help and hung up. The crowd on the side-walks had thinned out a little so he hurried to fold in, walking in the approximate direction of the cathedral. Shortly after he left the cross-section where the computer store was located he passed a side-street that linked two of the larger streets in the city. It was roughly the direction he should be going so he pushed out of the crowd and headed down.

The side-street was a riot of colours. Shop-signs seemingly competed to be the most colourful or gaudy. Clothes on drying-racks and blooming flowers hung from balconies above him. Buildings with red or yellow brickwork were covered in more graffiti, lines of runny paint flowing down from the street-‘art’. Several small eateries were open along this street, the smell of food poking at the hunger he had sated with a sandwich earlier. He stopped several times to look at pizzas, hot-pots and tubs of hot-from-the-fryer chips. He thought of the sandwich unopened in his backpack but quickly felt otherwise. Towards the end of the street he found a narrow shop where the front was a ground-to-roof painting of a bowl of hot noodles with herbs and a whole fried egg on top.

He ordered the one on said cover and got pretty much that. The large bowl was filled near to the brim with noodles, broth, herbs and egg. It was hot and warmed him from the inside quickly on the cold October day. Even though the spices and heat almost scalded his mouth he ate quickly and moved on his way, mentally making a note of where that street was. He kept the direction as best he could but more side-streets and small shops kept distracting him.

Before long, Andrew realised he had arrived back at the graffiti street-art he had passed earlier. Now that he was looking at it again he noted more than on his first passing. The man, with Trail-app n hand, was in grey-scale with no colours, the phone backlit by a grey halo with the windy-path Trail logo. The man was staring at the phone, not noticing the vibrant colourful landscape around him. Small birds and animals of the forest were depicted in moments of movement, flying or leaping about in the flowering bushes and blooming meadows, all of which the man missed by virtue of his staring at the Trail map.

Andrew felt a vibration in his pocket and his e-bracelet lit up. A service-message with the announcement – “Trail service has now resumed. We apologise for the inconvenience.” showed up on his notifications-list. The map from the computer store to his house blinked onto the screen. Andrew looked at it for a moment then his view panned back up, the tall bell-tower of the cathedral peeking up above the skyline of the city. A deft thumb flipped open the active-apps list and closed Trail. He’d know the way.

The Ceaseless Hunger – Indepentional

A flash of lightning just outside the window lit up the room, the thunder that followed shaking the steel frame. The howling of the storm filled the room as if the thick stone walls were not there at all, the rain making a constant drumming sound on the glass of the windows.

The ceaseless noise of the storm was only broken up by the sputtering of boiling liquids and the muttering and shouting of the man working the sprawling web of alembics , vials and tubes that filled the chamber. Despite the bone-chilling cold of the storm outside the room was filled with a sweltering heat from the burners speeding clouds of coloured steam along the tubes. An acrid smell emanated from the maze of tubing, though its orchestrator was too caught up in his fervent experimentation to pay such mundane sensations any heed.

His long black hair was slicked back with sweat and oils from his work. His pale face felt stretched over his skull, his gums sharp in his mouth as his hunger rose and rose. It had been days since he had feasted, fearful, no, terrified it would scupper his experiments and leave his efforts for naught. Wide and dry eyes pored back and forth over his nigh-endless notes as he directed the massive alchemical labyrinth of tubes and vials. Liquids and vapours of every colour under the sun, and some that by all rights shouldn’t, flowed and hissed through the glass pathways he had meticulously constructed. Some times he nearly fainted from the heat and his body’s craving for nourishment. But his fervor always brought him back, bringing his sharp mind back to his quest; to cure this affliction, this horrible state that had plagued him for decades.

Another lightning crashed and the tower shook, the generator that sat by one of the walls like a giant back serpent blowing a cloud of smoke into the room. The coils that led through the chamber crackled with renewed energy from the storm that was battering the castle. With a hiss of steam the final vial of the vast assembly line was filled with a liquid. It bubbled and steamed, the droplets that escaped the glass container sizzling against the wood surface it sat on. With a triumphant cry the man rushed to it and grabbed the vial, replacing it with another. He could feel the scalding heat of the liquid even through his thick work-gloves and his forehead broke into another bout of sweat as he brought it up to examine it. It matched what he expected, what he had researched during the long nights when he had fought off his need for a time. But now he laughed. Such struggles, such great pains were a thing of the past!

Without a moments hesitation he up-ended the vial, the painfully hot liquid warming him from the inside as if he had downed a whole bottle of vodka, albeit one with a taste like a rotten orange. His heart jumped in his chest and he collapsed, retching but desperately keeping the liquid inside him. A wave of heat swept through him. He tasted blood as he bit his tongue and stabbed the inside of his mouth with his teeth, his cheeks blushing from the heat. After what felt like hours he could stand up, resting on the table covered in sheets of notes and diagrams. Now the smell of the room was harshly apparently and he nearly retched again. His hunger was just as acute as ever but that was irrelevant. Leaning against the table he searched inside himself, scouting around in his mind for that feeling, that need which he had sought to cure. It seemed slighter, suppressed at best. It was, however, very much still there. Howling with rage he swept his body across the table’s surface, scattering tools and notes across the floor. Thoughts of slices with cheese and tomato sauce started bubbling back into the forefront of his mind and he collapsed to the floor, weeping.

He had failed. His unending craving for pizza was unchanged.