Stories for the Apocalypse: “Circuit Breaker”

I wrote “Circuit Breaker” sometime ago for a call for slipstream writing, my first attempt at this genre. This unique piece never quite found a home, though it remains one of my favorites. In this time of self-isolation for Covid-19 I find the narrator is rather relevant. Read to find out how.

My blessings to share with proper crediting, please do not copy and post anywhere else without my permission.

Circuit Breaker

By Jennie Brass

Glitch

Some people are touched with uncanny good luck.

I am not one of them.

Ill-luck followed me everywhere. Why wouldn’t it follow when I moved to this old apartment on Washboard Avenue? It never occurred to me that the source of my trouble could be anything other than grade A bad luck. After all, I’d been ejected from my previous residence after my roommate’s cat squeezed out my bedroom window. Apparently Mr. Wordsworth was irreplaceable. I, on the other hand, apparently ‘destroy everything I touch’. I couldn’t even argue that statement. After all, for a self proclaimed techno-wiz it seemed just being in the same room as an electrical device eventually caused an epic failure. Kinda like some cursed shadow tagging along and waiting for the opportune moment to wreak havoc. Maybe it was time for the consequences of my life to be entirely my own.

I wasn’t about to write home about this one-bedroom apartment. The midnight blue walls swallowed any light from the grime crusted windows. Who wanted to look outside anyway? I preferred not to see the drive-by shooter armed with the stray bullet for me. The most I glimpsed of the world outside my window came from my computer screen when I took social media breaks from listening to irate people scream at me through my Bluetooth to fix their malfunctioning tech. Don’t get me wrong. I liked my job. I just don’t enjoy the ear-splitting denials after I asked, “Is your computer even plugged in?”

On my third cup of coffee for the evening, I snicked my cell phone setting to off duty and slumped in my desk chair. I would have loved a piece of toast, but that appliance became an industrial paperweight earlier this morning with a puff of blue smoke. The curse of the techno-wiz strikes again. On the computer screen, images paraded in my idle scrolling, reinforcing the idea that my tiny corner of the world was all I needed to be perfectly miserable.

Flick-flicky-fizzzt!

I narrowed my eyes. The reflection of the battered torchiere winked out on my screen.

“Again? Really? That’s the third light bulb this month.” I sighed and trudged out to the kitchen. The utility cupboard creaked as I opened it to sift through the avalanche of junk. A starving gold-rusher panning in a river of sludge for that one fleck of salvation. “I swear, high efficient means it should function better than a congressman.”

My precious bulb in hand, I abandoned the pool of utilitarian debris on the floor and shuffled through the tangled jungle in my living room. That ottoman had more than once managed to bite my ankles in the dark. The corner brushed threateningly against my leg as I crept by.

I smiled my victory. “Not this time!”

Sometimes it sucked to be short. Replacing a bulb in a torchiere is one of those moments. With the stem in one hand I had to pull it over and balance the top heavy lamp as I groped for the spent bulb. A soft wad of dust drifted into the shadows out of the dish. Warm, like the bulb.

“Ouch! Hot! Hot glass!” I hissed and withdrew my scorched fingers. It was enough to make me abandoned the task, if I wasn’t so stubborn. I pulled my hand into the protection of my sleeve and braved the radiating heat. In a series of rapid squeaks, I extracted the thing and discarded it on the floor. Soon enough the newly seated bulb sprang to life and flooded the room.

“Good, now I can—what the … ?” Movement caught the corner of my eye. The room stilled before I could be certain. I tiptoed to the corner and leaned close to the floorboards.

Dust lay in a thick, swirled blanket. No prints of any kind.

I rubbed my eyes and laughed. “Mr. Wordsworth, if your spirit is haunting me, there is milk in the fridge. Help yourself, you ungrateful little homewrecker!”

When nothing else moved, I flopped down in front of my computer and resumed my ritual of re-affirmation.

Yes. I was content to be alone in my private little den. The world outside bore no significance.

Hrm, except perhaps to provide a new lamp. I didn’t want to buy stock in light bulbs.

I opened a search for new torchieres. If this one was dying, I wanted to replace it sooner rather than later. A few options presented themselves. Functional pieces without a lot of hangy things. This was an apartment. Not a brothel.

I turned the power on to my printer. It would be easier to run out with a list of possible places than to wing it. The machine hummed and sucked in a page. Inch by inch it crawled out onto the tray.

Zzzzzzccckkk! Pfffff!

I stared with my open palm over the machine poised to strike. But there was no point. The blue power light flicker-faded, arresting the process and creating yet another paperweight for my ever-growing collection. My head flopped onto my hands. Printer joined toaster, hair dryer, clothing iron, TV, and not one—but two previous coffee pots.

I wanted to scream, but what was the point? No one who cared would hear me. I took a deep breath instead and turned back to the computer. Perhaps I could find a replacement printer.

I touched the mouse. Pixels flashed on the screen in an erratic flicker of color.

Click click fiiiizzzzzttt!

Then, bright blue, to—black.

The mouse hung suspended, nestled in the curve of my hand. All I could do was stare at the dead screen. Minutes passed before I could summon the coordination to tap the screen.

“Come back … come back to life … please?”

Cold. Dead. Not even a pulse.

“Not a glitch. It can’t be a glitch!”

I could not give up on my closest friend. My only friend! The screws flew out of the back of the case as swiftly as I could withdraw them. I ripped off the side panel—and froze.

Two beady eyes stared at me from within a wad of midnight blue fuzz, hardly larger than a mouse. A muzzle, like that of a dog, opened to reveal sharp fangs. Light blue spikes poked out from its back as it reared onto its tiny back paws. Sparks leapt from one spike to another. Between its front paws I glimpsed the wires to my power supply pierced twice. The diminutive creature dropped the cable and hissed at me. The sparking intensified.

“You little—” I reached for him. On contact the electricity from the pest shot up my arm. I recoiled, shaking my hand in the air. The creature darted between my feet and made a beeline for the kitchen.

“Get back here you … you … glitch!”

Well, this certainly explained a lot. Had this unannounced roommate been here from the start? I suspected so. Of course, as I massaged life back into my fingers I cursed. Glitch hunts were the worst. The dang things get into everything and wreak havoc. Locating them proved hard enough. Eradicating them, even harder!

My hand still stung as I dashed toward the kitchen. The ceiling light flickered off with a zzzzzaaap!

Only the flashing time of the microwave clock and my functioning coffee pot light broke the shadows. But not for long. I stood glaring up at the fixture at tiny sparks dancing in the frosted globe.

“Greedy pest, aren’t you, glitch. You know, you keep this up and you’ll eat yourself out of a home.”

The chittering from inside the globe reminded me of a circuit crackling. The sparks gleamed brighter, snapping at the glass confinement.

Was it trapped? Could it even get out of there? I dragged a chair across the dark room tripping over the foothills of debris on the floor. Balanced on the chair, I inched my hand toward the globe. The moment I made contact the sparks arced toward my fingers, insulated by the layer of glass. This dang glitch had made a Van der Graaf generator out of my ceiling light!

Tiny paws shuffled around in circles of impossibly bright blue.

“How did you get in there?”

The paws tapped all around, up every side of the globe. The strobing lights lost their intensity. The chitters dwindled as the little glitch slid to the bottom of the light fixture. Its face pressed against the frosted glass, two beady eyes pleaded with me.

Some people wondered how flies got stuck in their ceiling lights. I longed to be them.

“I’ll make a deal with you. If I open this up and let you out, no more wrecking my stuff. Kay?”

Eeeep!” I heard a hard drive make that squeal once, right before it died.

“Relax. I know we all gotta eat. But there has to be some other way, you know, you trash my toaster I can’t eat toast. That makes me cranky!” I carefully loosened the globe and freed it from the base. Inside, the glitch huddled in a quivering mass of limp blue spikes. Its forepaws clasped in front, the brush tail curled around itself. “Let me lift you out. And don’t zap me. If I drop you, it might hurt.”

The glitch weighed substantially less than the trouble it was worth. The spiky, warm body remained quivering in my hand, radiating bolts of micro-lightning. They only brushed my skin with a static tingle. It watched me, eyes stealing a quick glance to the ground and back up. If it darted, the fall would be nasty for such a tiny creature.

It stayed in my palm as I climbed down from the chair. “You’ve made a pest of yourself.” Too late I realized I conversed with a mindless thing.

The glitch lowered its face and buried its muzzle in both paws.

“You … you understand me?”

It nodded.

“Hrm. Well then, I have a lecture for you! You killed my computer. That wasn’t funny. I need that machine.”

The glitch shuffled in my palm, pointing its nose toward the living room. I waded through the cast off tech books and tangles of wires across my floor to sit down at my computer desk. With a clumsy leap, the blue furball jumped onto the desk. It slipped into the open case and latched its teeth into the cord. A bright blue aura flowed over it from tail to snout. Furiously at first, but it faded in less than a minute.

Unbidden, my computer sprang to life! The loading icon a brilliant smile from my old friend. I almost hugged the screen.

But the limp glitch ceased my celebration. The body now a solid midnight blue, no sign of the spark. I snatched it from the machine and raced out into the dim kitchen.

Somewhere in this mess on the floor I hoped I still had it. My hand brushed against the dented case and I cried with joy. My old electrical circuit kit.

Back in the living room, beneath the light of the torchiere, I tossed together a quick sequence and cranked up the hand generator. The LED pulsed. I nudged the muzzle of the beast toward the bare wire. A spark arced toward its nose. Stronger, brighter. Until the spikes themselves began to pop with the bolts.

The glitch opened its eyes and latched onto the machine.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzeeeeeeeeeetttt pfffft!

A tiny blue tongue flicked out. But its ears drooped to the fading LED.

“Hold on. I can fix this.” I grinned, rebuilt the circuit and charged it to the giddy-pawed dance of my unexpected roommate. That was the nice thing about the old school kit. This was designed to fail and be rebuilt without sustaining lasting damage. The glitch drained the toy again and again until its body shown bright enough to light my room. “Hey pal, now can you fix my toaster?”

The glitch flashed its fangs at me. Apparently, I had two best friends now.

This apartment is all I need of this world. A roof over two functioning glitches.

END

 

October Twitter-Splosion

Another month of #vss365! For October I followed the mis-adventure of Aodh, a creature of the night a-prowlin’! Things didn’t go according to his plans.

OCTOBER

10/1/2019

Rain slashes against the windowpane. Hunger drives me out into my dominion. I am one with the #night, melting with shadows, treading silently upon my victims. Desire claws at my insides. I kill or I will be killed. Light shines through the glass.#vss365

10/2/2019

A shard of light stabs my eyes. It must die! The darkness is my merciful companion. Outside the window I lurk, another sense assaulted. A human singing. My blood boils. The urge to dig my claws in and #murder the cause of my pain drives me insane. Restore dark and silence.#vss365

10/3/2019

Scent mingles with water, not just rain. The aroma of dead flowers mixed with soap. I try not to sneeze. The victim must be in the shower. A shriek. “Stupid dull razor!” The scent of #blood hits my nostrils. Every muscle primes. Claws on windowpane, no turning back.#vss365

10/4/2019

Wet glass, cold to the touch. The only barrier that prevents me from my prey. Just the scent of the blood through the cracked pane is enough to tease me with the flavor of my favorite #organ. Some beasts crave the heart. I prefer the liver, the holder of a man’s sins.#vss365

10/5/2019

I savor the sins I am about to partake. A monster of varied taste, I am not particular of my victims’ transgressions. Envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, wrath, each tenderizes in different ways. Each takes #away a piece of humanity seasoning the soul.#vss365

10/6/2019

Curtains flutter out an open window. Easier ingress. I crawl inside the darkened room and creep across the floor, carpet muffling my steps. Light from the bathroom draws me near. Kill. Kill. Kill! A sweet voice dripping with innocence behind me, “Are you a #demon?” I turn.#vss365

10/7/2019

What is this? A tiny human, clutching a stuffed animal to her chest, stares at me. Her voice drips with #music. The fire within quells. The urge to kill dwindles. I only desire to hear her speak. “No, child,” I rasp, what am I? “I am not of Hell, but Earth.” She blinks.#vss365

10/8/2019

Frozen in place. I could not move as her scent filled my nostrils. A be-spelling #perfume that seduced me. But she was a child! Still, I lowered my head to her eye level as she smiled at me. “Are you an angel?” I shifted my shadowy wings and chuckled, “Do I look like one?”#vss365

10/9/2019

Before I knew it she reached out and her soft palm touched my muzzle. Contact, I shuddered, but not out of disgust. Something resonated. I should be crunching this child’s #bones, yet that felt wrong. I met her fearless gaze as a bond forged an unbreakable chain. “Mine.”#vss365

10/10/2019

She had not spoken, but I felt the claim. My claws would serve her, protect her with a bond as a deep as any #lovers. Where did this twisted sense of loyalty lie? The stuffed animal shifted, the gleam of a gem around its neck. Shit! How did a CHILD get that binding relic?#vss365

10/11/2019

Fearless the child approaches me still clutching her relic laden toy. I bow my head to her as hunger ravages me. Tiny plump fingers plunge into my spiky fur, their contact hot against my #skin. I would do anything for her. Even kill. She smiles all the way to eyes. Murder.#vss365

10/12/2019

She pointed to herself, “Trine.” Then her palm cupped my nose. “You…?” I swallowed, did she know? Once she knew I would be her #monster. Compelled to answer, my lips betrayed me, “Aodh.” The void within me vanished. My claws dug into the carpet. I was Trine’s to command.#vss365

10/13/2019

Trine giggled and crawled up onto my back. I could not resist her, my little black #pearl in a sea of human refuse. “Aodh, fly!” To the window I obeyed, even as the light from the bathroom grew wider, a voice called out, “Is that you? You should be in bed, Trine sweety.” #vss365

10/14/2019

My claws gripped the sill. Trine’s hand clutched my spiky fur, her heels thumped my shoulder blades. I dove out into the rain, bathed once more in soothing darkness. A voice screamed out, “Trine!” But we were gone. For better, or #worse, I was bound to obey my tiny tyrant.#vss365

10/15/2019

What a turn of events, I pondered as I soared through the stormy streets. I began the night as always, hunting #alone. Who would imagine that a child would embrace me? Who would guess that it would feel so … right? Who was this Trine? So many questions. “Hungry! Snack!”#vss365

10/16/2019

“What do you tiny humans eat?” Trine leaned to my ear, “Sweeties. Candy, cake, cookies. Cookies with #chunks of candy!” I almost vomited in my mouth. Sweetness? The only sweet I liked was innards. “Cookies! Cookies!” I had to do something. “Hush, or they’ll escape!”#vss365

10/17/2019

Trine sucked on a finger. “Escape? But cookies don’t gots legs.” I crouched down in stalking mode. “Shh! Look there in the #darkness do you see them? Crumbs. Should we follow them?” Trine bobbed her head. “Yes! Follow the dark chocolates!” My bloodthirsty tiny tyrant.#vss365

10/18/2019

The trail proved hard to follow, they were nothing but #ghost crumbs. My stomach turned at the mere thought of sweets, I would probably retch at the actual scent. What could I do? Trine demanded sustenance, I was bound to obey. To hunt that which made me violently ill.#vss365

10/19/2019

There it loomed over us. A shop that looked like it had vomited bright paint. Trine skipped to the sweet shop window. “Break it!” I shattered the pane. Trine jumped in and instantly began to #devour with savage intensity. I stepped back, besieged by … ugh, sweetness!#vss365

10/20/2019

By the time Trine toddled out the window the shop was naught but a frosting massacre, gobs of it clung to her gap-toothed smile. She shuffled through the #dirt and held out the remnants of a cookie in the shape of a racked man. I shut my nostrils from the assaulting scent.#vss365

10/21/2019

My stomach turned. Thoughts cast into #oblivion as my true hunger devoured my senses. Trembling I needed flesh, blood, organs. Not something in the mere shape of my prey. I stalked away from the broken window. “Aodh, down!” Confound it, I found myself prone to her command.#vss365

10/22/2019

“Child, I hunger.” At my words she held out the cookie. “That will not sustain me.” I flashed my fangs. “I require flesh, blood, something with spirit and a #soul.” Trine stared at the man shaped cookie, a tear rolled down her face. “Did someone hurt you?” She nodded.#vss365

10/23/2019

Fed by her earnest tears, I became #invincible, a creature of pure vengeance. “Name them!” She rubbed her eyes, “Billy.” I ground my claws into the dirt. “And for what offense has he begged for consummation?” She sobbed, “He stole my lollypop!” That was … shallow.#vss365

10/24/2019

We stood outside his house. A storm #cellar door yielded to my claws. This Billy stole something precious from my master. This lollypop truly must be a great treasure. I would retrieve it for her. Stairs creaked as I climbed toward my target, saliva flowing.#vss365

10/25/2019

The door to his room creaked open. Who was this mastermind I would devour #alive? I tugged back the covers. Billy … was a boy? Great, this one was snack-sized. I needed a meal. I pondered starting with his parents. But if he ran … I needed to find this lollypop.#vss365

10/26/2019

Billy awoke with a start and blinked at me. I growled, “You stole a great possession from my master, I have come to retrieve the lollypop.” With a shaky finger he pointed at a plastic wrapped object, bright and colorful. To my #horror her precious thing was candy.#vss365

10/27/2019

I gave a #shriek. “Candy? Her precious stolen item is candy?” Backed against the wall, I pondered my fate if I should break the binding spell. Could I resist? But if sugar should contact me, I shivered, I knew my fate. Head buried in claws I reeled at my impossible task.#vss365

10/28/2019

Against the burning through every fiber, I drew back from object I’d been compelled to retrieve. The sensation promised the #grave, but I did not care. Better to risk eternal slumber than unspeakable torment. I must find whomever gave that child a binding relic.#vss365

10/29/2019

The throb within me grew the further I tread from her request. Despite my desire for flesh, and my compelling to obey her, I found I would risk #eternal punishment for one chance, one swipe at the bastard who let this happen. “Who gifted the relic to this child?” I asked.#vss365

10/30/2019

A trail of deep violet light drew me through the alleys back to the apartment complex. #Warm sensation grew to heat as I closed in on the apartment, her apartment. Walls covered in artifacts. On the phone, a frantic man—outlined in purple. So he gave her the binding relic!#vss365

10/31/2019

A #raven perched upon the windowledge. I smiled a savage smile to my brother of the night knowing his presence not happenstance. “Finally,” saliva flowed through my teeth as I entered the open window, hunger blazed within, “let the feast begin!” I lunged, the man screamed.#vss365

OCTOBER

10/1/2019

Rain slashes against the windowpane. Hunger drives me out into my dominion. I am one with the #night, melting with shadows, treading silently upon my victims. Desire claws at my insides. I kill or I will be killed. Light shines through the glass.#vss365

10/2/2019

A shard of light stabs my eyes. It must die! The darkness is my merciful companion. Outside the window I lurk, another sense assaulted. A human singing. My blood boils. The urge to dig my claws in and #murder the cause of my pain drives me insane. Restore dark and silence.#vss365

10/3/2019

Scent mingles with water, not just rain. The aroma of dead flowers mixed with soap. I try not to sneeze. The victim must be in the shower. A shriek. “Stupid dull razor!” The scent of #blood hits my nostrils. Every muscle primes. Claws on windowpane, no turning back.#vss365

10/4/2019

Wet glass, cold to the touch. The only barrier that prevents me from my prey. Just the scent of the blood through the cracked pane is enough to tease me with the flavor of my favorite #organ. Some beasts crave the heart. I prefer the liver, the holder of a man’s sins.#vss365

10/5/2019

I savor the sins I am about to partake. A monster of varied taste, I am not particular of my victims’ transgressions. Envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, wrath, each tenderizes in different ways. Each takes #away a piece of humanity seasoning the soul.#vss365

10/6/2019

Curtains flutter out an open window. Easier ingress. I crawl inside the darkened room and creep across the floor, carpet muffling my steps. Light from the bathroom draws me near. Kill. Kill. Kill! A sweet voice dripping with innocence behind me, “Are you a #demon?” I turn.#vss365

10/7/2019

What is this? A tiny human, clutching a stuffed animal to her chest, stares at me. Her voice drips with #music. The fire within quells. The urge to kill dwindles. I only desire to hear her speak. “No, child,” I rasp, what am I? “I am not of Hell, but Earth.” She blinks.#vss365

10/8/2019

Frozen in place. I could not move as her scent filled my nostrils. A be-spelling #perfume that seduced me. But she was a child! Still, I lowered my head to her eye level as she smiled at me. “Are you an angel?” I shifted my shadowy wings and chuckled, “Do I look like one?”#vss365

10/9/2019

Before I knew it she reached out and her soft palm touched my muzzle. Contact, I shuddered, but not out of disgust. Something resonated. I should be crunching this child’s #bones, yet that felt wrong. I met her fearless gaze as a bond forged an unbreakable chain. “Mine.”#vss365

10/10/2019

She had not spoken, but I felt the claim. My claws would serve her, protect her with a bond as a deep as any #lovers. Where did this twisted sense of loyalty lie? The stuffed animal shifted, the gleam of a gem around its neck. Shit! How did a CHILD get that binding relic?#vss365

10/11/2019

Fearless the child approaches me still clutching her relic laden toy. I bow my head to her as hunger ravages me. Tiny plump fingers plunge into my spiky fur, their contact hot against my #skin. I would do anything for her. Even kill. She smiles all the way to eyes. Murder.#vss365

10/12/2019

She pointed to herself, “Trine.” Then her palm cupped my nose. “You…?” I swallowed, did she know? Once she knew I would be her #monster. Compelled to answer, my lips betrayed me, “Aodh.” The void within me vanished. My claws dug into the carpet. I was Trine’s to command.#vss365

10/13/2019

Trine giggled and crawled up onto my back. I could not resist her, my little black #pearl in a sea of human refuse. “Aodh, fly!” To the window I obeyed, even as the light from the bathroom grew wider, a voice called out, “Is that you? You should be in bed, Trine sweety.” #vss365

10/14/2019

My claws gripped the sill. Trine’s hand clutched my spiky fur, her heels thumped my shoulder blades. I dove out into the rain, bathed once more in soothing darkness. A voice screamed out, “Trine!” But we were gone. For better, or #worse, I was bound to obey my tiny tyrant.#vss365

10/15/2019

What a turn of events, I pondered as I soared through the stormy streets. I began the night as always, hunting #alone. Who would imagine that a child would embrace me? Who would guess that it would feel so … right? Who was this Trine? So many questions. “Hungry! Snack!”#vss365

10/16/2019

“What do you tiny humans eat?” Trine leaned to my ear, “Sweeties. Candy, cake, cookies. Cookies with #chunks of candy!” I almost vomited in my mouth. Sweetness? The only sweet I liked was innards. “Cookies! Cookies!” I had to do something. “Hush, or they’ll escape!”#vss365

10/17/2019

Trine sucked on a finger. “Escape? But cookies don’t gots legs.” I crouched down in stalking mode. “Shh! Look there in the #darkness do you see them? Crumbs. Should we follow them?” Trine bobbed her head. “Yes! Follow the dark chocolates!” My bloodthirsty tiny tyrant.#vss365

10/18/2019

The trail proved hard to follow, they were nothing but #ghost crumbs. My stomach turned at the mere thought of sweets, I would probably retch at the actual scent. What could I do? Trine demanded sustenance, I was bound to obey. To hunt that which made me violently ill.#vss365

10/19/2019

There it loomed over us. A shop that looked like it had vomited bright paint. Trine skipped to the sweet shop window. “Break it!” I shattered the pane. Trine jumped in and instantly began to #devour with savage intensity. I stepped back, besieged by … ugh, sweetness!#vss365

10/20/2019

By the time Trine toddled out the window the shop was naught but a frosting massacre, gobs of it clung to her gap-toothed smile. She shuffled through the #dirt and held out the remnants of a cookie in the shape of a racked man. I shut my nostrils from the assaulting scent.#vss365

10/21/2019

My stomach turned. Thoughts cast into #oblivion as my true hunger devoured my senses. Trembling I needed flesh, blood, organs. Not something in the mere shape of my prey. I stalked away from the broken window. “Aodh, down!” Confound it, I found myself prone to her command.#vss365

10/22/2019

“Child, I hunger.” At my words she held out the cookie. “That will not sustain me.” I flashed my fangs. “I require flesh, blood, something with spirit and a #soul.” Trine stared at the man shaped cookie, a tear rolled down her face. “Did someone hurt you?” She nodded.#vss365

10/23/2019

Fed by her earnest tears, I became #invincible, a creature of pure vengeance. “Name them!” She rubbed her eyes, “Billy.” I ground my claws into the dirt. “And for what offense has he begged for consummation?” She sobbed, “He stole my lollypop!” That was … shallow.#vss365

10/24/2019

We stood outside his house. A storm #cellar door yielded to my claws. This Billy stole something precious from my master. This lollypop truly must be a great treasure. I would retrieve it for her. Stairs creaked as I climbed toward my target, saliva flowing.#vss365

10/25/2019

The door to his room creaked open. Who was this mastermind I would devour #alive? I tugged back the covers. Billy … was a boy? Great, this one was snack-sized. I needed a meal. I pondered starting with his parents. But if he ran … I needed to find this lollypop.#vss365

10/26/2019

Billy awoke with a start and blinked at me. I growled, “You stole a great possession from my master, I have come to retrieve the lollypop.” With a shaky finger he pointed at a plastic wrapped object, bright and colorful. To my #horror her precious thing was candy.#vss365

10/27/2019

I gave a #shriek. “Candy? Her precious stolen item is candy?” Backed against the wall, I pondered my fate if I should break the binding spell. Could I resist? But if sugar should contact me, I shivered, I knew my fate. Head buried in claws I reeled at my impossible task.#vss365

10/28/2019

Against the burning through every fiber, I drew back from object I’d been compelled to retrieve. The sensation promised the #grave, but I did not care. Better to risk eternal slumber than unspeakable torment. I must find whomever gave that child a binding relic.#vss365

10/29/2019

The throb within me grew the further I tread from her request. Despite my desire for flesh, and my compelling to obey her, I found I would risk #eternal punishment for one chance, one swipe at the bastard who let this happen. “Who gifted the relic to this child?” I asked.#vss365

10/30/2019

A trail of deep violet light drew me through the alleys back to the apartment complex. #Warm sensation grew to heat as I closed in on the apartment, her apartment. Walls covered in artifacts. On the phone, a frantic man—outlined in purple. So he gave her the binding relic!#vss365

10/31/2019

A #raven perched upon the windowledge. I smiled a savage smile to my brother of the night knowing his presence not happenstance. “Finally,” saliva flowed through my teeth as I entered the open window, hunger blazed within, “let the feast begin!” I lunged, the man screamed.#vss365

The Healer’s Moon

journeysthrougha-brass-quill

Healer’s Moon

The eyes of every slan stared out across the snow-riddled fields locked in the solid shadows of the night. Paws gripped the tree roots that formed the door frame of the great hall as the slan ignored the late winter chill seeping into their gathering. Soon. Any moment now it would come. Several bards of various ranks held their instruments at the ready.

Kenaz

The kenaz is a pendant worn by Travelers that both marks them as Taliesin’s select followers, and allows them to summon whatever instrument the bard desires.

Ealaidh gripped the kenaz nestled in the small of her neck. In the tense silence, her breath danced in frosted clouds. The cadence of her heartbeat a slip jig. She came up on her tip paws. The sky behind the hill lightened, turning lavender. Three more measures of the slip jig throbbed against her ribs and then … the bright crest broke from the shadows. The moon’s silver aura announced her rise into the heavens.

The silence shattered into a wild fray. Music rose into the air. Ealaidh summoned a fiddle from her kenaz and joined in the dance. Mulled wine from a kettle over the golden flames in the large hearth passed from paw to paw in communal cups. No matter how well a beast sang, every voice joined in the chorus.

Neath the moon we raise our voice

Neath the moon we sing til morning!

In the night we seek her grace

Restore all who call your glory!

Dance on two until the four

Dance as once we were created!

Gift of health, we are restored

As our magic is awakened!

In the sky the radiant full moon rose, a gleaming eye gazing down on Healer’s Moon celebration. A celebration that would last until the sun banished the night.

For over an hour, the wine flowed and the music rang. Ealaidh lowered her fiddle and drifted to the door. Her ears rode high, straining out into the night. She studied her paws. Late. It should have happened by now. The two onto the four. Why had none in the great hall shifted? This was the proper night, the night of the healer’s moon restoration.

She glanced over her shoulder into the throng. No one watched as she slipped out into the night and pressed her paw against the ode-stone. Closing her eyes, she felt the warmth of the current spread into her. She tugged thread after thread of her fellow Travelers, the last time they had sung to the stones left an essence of where they were. None were near Arainrhod’s Loch, except the one. Suthainn.

“He can’t do this alone.” Ealaidh swallowed and gazed to the east. Through the trees the moonlight shimmered on the loch’s surface. Turning back to the gathering in the great hall her heart squeezed in her chest. The warm light beckoned her. “No … ” she gazed back at the distant loch, “another Traveler is needed there. They have plenty of bards to make merry this night.”

She slipped away through the brush as fast as her footpaws could carry her over the hill. At last she broke into the clearing. Suthainn, a robust mangan, looked up from the edge of the pond and wrinkled his nose. “Ealaidh? What in the stars has brought you here?”

Ealaidh panted to catch her breath. “I came to help.”

“You?” The bear laughed. “Go back to chasing the bottom of mulled wine cups! Every Traveler knows that’s your place in the ceremony.”

“I heard the words of Briollag.” Ealaidh pointed at the hoarfrosted trees. “Spring cannot come without the Healer’s Moon power. I know this ritual requires a lot of power. You will need to draw off the current of another.”

The beads on Suthainn’s open vest rattled as he shot straighter. “Yes, one such as Briollag himself. Not a newly fledged Traveler. Now, go.”

“I’ve been emanated. I’m a full Traveler!”

“Within your first decade, Ealaidh.” He gripped the staff so tight his claws splintered it. “You’re not strong enough to take this.”

“I’ve survived my first one-hundred mortal years, and I lived to bear my kenaz.” She narrowed her eyes. “You don’t know how strong I am. Besides, you don’t have a choice. No one else is close enough.”

He grumbled to himself before eyeing her. “Listen, young blood. You’re but a whelp in my eyes. Besides, why would I trust one who vanished for a decade?”

Ealaidh stiffened.

Suthainn gestured with a massive paw. “I am no fool. I know why you came here tonight. You wanted to see if offering yourself for the Healer’s Moon would erase the scars you refuse to tell the circle about.”

Her paw brushed subconsciously at the hidden marks around her wrists. She swore she could feel the burn of the scarred flesh around her neck. Healed now, long since healed and buried in the growth of her fur. But still the other Travelers whispered, why? She lowered her eyes.

“The shift will never heal wounds inflicted by magic. Not even the Healer’s Moon can do that, Ealaidh.”

Tears stung her eyes. The leaden weight of her courage and false hope she had fostered threatened to crush her. Her shoulders fell. “I … I don’t care. That’s not why I came. I came … I came because it must be done. For the sake of all slankind.” She shivered. Coming here was such a small gesture, but it was a start.

“Ealaidh—”

“No!” She dashed past him, her footpaws bogging down in the loch’s bank. “Do it! You need a channel and the moon is nearly past her proper height. Start, Suthainn. If it kills me … ” The chill water lapping at her shins drove spikes into her. “If it kills me, so be it!”

His eyes revealed their whites. He hesitated a moment before leveling his staff over her head. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”

Penance. She sank down into the water. Her teeth chattered a reel.

Suthainn widened his stance. “Arainrhod, goddess of the moon. Heal and Restore us this night.” He threw back his head and launched into a wordless song. A trail of golden light flowed around Ealaidh and joined the ribbons of magic flowing from Suthainn. They mingled together and rippled out into the still waters of Arainrhod’s Loch. The moon’s eye gleamed down on the them. Gold and silver lights streamed together and stretched into the night sky.

healersmoon

Suthainn and Ealaidh threw their heads back. Wreathed in the aura their forms grew and changed. Suthainn morphed into a larger, four pawed version of himself. His clothes vanished into his fur. Ealaidh discarded her fox form and shifted into an immense dire wolf crouched on all fours at the water’s edge. The aura encapsulated her. She glowed as the power channeled through her from the loch into the ancient Traveler. The current rushed through her flesh, threatening to erode her. She widened her stance and braced herself.

Primitive howls and roars broke out over the land. Every slan  had shifted through the power of the moon’s current.

The torrent of magic raced through both Travelers. All would be restored under the light of the moon … all but two. Suthainn grimaced on the bank’s edge, his head dipped lower beneath the strain. Still in the water, Ealaidh’s eyes were slivers as she forced her gaze up into the moonlight. She snarled in defiance. The ritual price had a price. She would pay it.

All of it.

Rearing back on her hindlegs, she laid her forepaws on Suthainn’s shoulders. The light around her strengthened, her haunches shuddered, but she remained. The bear gawked as his aura faded, Ealaidh’s stance shorting the draw into herself.

“No, Ealaidh! Stop!”

His cry did nothing more than to stiffen her resolve. She raised her own voice into the night. A lament that shook the bear’s heart to the core the moment before the ritual completed. Both slan toppled into the slush.

Still in their primal forms, Suthainn dragged himself up to hover over Ealaidh’s mud caked body. Her eyes cracked open and a slight smile pulled on her grimaced lips. “Well … ” she panted, “ … it’s a start … ”

He rested a paw against her chest, searching for the beat of her heart. “How … how did you withstand that? Briollag and I both struggle to share the load. You have only been emanated for seven years now.”

She shifted a paw and winced. “Eight. But … I don’t expect mine to be counted. So much … such a turbulent time … who was I to be remembered?”

He shook his head. “You shouldn’t be this strong, Ealaidh! By the gods, what have you done?”

Ealaidh shivered, ripples raced across the water. “Not me … Can you … can you get me out of here? Cold.”

Gently, Suthainn scruffed Ealaidh and dragged her limp body up the bank. He nudged her tail close to lock in warmth and laid his bulk beside her. “The sunrise will shift us back. Don’t waste your strength.”

“Wasn’t planning on it,” she mumbled.

Their breath mingled in the moonlight in icy clouds. Suthainn tracked the moon’s journey through a few constellations before he edged a paw against her cheek. “Ealaidh, you always were a strange one. From the day that the circle learned Taliesin had picked you we all wondered ahy. This endless road erodes the spirit. You were soft and full of joy. We saw a brilliant bard, but not a resilient Traveler. ”

She flicked an ice crusted ear. “I once heard a wise beast tell … being a Traveler gives one access to all the knowledge collected in the world. But it does not make one omniscient.”

Suthainn arched his head back and blinked. “I thought you weren’t listening!”

Her laugh was little more than a forced breath. “ … surprise … oh wise one … ” She curled tighter, frosted fur crackling. “Do me a favor … don’t tell anyone about this … all right? Let them believe … I was irresponsible … by golden hearth … drinking mulled wine … by the gods, mulled wine.” A whimper escaped her.

“Come on. That hearth sounds nice about now.” Suthainn forced his head under her and worked her bulk onto his shoulders. He lumbered through the snow toward the distant golden doorway. “Ealaidh, I’ve been the healer bard for ages now. Many ages longer than you have lived. I must tell you, time has taught me that some wounds can never be healed.”

She could have been a slain hart across his back for all her stillness and lack of warmth. For a moment he thought she was once more asleep. “That depends,” she sighed, “on what one seeks. Tonight I found what I sought … even against reason.”

His ear twitched, uncertain if he had heard the wind or if the exhausted Traveler mumbled …

there will never be forgiveness, only endless blood tithes.

 

The Blind Division

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Blind Division

 I know why you have come, human. I know why you stand here reeling in confusion. An ill-wind blows across your world. You wish to ask, how did this happen? You ask how could an ancient creature like myself possibly comprehend … oh, but I do. Perhaps more deeply than you can imagine. All I ask is shelve the human ego for a moment and listen to the truth I tell, of the gravest mistake the slan ever made. There is no easy way to tell this, but I will try.

blinddivisions

The slan once were a single race, the god Cernunnos bestowed his gift on all our kind, despite the lowly animals we originated from. Mangan, brucach, faol, radan, and cugar, we lived side-by-side in mixed shires sharing the magic we were god-blessed with. Magic ran in our veins. Every slan who drew breath shifted into their ancient form at will. That was precisely where the names of our kinds came from. The faol, like myself, could transform into a dire-wolf. The act of shifting healed wounds. A highly useful skill full of strength and stamina. For eons we basked in the benefits of our gift, our peaceful culture thrived.

That was until fate lashed out and a shadow darkened the land. On the nights of the full moon a ravenous beast tore through shires and dragged off innocent slan, from whelps to elderly. For ten years shire-folk lived in fear of this menace stalking in the dark, aware it was at least one, if not more, of their own. In the heart of a shire Uachdaran called out to his fellow faol that mingling with the other sects of the slan is what brought this accursed punishment. Magic, he decreed, was uncontrollable and a danger to all.

Most didn’t give his youthful ignorance a second thought, especially once the attacks ceased and peace returned to the lands. But Uachdaran did not back away from his belief. He beat his breast in every shire, and gradually faol flocked to him. The once-few grew into an army driven by fear of the ‘feral’ side of our race. Before long he abandoned the forested valleys and took his followers into the craggy hills. Walls of stone, he demanded, would keep them safe from the influence of the ‘feral’ magic. Within the walls of the first city, populated only by faol, he invoked a harsh ritual. All who wished his protection must subject themselves to the thorn of the yellow rose. Once a slan is pricked the poison prevents magic, even shifting, for a full mooncycle. Cycle after cycle, his followers bound rose stems to their arms to prove their devotion. A sea of flowery yellow pennants twisted the wills of thousands.

In the shadow of his impenetrable city, others took up a similar cry until there were segregated cities of ‘rose pledged’ folk. Cities of solely brucach, or mangan. The land of Caledonia closed up behind walls of division where the ‘feral’ were treated with suspicion.

The fear of their ‘wild’ cousins manifested into a raging fire. Driven into a frenzy by the war drums of the self-declared nobility, who claimed to be protecting their followers, the battles began. Armored squads trampled and burned shires. Folk were dragged into the city walls and bound with thorns. Those who refused to be bound were slain. Bards and druids entered the cities at their peril. Attempts to ease the fear only resulted in torture, paws and jaws broken, bodies bound in thorns cast down like scree on the mountain to a long and lingering death. Most hid to protect the vast collected knowledge, leaving many shires to fend for themselves.

Through the spark of one panicked voice, a war spanned generations. Only shires veiled by the magic of defiant bards and druids evaded the painful fate as our race lost our blessing to the tongue of fear. Pierced by the thorns, the youth behind stone walls grew up never knowing what they truly were. Their suppressed gift became a horror story whispered by the hearth … the truth of the deadly decade buried and forgotten. All the collective heard was that a shifted slan is nothing more than a feral mindless beast. They gazed upon carvings on the walls of their proud armies slaying shifted beasts, never aware that the dire-wolf on the end of the lance was one their own kind. Kin murdered kin in a glorified procession of cleansing.

What a shameful lie. The shift steals none of our sense. But I tell you what can, fear. The tongue of an unchecked paranoid individual convinced there is a reason to hate can do more damage than any shifted beast ever has … and that is why, effectively, the race of slan is now extinct.

Here I am, centuries later, an immortal Traveler, burdened to keep the history and watch it ever repeat, again and again.

The world bows as one voice treats opinion as fact and drowns out all other reason. One paranoid voice drums up hatred without stopping to listen to anything but confirming echoes. One vengeful voice builds a wall against an imaginary threat, blindly dividing the world into countless shards.

I have witnessed civil war before. I have seen it eliminate a once thriving culture. Seen it destroy magic … and now, I hear the cadence of the war drums building again. The blind division born of ignorant fear, and already the panicked stand with stones in their hands ready to stack them.

Open your eyes! Please, I beg of you! This has happened before, in your time, not just mine. The candles are already blowing out, the light is dwindling. Rekindle the flame of true understanding, quell the hysteria that kills innocents. Only knowledge can banish the boogeyman before the vile whispers drive your blade into the heart of your brother, before you wall up your sister.

Once the poison of hysteria takes root, there is no going back.

So wake up, before it is too late. The entire human race is too precious to lose.

gorachillusionary

The Legacy of Fear

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A sword can slay whatever lies in its path. But fear is a devastating weapon, it cuts down lives generations down the path in a journey without end.

innercirclebards

A gathering of great minds, past and future.

That ancient adage clings to my slannic mind of late. I mourn for your world, humanity, because as a Traveler I know where this is headed. The true-master bards have not seen your fate specifically, but we have seen the signs before, ages past, in our kind. Mark me well …

For many ages slan lived a peaceful existence in shires nestled into the woodlands. Our kinds intermingled and hardly gave mind to our differing races. Whether we were cugar, mangan, faol, radan, or brucach mattered not – the god Cernunnos had made us what we were: all of us slan. The shires grew in number, our culture thrived, and we bards enjoyed revelry much of our days. Only rarely were we asked to sit judgement over a petty crime. Slan were free to pay homage to whichever deity they pleased. Free to select their mate regardless of race or talents. It was a legacy of prosperity. Our society was rich beyond compare …

… until the harmony faded into discord.

The wave started small. An aftershock from a tragic event involving magic. One voice cried out in fear that the ‘beast’, though concurred, would re-emerge! Why? Because the event proved any one of us could be turned against slan. The magic of the shape-shift, a gift from the gods to heal and restore, embodied the paranoia that could come hunting in the night. A beast sent to slaughter. Magic, a part of us all, became the first target of fear.

The voice fostered that fear and the flocks came in droves. More voices cried out and pulled into further divisions. Soon, those who turned their backs on the once-ways built stone walls to protect them from their wild and primitive ‘enemies’. Each stronghold divided by race, unwilling to let a faol live amongst a brucach, or a mangan amongst the cugar. Their world became shattered into fragments guarded by swords and pikes, shielded by armor against corruption of their own decree. They selected which deities the whole of their population would follow. And in an effort to kill magic they poisoned the blood of every subject, stealing any chance they would have of becoming their true selves. For they were afraid the beast within would tear through and stalk the night!

In the shires we clung to one another, intermingled and distraught as our world was decimated. Fires burned in the valleys when the armies marched to force the followers of the once-ways into death or blood-poisoning. Magic-talents slaughtered by the thousands not by sword or poison, but by fear.

The words resonated through the generations. Parent taught whelp to hate those different in race, creed, and talent. The flames of hatred divided us … yet we were all still slan. They just refused to see it. A magic that healed and restored, a magic that was at the core of our ancient spirits, lay twisted into the dark saga of a beast to be feared. A creature to be banished. It became law that any who tapped that sacred well and refused to suppress their ability must be put to death.

The hillsides, stripped of their once ancient forests, became populated with nothing more burial cairns.

The bardic circle watched as time eroded the society we had been birthed in … until it vanished. For once the shire-born slan were eradicated, the strongholds turned on one another. Their society born of fear of an enemy, they created a new monster to slay.

We watched our world die at the hands of ignorance and fear. We watched as kin slayed kin over misunderstanding and superstition. We watched as belief drove hundreds to slaughter out of hatred.

We bore witness to a legacy of fear spread unchecked until all that remains of the slan is the memories sung to the stones … our songs. The funeral durge instead of a celebration of our once vast diversity.

Humanity, the world is in your hands now. Daily cries go up of the atrocities perpetuated against one another. Regardless of their reason: creed, race, religion, gender, orientation, job, age … why do these unreasonable divisions keep festering anew? You are all human at the core … just as we were all slan.

A legacy of fear … is all that humanity will leave behind?

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Ealaidh, the Traveler

Symbols that Build, Symbols that Break

journeysthrougha-brass-quill

BardicSummons

“When you look what do you see? … don’t fear to look deeper.” ~Ealaidh

Welcome back.

I just finished the most amusing discussion with my human friend about symbols. We’ve all heard that old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, likewise a symbol can embody complex ideals.

Take the kenaz for example:

Kenaz

This rune is vital to the slannic bards. Displayed on necklaces, it tells others that we serve our race as lore-keepers, judges, and entertainers. Even the material the pendant is made from is significant. A novice bard’s is made from leather. A master bard’s, carved from wood. If one is a Traveler, or a true-master bard selected by the god Taliesin, the kenaz is comprised of a special metallic stone imbued with special properties.

What special properties, you ask? Well, all a Traveler need do is think of an instrument and the kenaz becomes it. Whether you want a drum, a tin-whistle, a harp… or even in modern times, yes–an electric guitar. It’s a convenient way of ensuring we aren’t burden by an veritable orchestra of instruments.

You can imagine, wandering on footpaw that would become quite heavy.

There is a danger to wearing the kenaz as well. For when everyone knows that you are a source of logic and reason, you quickly become a target during upheaval. There was a time when we Travelers had little choice but to cast a guise over our runes for our very survival.

Like my experience with the mixtured nature of symbols, my human friend reflected on a story of a man who became defined by them. She has been recording some lost chapters of his life for the world to come to know the core of this man.

From his birth, Erik hid his face behind a mask.

PhantomMask

He had every reason, for despite his extraordinary gifts, he was disfigured and the world was reviled his monstrous face. But his spirit craved beauty. He collected things that fascinated him. He accumulated the most astonishing skills to build devices and buildings that left onlookers in awe.

None of it mattered. The world only saw the mask– the monster beneath.

Weary of humanity’s game and heartsick after the loss of his greatest treasure, Erik exiled himself and tried to begin a-new. Only in America he found that his strange mask was not the only barrier.

Here he was an immigrant! Though he may have brought a meager fortune with him, the shine of the coin mattered nothing. He was an immigrant to be confined to the Bowery ward for that reason above any other.

This new world underestimated his ambition to create. Fettered by society’s bias Erik put his boundless spirit into one goal–sharing his visions with the world through his architecture.

Against the odds he earned enough to commission the one thing he would need to show the elite he was a gentlemen. His signet ring.

ErikSignetSilverOnline

The silver compass: a tool gifted to him by his stone-mason mentor. The most prized possession of an architect essential for creating master works.

The quill: the writing utensil that documented his other passion, music.

And of course his one and only initial: E. For Erik possessed no sir-name. Despite this, he claimed the status of a gentleman by his own merit.

Mask and signet. Shield and pennant. Sometimes they protect us, sometimes they define us. Sometimes they endanger or even fight us!

For Erik, his symbols have been all of these… if you like to read his story, my human friend has been recording it here: Nightingale’s Odyssey

Until next time, my friends.