an anthology of short stories: Apparitions and Premonitions.
“Let’s order pizza. On me,” Nathan saw the expression on Alex’s face as soon as he opened the door.
Laura leaped over to the computer.
“Let’s watch something trippy,” Laura suggested. “Oh, we should call Seth and see what he’s doing.”
She picked up the phone and Alex was amazed at the speed with which she dialed the number. Although they did have enough practice calling the number.
Seth said he wasn’t doing anything and would be over as fast as he could climb the two flights of stairs.
“I found this amazing documentary on the biggest things in space. It’ll blow your mind,” Nathan said as he set up the DivX player.
The opening of the documentary had a series of quick cuts of flying through space, to entering a Black Hole, to jutting in and out of an asteroid belt.
Alex felt like he was experiencing all of those things and that he was flying through space at ridiculously intense speeds.
“This was made for people on drugs,” Alex smiled.
Laura giggled, “I know.”
“The Cosmic Web,” the narrator began, “is one of the most mysterious and intriguing features of the Universe. Scientists believe that the Universe is held together by a framework of invisible strings of matter with pockets of void spotted throughout. The web is as big as the universe itself, measuring some 14 billion light years across-“
The image on the screen began panning out from our planet, out through the solar system, and out through the Milky Way, and then faster and faster it raced to finally encompass the entire Universe.
It did look like a web.
There were long threads of matter with nothing in the space between.
Alex suddenly had a crazy epiphany.
I didn’t immediately start the journal documenting the nightly visits; but it wouldn’t have done any good anyway. At first, I was confident that the visitor was a character in a dream. Though, after an entire week of nightly visits, I had to accept that I was either completely insane or the visitor really was materializing at the foot of my bed to converse with me. Eventually I did start the journal, but despite my meticulous written accounts of our nightly discourse (I’m a journalist by trade) the evidence would always be expunged the next morning before I could show anyone. I know, I mean, I know that I’d documented my interactions with the visitor. Of this I am completely and unfalteringly confident. Why? Because I, and my editors, know how pedantic my first drafts can be and how frustratingly (for them) meticulous I am at finding the most apt and efficiently articulate words to express the brutish barking of raw thought that screams about the inside of my head. I read somewhere that they’re working on a machine that will decode and download the electrical sparks of pure thought to an external interface. It would be like if you found a song online that you really loved but then, before others could listen, you had to notate the piece onto sheet music by hand and then suddenly having the ability to bypass all of that effort and just plug in your mp3 player and directly downloading the song for playback instead. But anyway, we don’t yet have that tech for brains but it would be very helpful if I did. The way it is now, I have to personally write down my experiences with my nightly visitor. And like I said earlier, I KNOW that I’ve been writing them down but every morning I found the minutes, if you will, of the previous night are erased from the pages of my journal. Even the pen marks on latter pages from the frenzied pressure of my writing are mysteriously smoothed away as though I’d just bought the journal that day. I tried sneakily writing other non-visitor related journal entries into the journal alongside but those stay. They are still intact and unaltered save for the new spacing between entries. And this I find extremely uncomfortable, there are no spaces between entries where the redacted portions should lie. I did start writing them on note pads at work and then hiding them around the apartment, but when I would go back to check, they too were blank. It wasn’t like they were torn or burnt or stolen, they were still there, but all my writing had been dissolved from existence. I started dictating into my voice recorder a few nights ago but when I uploaded them to my laptop the files consisted of lengthy swells of the hiss and crackle of angry static. The visitor doesn’t appear when my girlfriend spends the night. For awhile, she stayed regularly but after three consecutive nights of silence, well relative silence, it made me anxious that I was possibly squandering an incredible opportunity. Even if it was only to discover that I am in fact completely fucking bat shit, off my rocker, straight jacket donned, mouth guard drooling, padded room destined, tinfoil headed insane! I really hope that’s not the case. He, well, I think it’s a he. He looks like a he but I don’t know, maybe he’s a shape shifter and this form is least traumatic for me like that being from Carl Sagan’s book Contact. But yah, he had never told me his name before last night and I’d written it down but this morning, of course, it no longer existed. I think it was something like Ananna or Naner or something. I remember picturing a Banana when he said it but he did say that the name he gave me was his true name but that others have called him many different things over the years. And from what he’s been telling me in his visits it been a pretty significant span of years over which he’s been visiting. < that sounded wrong. I would go back and reword that but fuck it, it’s going to be erased by tomorrow morning anyways, right? Why should I believe that tonight would be any different? So yah, fuck editing. About a week ago he told me that “the Gods are Returning” but that I shouldn’t be afraid. Most of the first visits were spent in terrified silence just staring at the figure in my dark bedroom and listening to him speak to me in an accent unlike anything I could ever articulately describe. Gradually and with timid apprehension, I began to shift the visitors monologue to dialogue. But some of the stuff he told me, Jesus. I mean, I totally understand, if it’s true, why he would erase all the pages. It was this Gods returning business that kinda freaked me out. Tonight I asked him about it again and he kept asking me questions instead. We watched another episode of Full House together. He shares my fascination (arguably a fixation) with the 90s. We actually watched most of the series together already. Has he been visiting me that long? Anyway, last night he actually brought two others and I wasn’t at all prepared for that. The one friend was also male, I guess, and looked like he could’ve been the visitor’s brother. But the other friend was breathtakingly gorgeous. I mean, how can I express this without sounding incredibly clichéd or superficial or whatever. People have been trying to describe the traits of the most “beautiful woman in the world” since there have been women in the world, but this . . . she can’t even be described in words. The three of them told me that this was the last night before the “Return of the Gods”. The beautiful woman expressed to me through a silent exchange that I could feel inside my head that I shouldn’t be afraid. They’re not coming for us. No citizens would be harmed. Their kind had been the former rulers of Earth after they’d colonized the planet, a sort of Planetary Mining operation, looking for mono-nucleic gold that their civilization used partly as a power source and as an ingredient for their secret to longevity. They were the builders of all the Pyramids and the other great Ancient Wonders attributed to early humans. Actually, and the deadpan way the other male visitor explained this to me still chills me even as I’m writing, he said that human beings were actually genetically created cheap labour by mixing their DNA with the an earlier hominid primate. The humans though vastly outnumbered their visiting rulers and an opportunistic ruler betrayed his fellow . . . oh fuck, they never told me what they were just that they were who created us I guess. Maybe I should’ve asked. But I was still reeling from the second male’s nonchalant reaction to having utterly destroyed my entire framework of reality. So yah, this opportunistic . . . one of them . . . decided to incite a human revolt against the visitors and offered them assistance under the condition that he and those visitors of his choosing would stay around the rule in their stead. The betrayer destroyed the hyperspace tunnel connecting Earth to their Home World and so his race was marooned on Earth after the Evil . . . FUCK I should’ve asked what they were called, anyway they were stranded here after the revolt. Outnumbered they hid themselves and their knowledge of the true history of Earth, for centuries popping up here and there when they’re needed and then promptly murdered by those in power. Who according to the three strangers were actually still the betrayer and those of his kind that had aligned themselves with him. All the leaders and the influential people are human beings, yes, but they are all in those positions because they have sworn an allegiance to the Betrayer. That part made a lot of sense in the moment but I don’t know. That’s a lot of people to keep quiet if you’ve conscripted people to appear like they’re controlling things but are actually the middle men. I feel like someone would’ve talked at some point . . . unless they don’t know any of this information and are just “following orders”. I don’t know. But there was more. They said that the Gods are almost here and that they are benevolent and will treat us with kindness and respect. I brought up that slave labour thing and they said it wasn’t slave labour, it was cheap labour. And apparently not the cheap labour we’re used to when the mental image pops into our heads. Apparently the continent of Africa is very different then we’re being led to believe and that if we looked more closely there we’d find more answers but we’re constantly being fed terrifying reasons why we should steer clear of a lot of Africa. But anyway, just before they left they explained the reason it took so long for the Gods to return. Since the hyperspace tunnel was destroyed they had to once again make the journey to Earth the conventional way before they could construct a new hyperspace tunnel to once again reconnect Earth with their home world. Kinda Star Gate-y and at the time I was accepting that as a confirmation that I was actually insane and in a Mental Institution day room somewhere watching an edited for TV version of Star Gate while the other patients around me drooled into straight jackets.
OH HOLY FUCK! Today’s early morning entry was not erased when I came to check! But, I also awoke to fins every piece of electronic equipment in the entire apartment inert and silent. I wonder … if the last journal entry is still here then that means that maybe this one won’t disappear either. I remember something else! I remember the names they gave me before they left. The visitor finally told me his name. He said most people called him Thoth but that his real name was Nannar. Kinda like Banana I guess. Not quite. The guy he came with was named Utu and the [I’m not even going to try and describe how beautiful she was] woman was named Inanna. Holy Fuck!! It didn’t get erased. Now I just have to remember all the other crazy shit he told me during our visits.
research source for my Short Story idea:
Chapter 3 – The Theft of the Daggar
The Daggar of Absolom had begun to hum the moment Jax had taken it from the pedestal. The glowing was something new though. That had only started after he’d left the Spriton clan territory and entered the Swamp of Sog.
While the rest of the clan was celebrating the addition of his older brother, Jek, to the Spriton brotherhood, the order of warriors, Jax had snuck away in search of Rel.
Jek had never seen war, but then again neither had most of the citizens in the Spriton capitol. Only his uncle Rel had ever known what war truly was. Yes, the Woodland and Spriton Gelflings despised one another, but only Rel had witnessed any violence.
Jax couldn’t understand why the Spriton’s would need an army if they never fought. And it angered him that when one of their own needed them they celebrated instead. Rel had not returned home for almost seven blinks of the Rose Sun. At his old age he must be in trouble, or lost, or worse. Everyone seemed to shrug it off as unimportant and immersed themselves in the decadent celebration that signaled yet another Spriton boy had become a man of the brotherhood.
No one was even guarding the daggar when he went to take it. At first he’d just wanted to address the council of the Dark Woods for guidance and reassurance that Rel was not in danger. He had been one of the strongest and bravest of the brotherhood, but that was long long ago. Instead, Jax arrived to find the chamber still and soundless. At least until he removed the daggar, that’s when the hum began.
Jax stared at the now daggar as the light it cast off drove shadows from the swamp around him. The bark of the weedtrees that lined the path pulsed with pale blue light as he passed, journeying deeper into Sog.
“Rel?” he called out into the blackness beyond the reach of the daggar’s light. “Rel, it’s Jax. Are you okay? Do you need help?”
Jax was four cycles of the Greater Sun away from becoming part of the brotherhood. Well, three and three-quarter cycles as of the last pass of the middle moon. Though seeing how disinterested they were in Rel’s wellbeing he didn’t think the brotherhood was one to which he’d ever wish to belong. It had been almost an entire triad of dark and light since he’d left with the humming, and now glowing, daggar. Two of which were spent still within Spriton territory. Part of him wished that the Order of Warriors would follow after him. That was why he’d gone slower than he would have, something he was now regretting. The time he’d wasted dragging his feet might have put Rel in more danger. He was aware of his slow pace through the Swamp but that was more fear than any voluntary action on his part.
The Swamp of Sog was the womb of terrifying monsters that he’d been warned of again and again.
The Daggar of Absolom began to hum louder with an added nauseating resonance that made his teeth tingle. The weapon’s pulsing blue light shone brighter and lit up more and more of the swamp with each buzzing swell. Around him, the night gurgled and spat stinking plumes of thick mist. The smell was unlike anything he’d encountered. It was so strong it was attacking his thoughts and overpowering his senses. His whole body felt heavy like something was filling him, adding to himself and maybe even taking him over. It was the smell of the swamp. He was sure of it. The light continued to pulse and Jax gripped the hilt of the humming blade tighter in his hand. He used his other hand to press the fabric of his sleeve tightly against his nose. The coughing fit leapt out of nothingness and struck him like a Land Strider hoof to his chest. He couldn’t breathe behind his sleeve, but the scent of the swamp was viscous and heavy and oppressive. It felt like every breath was not a breath but a swallowing of liquid Sog.
He tried to think of something, anything to get his mind off of the taste of the swamp. He tried breathing only through his nose but the liquid air engorged with the stench slithered into his nostrils, scraping along the hairs. It burrowed deeper inside him before dropping down into the chasm that fell away into the larger expanse just before his throat where it rested on the flesh of his tongue.
The fortified walls, his tightly pursed lips and gritted teeth, defending his tongue and taste buds were all for naught. The sneaky liquid scent had circumvented them all the same.
The Siege of Ebrie!
Even old Rel’s hot, sour breath would have been sweetly fragrant aside the swamp. Jax remembered that fled his mouth through the rotted bars of green teeth would have been sweetly fragrant when compared to this noxious swamp. Rel had cackled on through the incomplete cage of teeth about the adventures and terrors from a time now at the mercy of his degrading memory. The time of reverence and respect for the heroic Blue Knight had long ago given way to dismissive and disdainful tolerance. No one believed his stories anymore.
No one but Jax.
He remembered the story of the Siege of Ebrie. Rel would sit by the flames of his hearth and Jax would intently experience Rel’s stories from a meditation mat on the floor.
I’m working on a 7,000-10,000 word short story for the Dark Crystal – author’s quest contest. Here is the first chapter.
The world was indeed darkening. It stretched further past the plain of Skarith at a far faster pace than she had hoped; than she had feared. Even the wise urRu Ritual Guardian, urZah, had not foreseen the extent to which the blight was raking its brittle, dusty fingers across their world. It had reached the Gnarled Stonetree.
The Gelfling sighed. Maybe urTih had miscalculated. Though she couldn’t blame her teacher. It was her responsibility to gather and compile knowledge about the putrid darkness consuming Thra. When she’d left the Vapra clan’s ancestral city in search of the Valley of the Mystics she was called Kin. Her journey traced across the world to the east where she was to train with the urRu alchemist, urTih. Spending her adolescence under the guidance of her mentor, Kin grew into Kyn’ae, the Gelfling Alchemist of clan Vapra.
Newly reborn, Kyn’ae assumed something had gone wrong. She did not feel any differently than before the naming ritual and the supposed completion of her training with the urRu. She still felt like Kin. Worse actually. In fact, she felt less confident and less capable the more she thought about it.
Staring out at the withering black limbs and cancerous knots that dotted the skin of the Gnarled Stonetree, Kyn’ae wished that the Vapra Elders could’ve chosen another to train with the urRu. Of course, Kyn’ae knew that there was no other. The next Vapra Alchemist was always the daughter of the last.
Her failure ate at her insides. She resentfully cradled the knowledge that the Vapra Elders would receive her in silent disappointment upon learning her charged task remained incomplete.
Mother left only to train, she thought through gritted teeth.
The hallow wind whistled as it spit grains of dust across the skin left exposed by her alchemists robes; robes she felt unworthy of.
Mother had gone away expected only to return as the next Gelfling Alchemist of the clan Vapra. Ky’nae, however, was laden with the added trial of revealing the name and meaning of the growing darkness that leeching out from its seat in the plain of Skarith.
Ky’nae felt the crippling responsibility that pressed down on her for the nameless blight yet remained so. She had begun to wonder if the force that stalked her world always remain so discouragingly inarticulate in its purpose, so frustratingly undefined in its substance. All this was regardless of her own impassioned efforts and those of the Mystics with whom she’d spent so many years.
Her thoughts were so loud that she almost didn’t notice there was an unfamiliar signpost thrust into the dry ground. It marked the path to the Swamp of Sog to the North, the Caves of Obscurity to the South, and Claw Mountain to the West, and the Valley of the Mystics pointed back the way she’d come. Someone must have erected the markers recently since when Kyn’ae had been Kin she had to rely on deciphering the clues embedded in the bark of the Gnarled Stonetree, which was the purpose of the ancient tree, to reveal her desired path. She stepped closer to the Stonetree and touched the twisting, arthritic black bark with her slender white fingers. Her fingertips burst with a bright empathic ache that shone a dull red. The throbbing glow, while to her was almost too much, only revealed the faintest expression of the true pain the blight was causing her world. Even so, that subtle and incomplete awareness was more than enough to jolt her hand back sharply. She cradled it near her racing heart.
Kyn’ae said some words of healing that urIm, the Healer, had taught her and the red glow shifted from a dull throbbing to a soft radiant blue that hummed with a restorative benevolence before fading completely, leaving her fingers warm and once again white. Her words had also begun to heal a patch of the Stonetree’s bark which glowed a prestine grey, the way it had been when she’d first encountered it all those years ago.
Kyn’ae was mesmerized by the division around the grey spot where it met the charcoal black of the blighted bark. Charged with the blue energy of urIm’s words of healing, the division looked to her like a defensive wall holding back the black blight. The blue barrier crackled and sparked and she saw it was trying to expand over the blight, to dispel it and restore the Gnarled Stonetree.
As the blue barrier expanded outward along the trunk she saw a solitary triangle and she remembered.
The symbol shot through her guilt and pessimism and exposed the faintest glow of hope. But, faint as it was, it was indeed hope. The blue barrier expanded further and revealed yet another triangle that encapsulated the first, only this one was oriented the inverse of the other.
“The shape of the sacred,” Kyn’ae whispered to the nothingness in the dry air.
As the glowing blue barrier continued to stretch out along the skin of the Gnarled Stonetree, she counted seven triangles. Each one fit inside the other. Each one larger than the one before, and each rotating between upright and upside-down, each regressing until the last disappeared completely from view.
Originally, these markings were left to guide wanderers to safety. For Kyn’ae (then Kin) it was meant to lead her to her education in the Valley of the Mystics. But fate had imbued the markings with an added purpose for Kyn’ae, and her alone. The markings had sparked her consuming fascination that remained unnamed until urSu viewed what she had simply been calling curiosity. She was in fact searching for the knowledge of shape and form. A quest that had only ever been undertaken once before and which the Mystics had assumed had ended long long ago. Incomplete then and impossible if ever attempted again.
When she’d first seen the retreating triangles as Kin, something flashed inside her mind in such a profound and visceral way that could never be articulated in such a feeble and coarse manner as speech. Not even when she recounted her experience with Master urSu through dream fasting could she even attempt to pay the revelation the importance it commanded.
How does one even express in words such a moment?
The experience had seemed to encompass years of Kin’s young life, staring with unfocused yet tautly alert eyes at the markings yet only seconds had passed in truth.
UrSu had connected with her frequently during the course of her training in hopes of gleaning more insight into her experience with the interconnectedness of shape and form. She’d wondered then as Kin, and now again as Kyn’ae, the Gelfling Alchemist of clan Vapra, whether the increasingly smaller triangles really vanished at all or if they continued off in an invisible state of unendingly smaller and smaller shapes.
She remembered urTih’s expression when she’d first inquired about that possibility. She’d smiled at his straining to remain somber and calculating, but his eyes betrayed him.
“You speak of the twins and their quest for the shape of the sacred,” urTih had said after a prolonged and controlled silence.
There was a loud, angry pop that jolted Kyn’ae back further from the Gnarled Stontree. Its black bark sizzled and smoldered sending acrid plumes of opaque smoke rising up around the edges of the blue barrier. It floated up through the rigid black fingers of the Stonetree’s branches, escaping into the hoarse screech of the winds above its enormous bulk.
The blight was pressing back.
The blue glow sparked violently in opposition to the blights counter-offensive as it reasserted its dark possession over the old tree. Very quickly the bright markings that had filled her with the faint, but encouraging hope she so desperately needed, the triangles were once again swallowed by the sinister black bark.
She felt the dull red pain again but when she examined her fingers they were still the white, slender fingers of a Gelfling woman of the Vapra clan.
The twins. Kyn’ae stared long at the aged and wind beaten signpost jutting out from the ground.
It may have been a tired, resentful, and discouraged mind grasping out for the delicate, immaterial strands of hope floating just beyond her fingers, but regardless of hope’s legitimacy, it was still hope and it glowed a bright benevolent blue that charged her with optimism and purpose.
She smiled and turned to follow the marker that pointed north, toward the hope she’d already convinced herself was a tangible and knowable thing. A thing that waited silently to be recovered from its womb in the Cave of the Ancients beyond the Silver Sea.
this is another excerpt from the third novel in the ouroboros trilogy: the Watchers.
I could see the hospital in front of me from his place amid the charred casings of what had once been cars. Rubble and other random debris lays strewn about, ejected from buildings that surrounded the city street. Festering bodies layered the street so completely that in places it was hard to make out the black asphalt underneath.
My detached awareness felt the incredible eeriness being surrounded by so much death. Although, my awareness realized that the body attributed an apathetic normality to the scene. Something is very wrong here, wherever it is. I realized, huddled behind the nearest blackened shell of what may have at one point been a Honda Civic, that this was Winnipeg.
“What are we waiting for?” A blonde man behind me fidgeted impatiently, “The hospital is right there, why don’t we just-“
“Wait,” Another person brought a hand up to silence the man, “I don’t like this.”
How many other people were in my group? I couldn’t remember what lead up to the moment I was in. I didn’t really recognize any of the people, but the body I was in was treating them as friendly.
“Who put you in charge anyway?” The blonde man stood up and walked further into the street.
The other man called after the blonde man but he was already halfway to the lobby of what they’d said was a hospital. It kinda looked like Health Sciences Centre.
The blonde man stepped gingerly through the mass of dead bodies that blanketed the city street. After he’d gone more than thirty steps, the man turned to wave the other members of the party to join him.
A woman with a pale sickly face leaned against the blackened car frame, looking as though she was constantly fighting sleep. She was putting pressure on a wound somewhere on her stomach and her blood soaked clothes around her torso denoted the urgency with which she needed treatment. I looked past the injured woman and into the eyes of the redhead beside me; the final member of our expedition party.
“Don’t!” I shook his head, sternly.
Her face was covered in dirt, and her once lustrous, fiery red hair was dull and matted.
Her piercing grey eyes, which had once (as the body I was in remembered as I observed him) shone with a brilliant exuberance, were now murky and listless. Experiencing that he (this body) had, and seeing what he’d seen, his body knew that its own eyes had also lost whatever semblance of soul they may have once had.
“Are you coming or what?” the blonde man yelled to him.
I turned to glare at the man.
Didn’t she know that there were others out here? My apprehension caused the body to gritted its teeth. (Or maybe the body gritting its teeth was what caused the apprehension) The body remembered the Others that wouldn’t hesitate to murder us for whatever supplies they think we have on us?
<<Had he so soon forgotten the man at the convenience store, naked and decapitated with his meager belongings strewn out beside him?>> the body’s mind thought.
Is that what the blonde man wants to happen to us? My awareness wondered.
The redheaded woman stepped out from behind the Honda Civic and carefully navigated through the morbid obstacle course towards the blonde man who had almost reached the other side.
“Come back,” I whispered sternly, or maybe we both whispered simultaneously. I was just as concerned as the body I was in was for her.
Suddenly I was opened to her awareness and the thoughts spiraling around her panicked mind. She was anxiously stepping closer to the blonde man, closer to the Hospital and, hopefully, the medicine her husband so desperately needed. She felt a weird, uneven consistency underneath her feet and realized that she was standing on one of the bodies’ hands.
She could feel the clamminess of the upward facing palm on her bare foot and it made her entire body erupt in a violent shudder which I could feel with a surprising intensity. As she anxiously tried to reposition herself, she caught her ankle in the crook of a heavily decomposed elbow and she fell face down into the heap of rotting flesh and exposed entrails. She touched the gore with her slender fingers and a foul sensation tore through her. She moved her arm, but wherever else she put it she still made contact with cold, dead skin and wet, gooey innards.
She screamed and flailed around, madly.
The other body, my original body, called over at the blonde man as quietly, yet forceful, as he could: “Go help her!”
The blonde man scoffed and turned away, continuing towards the hospital.
“You fucking asshole,” the body muttered under its breath before I could. The more I watched the body the more I felt a growing connection and affection. I hate it when I’m in a body that behaves in ways that conflict with my moral alignment. I find it wonderful when the awareness is benevolent.
Standing up, his body readied itself to go out and assist her and my segmented awareness that was feeling her terror amid the limp and decaying bodies.
He tried to calm himself down, and I tried to help him. I sent the body calming and supportive energy from the seat of my detached awareness while doing the same for the woman the body was speeding towards. We saw the redhead was taking in deep breaths and trying not to think of the charred bodies around her as having once been alive.
<<Mannequins>> She tried to make herself believe. <<Yes, these were only mannequins>>
Something in her brain clicked over and she was suddenly able to see everything at once. She connected up to me. I didn’t think that was possible. And it frightened me. They shouldn’t be able to do that.
All the bodies, all the wounds, and then it became instantly obvious to her; painfully, horridly obvious; to both of us.
“Go back,” we shouted at the man and the other part of myself.
The bullet tore through her head snapping it forward with a force that threw her to the ground. The violent burst shot me out of her now disabled awareness and rejoined with the other fragment in the body of the other man.
Bits of bone, brain and clumps of matted red hair spayed the bodies behind her as she landed; another body added to the collection amassed in front of the Hospital.
Only 7 more days until the end. Current word count is at 41,347. Only a little more to go to hit 50,000! Let me know what you think.
A couple uncovers a burial chamber while spelunking in one of the many unexplored caves in China. The chamber is filled with skeletons that have large fungal cones pressing out from their skulls. They don’t realize they’re already infected by spores of a cordyceps fungus. When they get back home to Winnipeg, it’s already too late. The infection spreads. The novel follows various people: two struggling musicians, an army vet returning to Winnipeg for his estranged father’s funeral, a disgruntled daytime soap actress, a first-grade teacher and his 4 year old daughter, and a no-nonsense religiously inclined data entry clerk, a womanizing general practitioner, and a voluntarily homeless person living in the a tent in the Assinaboine Forest. The story follows the characters as each tries to get out of the city to the wilderness while attempting to avoid the infection, the infected, and the most dangerous of all, other human beings.
Tressa felt really warm. It was an uncomfortable, bright heat that radiated out from inside of her. She could feel the waves of heat wobbling away as they left her body. She’d finished the slurpee and had sat down to watch the television but she never turned it on. She was focused on the feeling of the buttons in her sweaty hands. The buttons shone with a glistening oily sheen that made Tressa feel sick. When she looked up, the room had taken on new and frightening properties that she wasn’t before aware of. The walls were emitting subtle sparks that burst soundlessly into existence and then out again. She found herself breathing rapidly and she could feel her heart thudding against her ribs. They seemed to ring out every time her heart slapped against them. It was a weird amalgamation of sound and texture. She could feel some of the sound waves as they reverberated back into her body. Though not all of the waves reflected back. No. She could see some of the waves drift away from her, diluting into the sparks popping in and out of reality.
She stood up but instantly became aware that her consciousness was a few seconds ahead of her body. In her mind she was already standing, but her body was sluggishly following afterward.
Her mouth was dry and she could feel her rough tongue scraping against her frighteningly porous teeth. There were large holes in her teeth that seemed to snag her dry tongue. She didn’t stop doing it though. Instead, it made her to want to do it more. And the more her tongue scraped along her teeth the more anxious she became. She leaped up off her chair. She wanted to run to the bathroom to check her mouth to see what the fuck was wrong. Her legs wouldn’t move. She stared down at them and saw them waving back and forth at odd angles.
Tressa collapsed back down.
Her limbs felt heavy against the armrest. Their colour was bleeding into the colour of her shirtsleeves.
She screamed again. Tears were racing down her flushed cheeks.
“What’s going on?” she was sobbing. “Jesus, what’s . . . what’s happening?”
There was a light radiating from her middle dresser drawer. The one she kept the Bible in.
Her tears felt like candle wax against her cheeks. Her whole body shook. She stared impotently at her kneecaps, trying to will her legs to move. It was her left hand, though, that finally pushed her off the armrest and up into a standing position. Her body seemed to move on its own. She watched it lurch toward the dresser and pull open the drawer. Her arms looked unrealistically long and thin as they reached out to open the Bible. The light continued to bleed out from the book. She could feel the weight of the light against her face and neck. The feeling was accompanied by a dull warmth that pressed against her.
The sound of the pages grating against one another attacked the insides of her head as she flipped through the Bible. Her hand stopped at Luke and she began reading:
14 Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed.
15 But some of them said, “By Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.” 16 Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.
17 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. 18 If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul. 19 Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 20 But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
21 “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. 22 But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.
23 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
24 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”
27 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”
28 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
“What are you doing?”
The voice was bright but forceful and seemed to be coming from inside her head. She looked around the room to see where the voice was but all she saw was Boodle.
“Boodle, sweetie. Stay away. Mommy’s sick.”
Tressa could sense the presence of someone else in the room but there wasn’t. Not anything that she could see.
And then her whole body tensed.
There were suddenly thoughts in her head. But foreign thoughts. Thoughts that seemed to be coming from somewhere else. They blended with the chatter of anxiety in her own mind and kind of harmonized; two distinct and separate columns of thought that ran parallel to one another. Hers were expressed in worried words that dribbled onto her brain but the other, the other seemed to be expressed as disconnected, rudimentary cognition, as if it were just only now discovering that it could think and that it could reason.
Her legs began to move again and she found she was heading over to the bathroom. Her hand flicked on the light and she stared into her reflection in the mirror.
The other in her head laughed.
For a while it seemed like they were trying to one-up each other with the intensity of their laughter. One ringing out in the tight confines of the bathroom, the other reverberating about inside her skull. Tressa’s throat tightened as she stared into her reflection and saw a large Cheshire cat-like smile growing on her face.
Growing and growing.
It wasn’t stopping. Her smile just kept getting large and larger, and curling up the sides of her face, maniacally.
Kit jumped up on to the counter and stared at her.
“You must resist, Tressa.”
She could feel the other in her head poking around inside her brain.
<<Cat>> It thought. <<Kit>>