Monday, September 17, 2012

A Reading from the Sacred Text of a Lost Universe

Aael, the All Knowing, Ever Present. The One that is All, the Cosmic Omnisoul, Source of all Power and Majesty.  

Azel, the Malevolent, the burrowing Undersoul, Source of all Temptation and Ruin.

The Celestia, Children of Aael, Bringers of Wisdom, Arbiters of Divine Justice.

Among the people will come Saints, the Hands of Aael, sacred Instruments of the Divine.

From the people will be chosen Prophets, speaking with the Voice of Aael, blessed Messengers of Divine Truth.

At the last will come the Messiah, to save
the World from the Greatest Evil


Praise Aael, it is said, from Her Love is born Creation.  Fear Aael, it is said, for in His Wrath is found Destruction.

Defy Azel, the Wise admonish, for the Dark One brings only ruin and death.

Heed the Celestia, we are told, as They come from above to be Teachers among the people, so all might know and be wise.

Lend always your ear to the Prophets, and at their feet be shown the future.

Offer your hand to the Saints, they will lead you in service to the One.

Look toward the Coming of the Messiah, when all shall be granted Salvation.


Before the Beginning, in the Nul-Time, when all was naught but semi-real waveforms of collapsing probabilities, several waveforms collapsed into each other, creating Energy, from which came Aael, Mother of Time, Father of Space.  From Aael came the Universe, and from the Universe came the World, with the World giving rise to the people.

From Aael came forth the Celestia, the Divine Offspring.  The Star Children sent down to the people with Knowledge and Wisdom.  For a time, only those deemed Wise by the Celestia were granted Knowledge.  And so for that time, life was good.  Knowledge was tempered with Wisdom, and the people lived in Peace, content to follow the Wise, in service to Aael’s Plan.  

But, Azel the Vile, Azel the Contemptuous, Azel the Unholy, stole the secret Knowledge from the Celestia, giving it to all the people, Wise and fool alike.  Knowledge without Wisdom brought chaos to the lands of the people.  The Celestia hunted Aael’s Shadow for eons, at last imprisoning the Dark One on a broken copy of the World in a broken copy of the Universe.

Aael sent the Celestia among the Wise, empowering some as Saints, enlightening others as Prophets.  And they in turn were sent out among the people, in the hope they might spread Wisdom that would once again temper Knowledge.

Many of the people saw them as threats, come to take away the fruits of their Knowledge, while others saw them as Gods in their own right, and began to worship them.  Few among the people actually accepted the Wisdom they’d been offered, most preferring the comforts of Faith and Fear.  After a time, some among the Saints and Prophets spoke less of service to Aael, and more of service to themselves, forgetting their oaths and allegiances in favor of their pride.  As worshippers flocked to them, great cities and nations rose in their name, and these would-be Gods became Kings and Queens among the people.  Those Saints and Prophets who held true to their oaths were killed, their own followers martyred, the first to fall in the Wars of the Divine Kingdoms.

Great armies of the people clashed in bloody service to the God Kings, whole cities destroyed by the order of Divine Queens, and so great was the horror, so terrible the chaos engulfing the World, Aael sent the Celestia against them, to strip them of their prophetic visions and miraculous powers.  But the power of the Divine Royals was too great, the devotion of their followers too strong.  The Celestia were struck down, their bodies desecrated so the Divine Royals could strip more power from their corpses.

And so, with a Wrath that shook the very firmament of Creation, Aael cast Judgement upon those who had defiled their Divine Gifts.  The World split asunder, fire rained down upon the land, and all were swept before a great burning flood.


For one hundred times one hundred generations, the World lay desolate and lifeless, until at last the Fury of Aael cooled, and life began again upon the World.  Soon, the people rose up from the beasts once more.  This time, there were no Celestia sent among them with Knowledge and Wisdom, no Saints and Prophets to guide them.  Aael wanted no part of the people this time, removing them entirely from the Plan, and so they were left to find what knowledge they could on their own.  

But in the rage and fury of the War, all had forgotten Azel.  When the Wrath of Aael had fallen upon the World, the very walls of the Dark One’s otherworldly prison shook hard enough to crack.  As the Wrath cooled, and all lay bare, Azel crawled out of the dying Universe and into the World.  Azel was waiting when life returned again, hidden even from Aael, the All-Seeing.  And when the World gave rise to the people once more, Azel was there to greet them.  It was then, in their infancy, when the people were still little more than beasts, that they were granted the fullness of the Knowledge Azel had stolen. Savagery met Knowledge bereft of Wisdom, and all was engulfed by War.  The people very nearly broke the World before killing themselves to extinction, and it was many hundreds of centuries before the World would give rise to the people again.


It was in this time between time that Aael directly confronted Azel, igniting a War that set fire to the very Universe itself.  It was a War that lasted the lifetime of a star, and one that ended with Azel the Malevolent chained to the heart of a spiral galaxy, far out at the edges of Entropy.


At the third rising of the people from the World, a new breed of Celestia were sent to guide them, dispensing Wisdom and Knowledge to all who could learn.  As the people grew, and their civilization flourished, Saints and Prophets were once again sent among them, but these were made to pay for the sins of their forebears.  Among the people, it is forbidden for any to worship a Saint or a Prophet as they would Aael.  Among the Wise, it is forbidden for any Saint or Prophet to accept such worship, under pain of death.  Further, no Saint or Prophet may serve as ruler of a city or nation, acquire wealth, or even own property, lest they find themselves powerless.  Saints and Prophets exist solely on the charity of the faithful, the price paid for the power they wield.

But even these commandments were not enough to curb the pride and ambition of some. Saint Moragh of North Telladd and the blind Prophet Riya’el, raised an army of the dispossessed and laid siege to the holy city of Beraat, for forty days and nights.  As it was not forbidden for Saints and Prophets to lead armies, and since neither owned property, nor received worship, they were spared the Doom of Aael.  But doom came to them at last, after a summer of bloody war and conquest, when their Beggars Army turned on itself, the ragged soldiers tearing each other to shreds before turning at last on their commanders.

It was then that Seraphel, First among the Celestia, Chosen of the One, Hand of Aael, descended among the people, delivering Aael’s new edict, prohibiting the taking of arms or raising of armies by the Wise.  From those remaining Saints and Prophets, Seraphel withdrew the Divine Gifts, announcing to all the people that Aael would bestow each Gift only once more, and never again upon the Wise.  Two from among the people were chosen, and from them would come the Last Prophecy and the Final Miracle.


It was many generations of the people before those Two came among them.  Some had begun to doubt Aael would grant Her Gifts again, while others proclaimed He had never existed at all.  The Wise had long fallen into corruption and vice, while Knowledge festered, Superstition growing from its rot.

In the distant province of Sheaal, a merchant awoke to the knowledge of what was yet to come.  He spoke of the Coming of the Messiah, born of Aael through a man and woman of the people, destined to save all from the Greatest Evil.  In the holy city itself, the Crown Princess of Beraat raised her beloved mother, the legendary Warrior Queen, from the dead.  The merchant was called mad by the people, and blasphemer, and was felled by a rain of stones.  The resurrected Queen was called abomination by the people, and her daughter branded a witch, and so both were burned alive in the center of town.  

And when the Messiah came, born of man and woman blessed by Aael, she came possessed of strength greater than that of a hundred strong men, with Knowledge long denied even the most venerable of the Wise, and a purity to rival that of the Celestia themselves.  She came among the people, speaking Prophecy and working Miracles, preparing the World for the coming of the Greatest Evil, when all the armies of the people would rise up behind her, to drive Evil from the World forever, and to restore order to the Plan of Aael.

But, from deep within the heart of a lonely spiral galaxy, far out at the edges of the universe, Azel plotted and planned.  Though bound, the Malevolent One was not powerless, and the dark spirit of Azel descended upon the cities of the people, slithering and oozing among the corrupt and debased, possessing those without the will to resist its temptations.  And so did the minions of Azel spread lies and half-truths about the Messiah, turning the people against their savior, stoking the flames of Superstition, dimming the light of Knowledge, so that the people knew not what was best and what was right, instead giving over their lives to indulgence and base lecheries.  The armies of the people disbanded, and the Messiah was left alone in the face of the Greatest Evil.

So the Messiah became wrathful, and went again among the people, and was known as the
Flame of Aael.  All who succumbed to the charms of Azel were cut down, and only the Righteous were spared, to be taken up to the Celestial realms in Salvation.  In the end, none remained.  The World was cleansed of the people, the Greatest Evil destroyed.  And Azel, the Deceiver, the Malevolent, wailed at the center of that lonely spiral galaxy, dying at last in the face of Aael’s Plan, finally come to fruition.

And in the death throes of Azel, that spiral galaxy imploded, pulling in the rest of the universe, so that all Creation collapsed into the Nul-Time, and all became naught but semi-real waveforms of collapsing probabilities.

And several waveforms collapsed into one another, creating Energy.

On Duty

Michael sat in the chair, feet up on the table, scrolling through a book on his phone.  He sipped his coffee and thumbed over to pause the song he was listening to.  He pulled out the earbuds and left them on the table with the phone as he rose from the chair.  Picking up a long cane, he moved to bar the narrow hall.

“You know you can’t, Gabriel,” he said.

“I will inspect all corners of Creation, Michael,” the primly-dressed angel said, tapping at a handheld device. He raised
his hand and said, "hold on," then pressed a finger to his ear.  “Hello? Yes, I’m in the southern wing, near the edge.  No, I haven’t.  I was just about to-- no, I just need to-- but you said-- yes, but you-- no, I-- no, sir.  No.  Okay, sir.  Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir.  I will, sir.”  He pressed his ear again, then tucked the handheld into his jacket.  “He said to tell you hello.”

Michael nodded.

Gabriel cleared his throat, looking around.  He took the handheld back out and tapped at it some more.  Then, “So, no issues or concerns to report?”

“Nope.  Everything’s fine.  Tell him thanks for the coffee and the phone.”

“Of course.”  A lengthy pause, then more tapping at the handheld.  “Well, I should be moving along, then.”


“Right.  Yes.  Well, keep up the good, um... hrm.”  Gabriel stared awkwardly at Michael a moment, then abruptly turned on his heel and walked away.

Michael stood a little longer.  He heard a soft tapping of footsteps in the hall behind him.  They stopped a few feet
from the entryway.

“You’re out of your room,” the archangel said, not turning around.

“Oh, stop it,” the devil replied, leaning against the wall.  “You enjoy these little visits.”

“I really don’t.”

“So send me to my room.”

Michael grinned and returned to his seat.  The devil remained where he was.  Michael removed the earbuds from his phone and plugged it into a slot in the table.  He tapped the screen and soft music began to play.  

“So I can stay?”

“It’s either let you hang around a while or call a few seraphim.”  Michael waved his hand dismissively, “and Gabriel is seraphim enough for one day.”  He took another sip of his coffee.

The devil sat on the floor of the hallway and leaned back against the wall.  He pulled a flask from his jacket and drank, then tucked it away.  “Gabriel really wants in here.  No one volunteers for Creation Census THAT many times.”

“That’s only because he doesn’t know what’s in there.”

“You don’t know all that’s in here, either.”

“I know enough.”

“I suppose.”

But, since you bring it up, how are things inside?” Michael asked.


“Need anything?”

“Plenty.  But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?”

Michael smiled.  “I guess it is.”

“Still,” the devil said, “thanks for asking.”

Michael nodded.  The devil took another pull from his flask.  As he put it away, he cleared his throat.

“Urm, I don’t know if I should say anything, but... well...”

“That pack of beezlebubs?”

“Yeah.  And they’ve got a few of the azazel with them.  They’re looking to break out.”

Michael grunted and tapped at his phone.  “Why tell me?” he asked.

“Because if they break out, I’ll have to break out,” the devil said.  “And if I break out, I’ll have to make another try for the throne.”

“And you don’t want to?”

“Heck no,” the devil said.  “You only have to get your ass kicked by God once.  But,” he sighed, “if it gets around that I’m afraid of God, then I lose control of Hell and I’m just another demon.  Or worse, I keep control of Hell but spend millennia fighting some wretched war against rebellious demon factions.  No,” he shook his head, “better they think I’d invade again in a second, if only you didn’t have the only way out sealed up tight.”  He shared a quick smile with his jailer, then stood.  “Well,” he said, “it’s time I turn in. Thanks for the conversation.  Next time he simpers by, tell Gabriel I said hi.”

“Of course.  Good night, Lucifer.”

“Good night, Michael.”

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Carnival Graveyard

It was dusk when the boy climbed up and over the chain-link fence, jumping down into the overgrown lot filled with rusted bumper cars, broken Ferris wheels, and other abandoned rides and attractions.  He looked around, then at the locked gate behind him, suddenly very aware of his surroundings, and of being surrounded.  He took a tentative step forward as the last wash of blue chased the last light of day to the horizon.  He shivered and rubbed his arms against the chill.  The day had been warm and sunny, requiring no more than a t-shirt, but unlike many nights that summer, when the heat of day far outlasted its light, as the sun went down today, it took all the day's warmth with it.  The sky was purple by the time he was halfway across the lot, the first stars of the evening casting little light on his gloomy surroundings.  He began to reconsider the worth of this short-cut.  After all, he still had the train station to cross before he reached the back fence of his apartment complex, and it occurred to him that perhaps it wasn't his best idea to try this for the first time at night.  It was as he was considering just turning around, hopping back over the fence, and taking the long way around to the front of the complex, that he heard the creak.

It was a loud creak.  Deliberate.  It had a sound that made it impossible for the boy to pretend it was just some loose metal swaying in the wind, or some pile of rusted metal settling.  No, this was--

He heard the creak again, this time louder, and much closer.  He spun around, willing to leap the fence in a single bound if necessary to escape this creepy old junkyard, but found the way blocked.  The battered remnants of three separate tilt-a-whirls lay strewn across his path.  To either side, towers made of rotting wooden gaming booths loomed over him.  There was another creak behind him, and as he turned, a pile of metal tent-poles clanged and clattered to the ground, forcing him toward the only open space left, a gap between the gaming booths and the tent-poles just large enough for a man to fit through.  He moved toward it, coming up short when a tall, thin man in a top hat and tails appeared in it.  The man walked silently toward the boy, a cold grin on his face, dead eyes meeting the boy's terrified gaze.  The boy shrank from the gangling dandy, backing into a woman.

He cried out in shock and jumped away.  The woman's main face smiled, the shriveled and dessicated infant face on the side of her head hummed and drooled and grinned stupidly.

"He's the barker," she said.  The boy jumped again, not sure if speaking made her more or less disturbing.  "You've probably never been to a carnival with a barker, have you?"

The boy shook his head.

"No.  Well, he won't talk," she said.  "Used to talk all the time.  Hell, that was his job, to get the rubes in front of the games or into the freak show.  I bet none of the carnivals these days have proper freak shows, either."

Another shake of the head.

"Right.  Anyway, the barker here, he never used to shut up.  Now, since he's here, he doesn't make a sound."

The barker loped up and put his hand on the boy's shoulder.  The boy began to shake, cold sweat breaking out across his forehead.

"Oh," she smiled wider, "he likes you."  Her dead infant face said, "buh" and giggled.

A magician stumbled out of the shadows.  He was drunk, with old sick and dried blood crusted on his filthy tuxedo.  He staggered over to the boy and vomited up a great number of colored handkerchiefs, which then hung there, tied together in long fluttering ropes all extending up and back down his throat.  He looked up at the boy and tried to speak, managing only guttural noises.  The boy's shaking intensified.

The barker put his other hand on the boy's other shoulder.  The boy felt something warm spread out from his groin and trickle down his leg.  It cooled quickly in the chilly night air and an acrid odor wafted off him.

The deformed girl laughed and her infant face giggled.  The magician laughed as much as he could with a mouthful of handkerchiefs.  The boy felt the barker shove him, and then he was face-down on the hard-packed earth of the lot.  The girl stood over him and pointed down to where he huddled in the dirt.

"You stink, pisspants!" she yelled.  The face of the dead infant cried "pisspants!"  The girl shoved him with her foot and he flinched.  "Don't be scared, pisspants," she said.  "There's nothing here to be scared of."

The barker walked over to the space between the old tent-poles and rotting gaming booths and held out his hand to escort a ragged, aging whore over the threshold.   A troupe of jugglers followed, dressed in torn, fraying tights and tossing a set of cracked bowling pins back and forth.  After the jugglers came the tumblers, three young girls and an older man.  The girls all had sunken eyes filled with fear and bruises on their arms.  The man wore a soulless grin and track marks.

"This is the Carnival Graveyard, boy," the girl explained, "filled with castoff entertainments and unwanted amusements.  We are dead and undying, eternal detritus of a faded era," she leaned over him, "from which we can never leave."  She smiled as the others gathered round.  "And now," she said, "neither can you."

"Well, look at that," she laughed and her dead infant face cackled, "it seems there is something to be scared of after all."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Man Who Broke Sunday

He appeared in the room, and it seemed he had always been there, but also somehow wasn’t there yet.  He flipped up his goggles and flipped open a small pocketwatch, studying it briefly.  With a snap, he closed it again, looking around.  “Well, I’ve done it,” he said.  “I made it as far as 1873.”  He smiled. “I made it past the 20th Century.”

“How inspiring,” a woman said from across the room.  He looked up, and saw her lying atop a made bed.  “Now please stop,” she said.


“Because you can’t travel through time,” she said, sitting up.  “Well, you can, obviously, and I do it all the time.”  She stood, though she leaned against one of the bedposts.  “But time takes things from you, when you travel through it.  It eats at you.”  She looked hard at him and he swallowed uneasily.  “But not you.  Time can’t touch you.”  She approached him slowly.  “You backflipped over an entire century and it cost you nothing.”

He cleared his throat.  “Well, I, um, I hadn’t realized that I...”

“You have a machine, I take it?”


She stood directly before him, holding his eyes with her own.  “I’ve known plenty of geniuses with machines, who ended up the way I am now, became what I’m becoming.  What’s so different about your machine?”

“N-nothing.  I mean, I...”  He looked down, then up again.  She was still staring at him.  “What... um, what are you becoming?”

She held his gaze a few more moments, then looked away herself.  He looked down again.  She was hard to look at.  She wasn’t always there, even though he knew she was.

“Living time, that’s what I’m becoming,” she said.  “I’m what’s left of all that time’s taken from me, over and over.”  She sighed, a weary sound.  “I can step from yesterday to tomorrow and exist simultaneously across myriad todays, but sometimes I forget my own name.”

“What is your name?”

A long pause, then a slight whimper followed by another sigh.  “I don’t remember.”


“I’ll tell you what I do remember,” she said.  “I remember another genius, with his machine.  From 500 years away to 1000 years ago and back again, he stomped across time like it was his backyard.  Eventually he got what was his.  Time ate his life, one year at a time, until there was nothing left of him but probability, a living deja vu, but not before his blundering about the past caused the death of my great-grandfather.  I should have ceased to exist,” she shrugged, “but instead I stepped outside of time, and when I stepped back in, I was years in the past.  I found I could move through time at will -with a bit of help, at first- and discovered the time traveler who’d caused all my problems.  I raced to the date he killed my great-grandfather, but even after I’d stopped him, time had changed enough that when I returned to my present, I found I was already there.  Though I existed in this new timeline, I also did not.  So, I left my other self alone and began to wander the timestream, each journey losing more and more of myself, until one day I’ll be little more than a living day of the week, or a sentient appointment in someone’s calendar.”  

“That’s horrible.”

She shook her head.  “You don’t get it.  Time has to do this.”  She fixed him a stern glare.  “Every time one of you idiots hops in his machine and goes wandering about outside the flow of history, time gets broken.  And the only way time can repair itself, is by using all the potential days in the life of a time traveler.”

“Which creates a sort of equilibrium.  A time traveler breaks time, then is cannibalized to fix what was broken,” he said.

She nodded.  “But you throw everything out of balance.  The more you travel, the more time will take from people like me, and once we’re gone, time will break even further, perhaps stop working altogether.  Every era in history will collide with one another.  Humanity will cease to exist, save for people like me, lost and wandering a broken timestream through eternal now.  Is that what you want?”

He rubbed the back of his head.  “Well, no.  No, not as such, but...”

“Please,” she said, “stop traveling.  Return to your era and stay there.  Time can still recover without too much...”

“No,” he said.  “No, I think I’m going to keep traveling.  I’m sorry, but this is my life’s work.  I can’t...” his face hardened.  “I won’t give it up.”  He pulled out his pocketwatch and clicked a small button.  Immediately he disappeared, though it was more like he was never there.

He rematerialized over a century later in that same room, next to the machine.  He flipped a few switches, pulled a lever and turned a few dials, reducing the whine of the time machinery to a low hum.

“Oh, I see,” she said, standing behind him.  “The machine acts as an anchor.  You stay tethered to it in your present, allowing you to remain within the flow of history, while at the same time removing yourself from it.  Clever,” she nodded.  She grabbed the back of his head and smashed his face into the side of the machine.  “A bit too clever.”  She pulled him back and took his pocketwatch, tossing it on the floor.  “Now, your tether’s been unhooked,” she said, “you should be fair game.  So, off you go!”  She shoved him, and he vanished, swallowed up by the timestream.

Only moments later, she vanished as well, and the room was quiet.  It was said that for years after, anyone attempting to spend the night in this room would be visited by dreams of every opportunity they'd ever let pass them by, and all the lost glories of their wasted potential.  

Few ever make it through the night.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

A Balanced Prophecy

Anne Price sat back in her chair among the Inner Circle. Before that august body stood a boy, power practically radiating off him. He was stronger with the Spark than any of the novices and Adepts she'd seen in her long years as a Paladin. The boy had been found on some planet in the Far Reaches by a Ronin and brought before the Circle. The Ronin, one Twilya Borensz, was speaking.

"Surely you see what I see," she said calmly. It was best not to lose one's temper in Circle chambers, though Anne observed the effort she made. This one has been wandering the path of the Ronin too long, she thought. It's past time for her to start the Paladin's road.

The Ronin persisted. "You must know what every Ronin and Paladin I met on the journey here knows. This boy is one of the Five Prophecies."

"Which?" asked a member of the Circle. "The Instrument of Balance or The Indefensible Victim?" Only two of the Five involved individual people, the rest pertained to groups or events.

"The Instrument," Twilya said, as though it were obvious. Anne studied the Ronin's young charge. He was older than the average novice, but not by much. His eyes held wisdom far beyond him and Anne could see, even without reading his thoughts, that he knew how the Circle would react.

Indeed, it was Thella Dars, ancient matriarch of the Circle, who said, "Though this boy may be the Instrument, the Victim or neither, he is not to be trained. He is far to old to begin."

"He doesn't need to start at the beginning," Twilya said. "Give him the Adept's Test. I say he'll pass and then he doesn't have to take the novice classes. I would also say he could have only minimum Adept training before he was taken by a Paladin--"

"You say, " the matriarch looked at the young Ronin sternly. Twilya swallowed and said nothing.

"I will tutor him, brethren," Anne said with a smile. "Child of Prophecy or no, he is powerful and should be trained. And I agree with Ronin Borensz. I'll need to see his scores on the Adept Test, but he shouldn't need the full four years. He's already old enough, he has the power and has presumably demonstrated ability. A solid grounding in the Tenets is all he lacks."

Another member of the Circle glared at her. "Paladins do not train Adepts, they take Squires. Only Masters may train Adepts."

"I sit within the Inner Circle," Anne said. "That entitles me to certain rights of Mastery."

The matriarch raised an eyebrow. "You are new to this Circle, Paladin Price."

Anne nodded. "So I am. Therefore, if any respected elder can provide a compelling argument against training an obvious prodigy, I will gladly withdraw my tutor's petition."

There was silence. A telepathic conference ensued, followed by the matriarch speaking. "Your petition is accepted. It will be recorded that you are this boy's tutor."

Anne offered a slight bow.

Later, Anne and Twilya walked through the bustling corridors of the Magi sanctuary. Novices and Adepts went about their lessons and duties, while Magi from Ronin to Master walked its halls.

"Thank you, Anne," she said. "I knew you would see his potential. If you had seen him, on his planet..." she smiled. "I was surrounded by tigerhawks, bleeding out from a gash across my gut. I was barely able to render basic thought-forms, my concentration was shot. I poured all my will into making myself indestructible, hoping I'd be able to keep the shields up long enough, when that kid came diving in out of nowhere. He was a blur - a blur with the strength of ten. He took down the most vicious predatory hybrids in the galaxy with nothing but his body and a metal staff."

"So he performed what any new Squire fresh out of their Adept's colors could do. He used the Spark to enhance his own physical attributes."

Twilya smiled. "How easy was that for you to learn, during your Adept training?"

Anne grinned. "Not very, I'll admit."

"Well this boy taught himself how to do that, and more beside."

"And discipline? Was he teaching himself that, as well?"

She shook her head. "He's more driven than disciplined. Which is why his training is so important, and why I'm so glad he has you to--"

"Did you tell him about the Fell?"

She scoffed at this. "Enough so he knew who they were and what they did. I didn't focus on them much. So few remain, it's unlikely he'll ever meet any, let alone have to face one."

Anne nodded and moved ahead to talk with the boy.

They walked in silence for a while.

"Did Ronin Borensz tell you what she thinks you are?" Anne asked at last.

The boy nodded.

They walked a while, not speaking again. Anne studied the boy. Then, with a grin, she reached out for a handful of the universe and used its energy to build a floating geometric shape from solid light. "What's your name?" she asked.

"Brin," the boy said. "Brin Darkstar."

"Darkstar," Anne repeated. "That's a Far Reaches name."

Brin nodded again. "Grew up on a cargo ship, running the old merchant spaceways with my family. We come out of the Colonies, generations back, but I spent some time on the Capitol worlds." He watched the spinning shapes -for there were more of them now- a look of awe on his face. "Will I learn to do that?"

Anne smiled kindly. "Soon enough. I'm to train you."

"You are?"

"I am. But there is testing to be done yet to decide where I'm to begin."


"Standard among the Magi, to determine placement within the Order." Anne waved the question aside. "But there is the matter of your Prophecy to discuss."

"So, you think I am..."

"The Instrument of Balance, yes."

"Well, that's good, isn't it? Ronin Borensz says it is." The thoughtforms danced and spun around him. He caught at them and grinned as they slipped through his fingers, grinned at the thought that the Paladin was making it happen, that someday he would make it happen. Maybe make other things happen.

"Balance is neither good nor evil," Anne said, her smile turning thoughtful. "That's really the whole point. My concern is how you’ll actually bring about this balance."

Brin looked quizzically over at the Paladin.

"You know the Fell, yes?"

"The Ronin told me. They use the Spark for evil, perverting the Magi way."

"Yes," Anne said, "that is the Fell, essentially. They have all the power of the Magi and none of the discipline, none of the control. They rose to power a thousand years ago, enslaved half the galaxy and slaughtered most of the other half. It took centuries to bring them down, but over those centuries we became so successful at hunting them, and cleaning up their collateral criminal activity, that the Magi have become the de facto law enforcement for most of the galaxy. Our numbers grow as the Fell diminish to nothing."

"But isn't that good?" Brin was confused. The thoughtforms pulsed and changed and moved slowly about his head.

"It is," Anne nodded. "I won't ever be truly happy until every last Fell is dead." She paused. "Which brings us back to the matter of the prophecy."

"I don't understand."

Anne stopped walking and turned to face Brin. "If you are to bring balance between the Magi and the Fell, then you're either going to make a great deal more of them or a great deal less of us." She favored the boy with a sympathetic smile. "I’m sorry Brin, but I'm afraid I find neither option terribly appealing."

"I don’t underst--hnk!" The Child of Prophecy's last words ended in a choked grunt as the brilliant shimmering shapes became deadly glittering spikes that drove simultaneously through Brin Darkstar's brain.

Three Masters of the Inner Circle approached, the matriarch among them. "What is this?" she demanded.

"A dead child, Masters."

"Why did you kill this boy, believed by many, including yourself, to be one of the Five Prophecies?"

"Masters," Anne bowed, spreading her hands in reverent supplication. "I humbly submit to you, that I only acted according to the will of the most venerated Prophets."

"The last of the Five Prophets rejoined the Spark over three thousand years ago," the matriarch said. "How do you presume to know their will?"

Still retaining her submissive posture, Anne smiled. "Most honored Masters, I would think it obvious," she said. "Balance between the Magi and the Fell would bring disaster upon our order, would it not?"

"While of course true, that is irrelevant," a Master scolded. "One does not seek to thwart a Prophecy. Would you do the same to the Indefensible Victim, were she found and brought before you?"

"As the Indefensible Victim is said to usher in the next age of barbarism, then yes, I would drive a spike through her brain as readily as I did this poor bastard." Anne was calm, standing and meeting the gaze of each Master in turn. "Truly, Masters, do you hold to dogma and ritual at the cost of all reason and sense? Can you not see the only logical course?" When she was met with silence, she turned and continued down the hall, throwing one final thought to her ancient brethren over her shoulder.

"What purpose should Prophecy serve," she said, "save to provide the means to thwart its outcome?"

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Broken Tomorrow of Josephine Sunday

Of course, Sunday wasn’t her real last name. People didn’t have days of the week for their last names, not real people.

But then, she wasn’t a real person any more, was she?

Josephine closed her eyes, willing her normal life - Josephine Watley’s normal life - to be there when she opened them. But no, it was just the same train station, the same bleached-out colors and insubstantial people. She flipped the hood of her ragged coat up over her head. It was starting to snow.

A few minutes later, the train pulled up. Josephine climbed the steps, turned right into a car, and sat against the window of a two-person seat. The car was nearly deserted, so she set her bag down next to her. The conductor approached.


She flashed her pass, and was putting it back in her bag when the conductor’s voice brought her up short.

“Hold it.”

She looked up.

“Let me see that.”

She handed up the pass.

The conductor scrutinized it. “Don’t normally see these stations on a pass.”

“Why is that?”

“Well, Tomorrow Station is a one-way trip. People usually buy single tickets for that one. And I didn’t think we even had service to Yesterday Station any more.”

She smiled. “I wanted my pass to be comprehensive.”

The conductor smiled back, returning the pass. “Where you headed?”

“Tomorrow Station is always where I’m headed, but I am unfortunately getting off long before then.”

“And where would that be?”

“I believe you're supposed to tell me.”

“Ah, right.” The conductor fumbled with a map, studying it. “ Let's see... ah. Here it is. You’ll want to get off on a Saturday afternoon in the spring of 1987.”

The train lurched and the conductor stumbled, then began stammering, looking quizzically at the map. “Um, what? No, I’m sorry. That’s ridiculous. You’ll want the West Idleston station. The one after next.”

“Thank you.”

“And I’m so sorry for that... um, whatever that was. I don’t even really remember...”

“Not at all.” Josephine smiled up.

“Must be one of those days.”

“It always is.”

The conductor walked on, and Josephine put her pass away, rummaging through her bag. She took out a small journal and began writing. She was finding it harder to put her thoughts on paper, but she forced herself to write at least two pages. She knew she would one day lose writing, just like she lost her proper name. Eventually, even Josephine would be gone and she’d just be Sunday, a living day of the week. After that she would become woven into spacetime itself, a barely sentient waveform of shifting probabilities.

Soon, the conductor announced West Idleston. Josephine put away her journal and zipped up her bag, slinging it over her shoulder as she left the train. Her phone rang and she answered it.


“Josephine, this is Calendar. Are you then?”

She looked around, had a good chuckle at some of the fashions on display, and said, “Spring. 1987. Feels like a Saturday.”

“Good. Now, where are you?”

“Town called West Idleston.”

“Perfect!” Josephine held her phone away from her ear. Calendar was still going on. “Dispatch got you on the right train for once. Okay, you want to get to a highway overpass about... three blocks from where you are.”

She started moving. “So how is visiting some overpass in 1987 going to help me stop being erased from existence?”

“Well, West Idleston was your grandfather’s home town, and you’re at the day after his junior prom,” Calendar said. “But, more importantly, it’s also the day he’s going to kill himself.”