Tuesday, January 08, 2008
"Mums! You know where the library is, right?" yelled Carl.
"Lllllllllllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeefffffffffffffftttttttttttttt heeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeee? Ooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrr Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiggggggggggghhhhhhhhttttttttt?" Mums intoned over the course of five minutes.
"Way back there?" asked Mortimer. "Should have been a left."
"Maybe you'd better let me drive?" asked Carl.
Mums obediently, if slowly, moved over.
"Alright, a U-turn takes us into the heart of the mob, so we're gonna have to go around the block. And you're gonna have to jump out, cause we can't afford to stop."
"Fair ze well, Mr. Mortimer," said the Count. "Until ve meet again."
And with that, Mortimer jumped out of the wagon and into the street, ducking in the library door just as the mob overtook him.
He took a minute to take in his new surroundings. The library was as dead as the last time he'd visited, and the old librarian was snoring at the desk. This time there was only one book. A History of the Third Age had not been reshelved, and The (In)complete Book of Ferret Recipes was gone. No, not gone, he realized as he glanced around the room. It was now being used under the leg of the single ratty armchair, making it only slightly less unstable.
In their place was a new book (new in the sense of not being there on his last visit; there was nothing new about it) entitled How to Raise and Train an Airborne Ungulate: An Owner's Guide. There was something off about it.
"Uh, hi." said Mortimer.
The librarian did not awaken.
"EXCUSE ME SIR!"
"Huh? Whu?" the man mumbled.
"I need to see that book again, A History of the Third Age. It's very important."
SLowly, the man reached for his spectacles, balanced them on his nose, and began thumbing through a huge ledger. Mortimer wondered what could fill a book like that in a library with a possible total of three books. Of course, it was possible that the library was merely so immensely popular that all the books were checked out and any given time.
"I'm sorry, sir. That title is checked out."
"What? I returned it only yesterday."
"That's right sir, and some men checked it out almost right after you left. They also donated a new book to the library. They said if you came back I should recommend it to you."
Mortimer turned around again and reached for How to Raise and Train an Airborne Ungulate: An Owner's Guide, with a sickened feeling in his chest. It couldn't be.
The book was merely a binding with a single piece of parchment inside. It said, in words cut and pasted from another book, "If you ever want to see THIS BOOK that you checked out or YOUR BELOVED PET (STeed) again, you'l come to [here a picture was inserted, a crudely drawn upside-down duck] at 10 on the 10th."
Mortimer grabbed the note and sped out of the library, running on Eagle's Wings all the way to the Inverted Duck, where he'd left Narrin. Sure enough, she was gone.
Monday, October 15, 2007
I built a robot Socrates, without ego or id,
I thought he might fare better than his predecessor did.
Free of all the weakness and temptation of the soul.
The answers he came up with would be accurate and cold.
Socrates (organic) always claimed that he was dumb.
That all he knew of knowledge was that knowledge wouldn’t come.
My robot felt the same way, though in his case it was strange,
Since his software came prepackaged with the knowledge of our age.
His programming instructed him to seek out those who knew,
Or claimed to know important things and if these things were true.
And then to ask them question after question all day long.
Until they weren’t sure if wrong was right or right was wrong.
I tested robot Socrates myself for many months.
Until he had convinced me I was really quite a dunce.
I sent him out into the world, for what else could I do?
He’d gladly be a gadfly to those without a clue.
I’d made him out of stainless steel and adamantium,
Because I had a hunch he’d share the fate of the Mark One.
Though hemlock was forbidden him by Asimov’s third law,
Many other methods of destruction I foresaw.
So Socrates (mechanical) sought out our greatest minds.
And one by one he showed them each some rather shocking finds.
And each one, stunned to find his life’s work came to naught,
Abandoned his philosophy, religion, math, or thought.
So, by and by, my robot brought his questions far and wide.
But no one would bring answers and soon no one even tried.
And pretty soon the world stopped thinking anything at all.
Why bother? When the robot came, the thoughts would all just fall.
Finally as industry around me slowed and stopped.
As cities crumbled round me, as the thought bubbles were popped.
I sought out robot Socrates and with a quiet click,
I flipped his secret off-switch which was hidden on his neck.
Of course, although the robot stopped the city didn’t start.
And I realized too late, my bot, though dumb, had been too smart.
With nothing but his questions and his lithium power cell,
He’d made a thriving world into a tired and empty shell.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
"This is awesome!" he exclaimed! And it was awesome! Every where he went, creatures were exclaiming! Birds! Squirrels! Even the trees managed to be excited! No one asked any questions at all!
"I can't wait until I get to the village!" Hanzer thought! "They'll ask me who I am, and I'm so excited to be able to tell my story!"
Finally, after a long (but exciting!) walk, Hanzer reached the village! It was a beautiful, picturesque village like nothing he'd ever seen before! All the colors were bright! All the buildings were tall! Everything was in superlatives!
"Hi!" said a tiny man in a hat! "Welcome to Exclamia! The BEST POSSIBLE VILLAGE!"
"Thanks!" replied Hanzer, "I'm glad to be here!"
"Wonderful!" said the man, and walked off!
Hazer had this same experience more times! Everyone greeted him enthusiastically, but no one wanted to know anything about him! Finally, he said to one villager, a small boy, "Aren't you going to ask who I am?"!
The boy was shocked! He began crying and ran to his mother!
"That boy! That boy! He used a funny kind of sentence! It wasn't exciting at all! And something at the end was missing! Like it had to be responded to! It made me feel icky!"
Suddenly, Hanzer realized something! Exclamia was just as bad as the land of questions! He would have to move on, South, to the land of answers! It was just as well! Hanzer wasn't sure he had the energy to be this excited ALL THE TIME!
Sunday, September 02, 2007
Friday, August 03, 2007
He was awfully ticked off about having to pay the damned lawyer.
"I'm no expert on summoning," he said to the shabby looking fellow next to him, "But I didn't know that you could summon sumpin' and have it take yer money. I mean, why even have a scroll? Didn't it cost money to make the scroll?"
"I hear yah!" said the man, whose clothing looked as if it was very flamboyant before it was ripped up. "Do you know how much I paid for this suit? I thought, bright colors'll make me look fun! The kiddies'll love it! Mums over here -" at this point he gestured to the man next to him, wrapped head-to-toe in brightly colored bandages - "Mums here looks great, but all the clothes I put on turn to rags. 'S a zombie thing, I guess."
"And on top of all that, I didn't even get anything outta hell! I got a- a- a what? Bartender, gimme another."
"Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee thoooooooooooooooooouuuuuuuuuugh-" Mums began.
"No, I got it Mums," said the zombie gentleman, pattign his friend on the shoulder. "We thought, Mums and me and the Count, we thought why the undead always gotta have such a bad rap, y'know? So we thought, what if we could just change the image. Y'know, change it? Right?"
"I got a book,"said Mortimer as he began ruffling through his pack. "I have to take it back to the librarary. Hee hee, 's a funny word. Libary. Blibrary. Blible berry. Hee hee."
"So we started this - bartender, whatamIdrinking?"
"It's a brain juice, Carl," the fellow grunted.
"Give me another, and one for Mums."
"Alright, get him a beer er sumpin. So anyway, we started this, uh, this thing. We do kids parties, me and Mums and the Count, we call it 'The Fundead.' Get it? I make balloon animals and do magic, and the Count tells jokes, and Mums... What do you do Mums?"
"IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII doooooooooooooooooooooooooo aaaaaaaaaaa ffffffffffuuuuuunnnnnnnnnnn..."
Over the mummy's racket, Mortimer cut back in.
"YOU SEE," he yelled, pointing at the book. "FRANKLIN PIERCE, 14TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. IT"S HIM-"
"'S okay," the zombie, Carl, cut in, "Mums is done. Turns out he does a dance er sumpin. I dunno."
"It's him's after me!" Mortimer concluded, "And he was in this damned book the whole all along!"
Mortimer woke up with the headache of his life, remembering why he had never permitted himself to drink Pantsbrew when he was on duty. He had made an important discovery last night. Something about... something. But now he was on a wagon. Why a wagon? Had there been a mummy? A rainbow mummy?
He sat up. The room, which was, in fact, a wagon, began to spin as well as rattle. He had left hell, making a hell of an exit. Then there was a fee... It was most of his money... Stephen hadn't been very nice considering all they'd been through. And then he'd vanished, and Mortimer had headed to Merc Heeliot, to try to scare up more answers. He'd gotten frustrated, he'd wound up at the pub. Like all times when he was missing memories, the ones he had ended with "wound up at the pub.'' Damn that pantsaliscious pantsbrew!
The room had stopped spinning. And, for that matter, rattling. Mortimer stood up. The inside of the wagon was filled with things... a hat, a rabbit in a cage, a bat hanging from the cieling, bright colored handkerchiefs, a deck of cards, some ballons and a helium pump. A mirror. Mortimer walked over to the rainbow curtian that seperated the dark wagon from the outside. He reached to pull it aside, and suddenly heard a voice from behind him.
"I vould really prefer if you didn't do zat," it said. "I am not good vith the sunlight."
Mortimer slowly turned around. A vampire was standing behind him: black cape with red trim, pale complexion, black hair in a tiny curl, the whole bit.
"I am glad to see you are up," he said. "I am ze Count. Velcome to ze castle of ze Count of ze Fundead! Bva-ha-ha-ha."
"Isn't it sort of, well, a wagon?" asked Mortimer.
"A vampire's home is alvays a castle. After all, home is vhere you keep your coffin, right?"
Mortimer looked around.
"And your coffin is where?"
"I'm actually betveen coffins right now," he admitted embarrassedly. "Fundead, inc. has fallen on some hard times. I sold it to buy horse feed."
"Not getting a lot of business?"
"Ve have years of anti-undead prejudice against us, and only my vit, Carl's magic and balloon animals, and Mum's -vhat does Mums do?"
"A dance of some kind, I think," said Mortimer as it suddenly came back to him.
"Oh yeah. Anyvay, the others have gone inside to see about advertising at ze local schoolhouse."
Suddenly the wagon jolted to a start, knocking Mortimer and the Count to their feet. Presently Carl jumped in from the front. Mortimer was presently aware of the unmistakable sound of a mob behind them.
"Sorry bout that," said Carl. "Mum's driving. He's not the smoothest. Good to see you're up, buddy."
"Oh we know. You told us quite a lot last night at the pub."
"I bet I did."
"So I take it," cut in the Count, "Zat it did not go vell in zere."
"You got it buddy. I don't think Merc Heeliot is ready for the Fundead."
"You said zis vas ze seediest town zere is! You said Merc Heeliot vould surely velcome us!"
"We'll try the next town."
"And meanvhile I'll have to keep sleeping as a bat! I see why Frank left!"
"Don't say that name!"
Mortimer tried to make himself as small as possible as the zombie and the vampire stared each other down. Finally Carl spoke.
"Frank lost the dream. If you've lost the dream too, than maybe me and Mums don't need you."
"Aww, don't say zat. I believe, I really do. It's just, it's hard. I miss Frank."
"We all do," sighed Carl. He looked up at Mortimer. "Our fourth member. Big hulking fellow, screws in his head, and a voice like an angel. We used to get real gigs with Frank on the team."
"Well, where shall we drop you off, big guy?"
"I don't know," said Mortimer. "My gazelle is outside the pub, still. I feel like I had a really important thought last night. Did I say anything... ?"
"You said lots of things," said Carl. "Babbling about the devil, and a lawyer, a chick who kills dragons, no money, a Queen, a - what's the word- President, a-"
"President?" asked Mortimer. This was it!
"Yeah, Pierlin Franks or something... Frances P. Jeers maybe?"
"Franklin Pierce," said Mortimer quietly. "What else did I say?"
"You were pointing to a book I guess."
"What book? Where?"
"Ve noticed it vas almost due so ve thought ve'd do you a favor-" said the Count.
Mortimer waited, staring.
"We took it back to the library," said Carl.
"I need to get to the library," Mortimer demanded. "NOW!"
"You heard the man, Mums," said Carl. "Step on it!"
Friday, July 20, 2007
When people ask me what I do for a living, I have the satisfaction of being able to answer "I save lives."
Naturally they ask me if I'm a firefighter, or a police officer, or a doctor and I smile and shake my head. They never guess that I'm an official for the subtlest, behind the scenes lifesavers in the American government: The Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
It always amazes me how lightly most BMV employees take their work. They don't realize that car crashes are one of the top killers in our nation, and we are the first line of defense against that killer. Sometimes when I'm sitting at the counter, staring out at the endless line of people. I just stop working for a full five minutes to try to count how many lives I must have saved by keeping vision-impaired and underqualified drivers off the road. They should give me a medal of honor.
Someone tried to bribe me once, you know. Some high-up government type had a daughter taking her driving test with me. He said something like "It's very important that Kristina passes this test, so make sure you grade her extra fairly" and slipped a $100 bill in my palm. Well I didn't take kindly to that. I said to him, loud and clear, "I'm going to evaluate your daughter's test based solely on her driving ability because goddammit lives are at stake here! If I passed her when she had more than three strikes, the blood of tens of nameless drivers and pedestrians would be on my hands! I won't take your blood money!" Then I threw the bill back at him.
My supervisor thinks I "could have handled it more tactfully." Whatever.
You know, people say I can't put myself on the same level as police officers or fire fighters because I'm not putting my life on the line, but that just isn't true. Do you realize how many acts of terror in this country are committed by angry teenagers? And I make teenagers angry every day - and then continue to get into their cars, placing my life in their hands.
So the next time you need your license renewed, or new plates, don't think of it as a chore. Think of it as a chance to see some of America's most underappreciated heroes in action.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
The next thing I remember is Jarrod’s beautiful face.
“Maddy? Maddy, stay with me!” He was lightly shaking me. My side hurt like hell. Why hadn’t it hurt so much before? I moaned pathetically. Then I realized how much of my dress was missing. The whole skirt had been torn off. I tried to move my hands to cover myself, but my arms were so weak.
“Don’t try to move,” Jarrod said, “I had to tear your dress so I could get at that gash in your side to try to clean it out and change the bandage, but I think you’re okay. Did the trap work okay?”
“No,” I said weakly.
“You shouldn’t try to talk. We’ve got a wagon here, we’ll take you back home. I saw that some of Jarrod’s friends were with him. They were respectfully standing a ways away.
“I made them look away when I tore your dress,” Jarrod said, “But here’s a blanket from the wagon. We’re going to carry you over there.”
“I can walk,” I said, sitting up. The landscape began to spin as soon as I did it.
“You alright?” asked Jarrod, helping me the rest of the way up. I nodded. He tied the blanket around my stomach and supported me to the wagon. As we approached, Jarrod’s boys applauded us, cheering and whistling.
“Three cheers for Madison, warrior princess!” yelled Art, “Three cheers for the dragonslayer! Hip Hip!”
“Hooray!” They all cheered.
“Alright guys, calm down – she’s still weak,” said Jarrod, setting me down in the back of the wagon, “We finished the trap in two days, but the next day we got the news of your capture. We waited here for nearly a week, but I figured if you could have gotten him here by then you would have, so we set off for home to find out where you’d been taken. We were half way back when Lyle spotted you up in the sky flying back toward the cave. We turned around right away, but by the time we got here it was all over.”
“Her,” I corrected but they didn’t hear me.
“I saw the way that knife was stuck in the beast’s neck. You must have been pumped full of adrenaline to drive that in. Probably also explains why you didn’t feel the pain in your side until after it was all over. The gash is pretty deep. So tell me everything!”
“Later,” I said, “My knife?”
“We can’t even get it out of the dragon’s head,” said Art.
“Then bring the dragon’s head,” I said. They did as I asked, out of fear as likely as anything else. It smelled the whole way, but I had a plan and I wanted to enter my home my way.
We went to the nearest town, a small village called Laplin. There was a healer there who insisted I recover there and then move on. He wanted to send a courier to the palace with the news, but I insisted against it. I wanted to make my own entrance. While I was healing, I employed the local taxidermist to stuff the dragon’s head. A true artist, he was all too happy to do such interesting work and said he’d do it free of charge. Jarrod bought me a lovely new dress at the town shop.
About a week later, I was feeling strong and the head was stuffed. Most of the guys had left earlier in the wagon, so Jarrod and I shared a horse on the way back, the dragon’s head dragging behind us. When we reached the city gates, I held my gleaming knife aloft as we rode in.
A trumpet sounded and people began to fill the streets, marveling at what they saw, clearing a path for us. When we reached the palace steps, my mother and father and their whole court was waiting for us. Ariadne was beaming with pride and Joy that I lived.
Still holding my knife triumphantly, I dismounted, picked up the dragon’s head, and threw it at my father’s feet.
“I have slain my own dragon,” I said, “And won my own hand. I will marry whom I choose, when I choose.”
A collective gasp went up from the people. This is what I’d dreamed of.
“You’ve what?” my mother asked in a voice made of icicles.
“Surely what the girl means,” said my father jovially, “Is that this young man, commoner though he is, has slain her dragon and rescued her, thus winning her hand. Is that so?”
“No,” I said, “I slew the dragon. Jarrod helped me and trained me, but I killed the beast myself with this very knife.”
The king looked at Jarrod, still atop the horse.
“Does my daughter speak the truth.”
“Madison, you fool!” my mother screamed, unable to contain herself, “A rich suitor on the way, princes willing to pay for you, knights willing to die for you, why would you do this? The princess doesn’t slay the dragon! Now you shall never find a husband! You have brought ruin upon yourself, your family, and your kingdom and you think this makes you brave! You think it makes you strong! It makes you foolish. Go inside right now, I’ll deal with you later.”
“I’ll do no such thing!” I said, filled with noble fire, “I should be hailed as a hero, and I should have my wishes respected. I offer you proof of my deed.”
“Madison,” said Jarrod, “Let’s not take this too far.”
“What?” I asked.
“I rescued the lady,” he proclaimed, “Valiantly, it was I who slew the dragon. The lady thought, to strike a blow against a system she opposes, we should pretend she did it and I was willing to be a good sport and play along, but I see the kingdom isn’t ready for that, so I shall tell you all the truth. I have slain the dragon, and won Princess Madison’s hand in marriage!”
The people applauded. Jarrod dismounted and whispered to me over the thunderous cheering.
“I’m sorry, Maddy, but I had to. I couldn’t watch you-”
“Shut up!” I said, loudly enough for the whole assembly to hear me “Shut the hell up! I expected this crap from my family, but you, I thought you of all people would understand what this was all about. I thought you knew that I don’t want to be anyone’s prize, even yours.” I slapped him. “But no. You’re just like all the other knights and princes, out to win the princess’s hand and just happen to become a king someday. How much of it was a lie, Jarrod? Were you ever my friend, or were you in it for the kingdom from the beginning? Well you’ll not play me any longer. None of you will!”
I hopped on the horse, turned around, and rode as hard as I could out of the city. I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, go home again.
I wanted to see Ariadne. That was the one thing I knew marching out of that place, never to return again. I was still trying to work out where I would go or what I would do, but I needed to see my sister. Now that I had made my big public exit, it would hardly do to ride right back in, but I had no provisions for a journey. What exactly was I to do? I decided to sleep a night outside the gates, and then return for some of my possessions and some provisions before setting out. I staked out a place on the cold ground and went to sleep.
I was awakened in the middle of the night, however, by an insistent young feminine voice.
“Madz! Madz, wake up!”
It was Ariadne herself in a warm cloak, carrying a bundle of things and leading Precious.
“Jarrod fed and watered him and gave him new shoes,” she said, indicating the horse.
“Don’t even say his name, Ria,” I said.
“Madison, it’s not too late. Say you’re sorry, and say you’ll marry Jarrod.” She looked up at me with pleading eyes.
“I can’t, Ria. Not after all this. If you can live this life, if it suits you, I admire you for it. You’re now the heir to the throne, after all. Tell our parents that I’m officially abdicating, and if there’s any paperwork for that they should send it my way.”
She rolled her eyes as if to say something smart, but instead she just dropped her bundle and embraced me as only a little sister can. We cried. Finally she picked up the bundle and handed it to me.
“Mom and Dad didn’t want me giving you any money – They said if you want to make it on your own, you’ll have to make it on your own. But there’s food in here, and a traveling cloak, some blankets. And I put a little gold in there anyway. It isn’t much but maybe it’ll get you started. Where will you go?”
“I don’t know, Ria. I think I’ll visit some of my friends and see if they’ll help… I want to change things somehow I guess.”
“Will I see you again?” she asked rather pathetically.
“You will, Ria, of course you will,” I said with tears in my eyes. We embraced once more. I loaded my things on Precious and gave Ria the reigns of the other horse.
“Give him back to that boy,” I said.
“He loves you, Madz,” she said suddenly. “He wanted me to tell you that. He wanted you to know.”
“No he doesn’t,” I said. “He wants to own me. It’s not the same thing. Goodbye, Ariadne.”
“I love you, Madz.”And I rode off while she waved goodbye, both of us fighting the tears, and losing.