Subscribe: The Rik Files
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
brother  eyes  good  guardian  head  healing  long  make  man  remember  sam  water  words  worlds worlds  worlds   
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: The Rik Files

The Rik Files

Essential reading for all students of the force of nature currently operating as Rik Roots. Here you will read Rik as he happens to other people, objects and occasional lines of verse. Complementary ice cream is served to selected guests on alternate Thur

Last Build Date: Tue, 10 Apr 2018 11:59:46 +0000


Why do you give your books away for free, Rik?

Tue, 02 Dec 2014 20:43:00 +0000

Let's talk about gardens.

I live in Hackney. Not the richest part of the capital. Yet, when I walk around Hackney, I often come across stunning examples of gardening. Sometimes an immaculate display fronting a council flat; sometimes a perfectly planned cascade of shape and colour from a window ledge.

Why do people do this gardening stuff?

Maybe they do it to increase the value of their home? Or perhaps they intend to sell the parts of their garden - professional gardeners in the making?

No. This is Hackney.

I ask people, sometimes: why do you do it? Some say they get a huge amount of pleasure from the act of gardening. Others take great pride from the results of their toil: a day is often made complete when a passer-by takes the time to congratulate the gardener on their efforts.

The fact is, gardens are part of our local environment. Through the efforts of individuals - for whatever reason - they add to the pleasures of Hackney.

And not a single gardener expects to be paid for their efforts.

As go gardens, so go books.

Literature is a part of our social, emotional environment. But at first glance it seems to be a very different sort of environment. Here, in the world of the imagination, great panoramas are locked behind cash chains. Entrance to view these image-driving monuments is exclusive, gated.

True, we have our bookish parks and verges, where public domain works by the graceful dead can be browsed for free pleasure. But to encounter anything less than 70 years old transactions must be entered into. Creators - and those who enable those creators - must have their wage.

It is an unhealthy environment. Especially now that the libraries are emptying their bookshelves for more immediate pleasures - assuming they still stand, of course.

This is why I give my books away. For free. I am not a professional writer, nor am I a 'mere' hobbyist. I am a gardener of words, and I want to make our collective, social environment a better, richer place. I enjoy the labour of creating stories and poems. I take pride in the finished products - verse chapbooks, a short story collection. Even my one-and-a-half novels (I'll finish writing book two next year. Promise!)

And, yes, if a stranger throws me a compliment for all my hard work, I find myself smiling for the rest of the day.

Such payments are worth far more than 'mere' wages!(image)

Worlds within Worlds #10.3

Tue, 16 Jul 2013 20:08:00 +0000

Here is a rock I know. It stands proud above the shoreline, like a miniature version of Fol Huun's spire. Downwind lie the littorals and pools of my old gang – my real gang. The outcrop marked the upwind limit of our territory.I hadn't recognised the landmark when I first saw it because I was approaching it from the wrong direction. The hinterland of my gang's domain is made up of a jumble of hills and ravines – a difficult terrain to walk, but the cliffs here are generally low and the beaches wide. We used to do a good trade with other gangs, and the women, in bladderwracks and kelps, and many flatfishes and rays made this shore their homeland.But the shoreline upwind of ours was taboo: dangerous creatures buried themselves in those sands, and the rocks of the hills were too sharp and loose for women to tend. Other whispers, too, kept us away from the area: murmurs of curses and madnesses that walked in the mists and foams that flocked to the shore, and the fogs that lingered around the stunted trees.Only when I drew close to the spire, and recognised it, did the shock of realisation smack through my limbs.You must rest. My guardian was waiting for me to arrive. It perches no more than two feet from where I rest at the base of the spire. The crabs know you are here. They will forbear.My journey has taken so long, I have almost forgotten my purpose.'The man is still in his healing pool?'I remember him. I do not know him. You will help him.'How many men – people – are left?''Ak!'It is no use asking a guardian to count things. Vuanna had told me this.I close my eyes and try to fish that memory into my mind.'Why do you say this thing? Guardians do not talk.''Not to you maybe, little Kal. Not yet. But when they do talk to you, remember that they cannot count things.'I open my eyes and look downwind. The shoreline here is low and flat, curving gently to form a wide bay. It was a good place for building feast fires – a place where my gang mates could gather away from the judgmental eyes clustered in the long house. Women, too, could come here and join us around the fires. Each of us would bring gifts to be shared among us all, and all would leave their weapons stacked here by the spire: it was a safe place for those who knew to barter, and trade comforts.Your other nestlings still breathe. The short one makes much water from his eyes. The tall one comforts him. Feeds him rabbit. This news shall help you rest.In my eyes I can see a vision of the fires dotted across the sands. It was our duty to light them, tend them, as we gathered the seaweeds washed up on the low humps of sand. The work was not popular; most were glad to see us leave the long house for a few sleeps. Jiar would come often, and Leic when he was not competing to be our leader. Geit would often come here on his own.There is no rabbit here.Vuanna was often on the beach, I remember. She kept a glade not far from here, a couple of thousand paces landwards over the rough terrain.'Come,' I say to the gull. 'I know of a safer place than this spot.''Ak! Ak! Ak-ak!''There might be rabbit there.'[...]

Things I hate about the current publishing scene

Tue, 16 Jul 2013 12:41:00 +0000

The following is an off-the-cuff list of things I'm currently hating about the publishing scene.#10 - Only authors with a 'professional' attitude deserve to be taken seriously.Okay, let's get this one out of the way straight off the bat. I loathe the word 'professional', particularly as it pertains to writers. When people talk about 'professional', what they're actually talking about is 'successful'. And 'successful' is their shorthand for 'sells lots of books'.Jordan sells lots of books. England football players sell lots of books. These people are not professional writers; they are professional celebrities, whose key drive is to succeed at modelling or football (or both), and to make lots of cash from being talked about all the time.I have a professional attitude towards my writing. I write damn good poetry, and damn fine stories. I am professional in that I take seriously my duty of care to the reader - everything I publish is proofread and spellchecked and formatted (as far as I am able to) to make the reading experience enjoyable for them, not frustrating.People who tell me that not caring about sales, or not prioritising marketing over reader enjoyability, makes me unprofessional - those people can fuck off.#9 - The best ways to build a publishing platform is to write lots of books.Because writing lots of books builds an author's platform, maximises their exposure to potential readers, and generates sales from repeat customers.Which translates as: if you're not writing/publishing 2-3 books a year, you're not taking this writing thing seriously. You're not being professional.Fuck off.Writing a book to a standard that is acceptable to me takes time. Heck, writing a good poem - a decent limerick! - takes time. To not put every last ounce of effort into writing the best story or poem that I am physically and mentally capable of ... that is to cheat myself, and my readers. And if that takes a lot of time, then so be it.I spent the best part of seven years - on and off - writing Snowdrop, my story in verse. It is a slim book - just over 2,000 lines of poetry. But every single line, every word, has been considered and drafted and reconsidered and redrafted to make it serve my vision for the poem, and the story.Writing my first novel - The Gods in the Jungle - took three years from first word to pressing the Publish Button on Since publishing, I've revised it twice, and I'm thinking of revising it again. Why? Because while the book is damn good, I want it to be better.The world in which The Gods in the Jungle is set took THIRTY YEARS to develop. That work will continue until my last breath.I have no respect - none - for people, writers, who dash off substandard work just to push up their book tally and book sales. Readers deserve better.#8 - All authors must have a professional-looking website.Here's a news flash: I've spent more time than I care to tally checking out author websites. They are all shit.Why? Because they are all generic, based on the same outdated 20th century idea about what an author website should be: a bio; a link to the books; a (usually empty) events list; links to reviews; possibly a brief passage from a book, or a couple of poems; a (rarely updated) blog. Oh, and a photo of the author looking 'writerly'.Oh, I'll accept that some author websites look prettier than others. A few are even capable of nodding towards current design aesthetics: a parallax header, a flat design, a considered palette, half-decent typography, even (gasp) a responsive layout.Beyond that, they are all bollocks. A complete waste of time.I don't have an author's website. I have websites for my books. Because at the end of the day it's the books that matter, not me. I just wrote them. I have a website for my poetry, and a website for my first book. I am planning to develop a website for my short stories and for my second book as and when I get round to it. If you want to know about me, the author of the books, you'll find a link to my bio somewhere near the bottom o[...]

Worlds within Worlds #10.2

Mon, 15 Jul 2013 20:25:00 +0000

'How did you stop your brother's shouts?'Four rabbits lie to one side of us in a bloody pile; for my own safety, I've told Maak-em-ay-are-see to stay on the other side of the hearth stone. He carries a stunned look in his face, as if it was I who had punched him.He shrugs at my question. 'He'll start again when he sees me.''We should have hunted him.''... kill him?''Release him back to the healing pool.'The man shakes his head: 'I can't ... this isn't the way it's supposed to be!'I have no time for worries. I reach into my net and pull out the fire pot – all women kept a stash of these magic contraptions hidden in their glades, sealed from dampness and rain by clay and beeswax. I have no idea why they work, just how: drag the stick across the rough clay and a flame erupts from it. This fire box is almost done – only two sticks remain. It is a moment's work to set a flame within the tinder stacked on the hearth stone. 'You cannot let this fire die,' I tell the man. 'I don't know when I shall return.''Why do you have to go?''There are things I have to do. You've watched me hunt and gather – you've near captured me in your bark work. You probably won't starve.''What things?'I sigh. I have no desire to share the guardian's news with him. 'You have what you want. Deal with it.''I don't want Sam like ... like this!''Then pull a knife across his throat. Or smother his face with your hand. Or take a rock to his skull. Or drag him to the cliffs and drop him over. Burn him. Give him fruit laden with fretworms. Crush dagger berries between his teeth. Go look for a spear snail and set it on his skin. Or ... or just wait for the crabs to tire of his screams and let them snip him to shreds! Once he returns, his senses will be secure in his head again, and doubt will have been banished by experience.'I don't realise how angry I am until I see it set in the shock of his eyes. I turn away to feed twigs to the new fire. 'There are things I need to do.'I take the man's silence as consent. Already I've slipped the fire pot back into the net tied around my waist.[...]

Worlds within Worlds #10.1

Mon, 15 Jul 2013 14:50:00 +0000

10. New Things Your nestlings do not like each other.I feel no need to reply to this comment. I am too busy trying to remember how to skin and dress rabbits.Across the bay, Maak-em-ay-are-see has tied brother Sam to one of the struts that hoists the long house into the sky. Sam sits, bound and screaming, not far from where he had stacked my bones. My gang mate has not asked for my help in this, and I had not offered it; I'm keeping my words to myself.The shorter one makes noises that interest the crabs.The crabs can have them both!The guardian perches on the lookout rock. It has been here for a while, preening feathers and watching my work. For once, it is more talkative than me.The more that I stare at the bloody carcass in my hands, the more I forget what I am supposed to do with it. Making the snares had been easy by comparison: I had let my hands do my thinking for me. They had the knowledge of knots and shapes that created and tethered the noose while I had concentrated my ears and nose on sensing any approaching danger.Not that I can smell now. It took a while for the blood to stop dripping from its broken shape, after Maak-em-ay-are-see had flattened it with his fist and dragged Sam's semi-conscious body through the water back to the long house.The crabs thank you for your bones. What is this new thing in your claws? I do not know it.I look up at the gull, surprised. Freed from my supervision my hands cut across the rabbit's belly, feel their way between skin and muscle, and rip the fur halves free in a single, even pull.Guardians know everything!'Ak! Ak! Ak-ak-ak!'I have no idea what the gull's cry means, but the look in its eye is one of laughter. My hands take my surprise as an opportunity to decapitate the head and paws from my prey and slice into its belly, spilling entrails over my foot.You have to know everything!What is this new thing in your claws?I resort to using my Outer Voice, forgetting my determination to keep my tongue still.'They're rabbits. You know this!'I do not know of rabbits, nor do I remember them. I shall not help them.'You don't need to help them.' I take a slime of guts in my fingers and throw them towards the bird. 'You can eat them.'The guardian stretches its wings wide, then folds them again when the offal falls short of spattering its grey-white plumage. The look it offers me now is hard, questioning. It cocks its head as if weighing options. Within three heartbeats it hops from its perch onto the pebbles and angles its beak deep into the entrails.Across the bay, my gang mate is trying to tempt his brother with water. Sam sees the tattoos across the bag and screams louder: 'Get away from me, you fucking zombie!'This offering is hot. She does not permit me to feast on hot flesh.'Gulls eat everything. I remember this.'I call to her; she does not answer.'You mean the other guardian? The one that was with you when you reminded me of my brother Luntas?'That one – no: she also is new. I do not understand her. It is the Great Albatross who does not answer me.The guardian speaks of Fol Huun. I know this. The women often called Her "the albatross who stretches her wings between worlds," though never within the range of a man's ears. I have met few men who are brave enough to spy on a clan gathering, where women meet to sing and cast their spells. Luntas was one such man; Geyt another. And me.Do you talk to my gang mates – the fledglings, I mean?The guardian makes a decision, grasps at a loop of intestine and flaps back to its rock, trailing the bloody string behind it.I do not remember them. I shall not help them.'You remember me.'I remember you, Kal of Tintuun. You I shall help.'What is a "tin-toon"?'The gull is huge; its beak is the length of my forearm and, by the way it rips so easily through the rabbit's guts, far sharper than my poor glass knife.This is better than snail, or fish. The heat feels good in my gizzard. You must go and save your fledgling from the crabs.'The crab[...]

Worlds within Worlds #9.6

Sat, 13 Jul 2013 21:32:00 +0000

By mutual agreement, we have both trekked around the bay to the place of rabbits so I can set traps. It will be good to taste a roast of meat after our meagre diet of moss and fruits.In the absence of men, the rabbits have grown both in size and in numbers. They haven't, however, lost their senses of smell and hearing so we were unable to catch them unawares.I've made Maak-em-ay-are-see a good spear with a sharp stone tip, far better than the weapon he used to help separate his Vital Breath from his flesh when he and Sam were camped on their beach. He told me he has some skill with javelins – whatever they may be – so I've set him to be lookout, stood atop a rock that pushes into the water.My traps are simple nooses looped around the rabbit holes and staked securely at one side. They will not be pleasant for the rabbits, but will hopefully hold them long enough for me to reach and dispatch them with my knife. There are so many of them here that it is difficult to choose the best holes to snare; their tracks are a mass of confusion.Brother Sam, too, has left a number of tracks around the long house. Few of them seem to lead round to this side of the bay. Mostly, he seems to stick to the shoreline nearest the long house, with some longer expeditions to the head of the bay and the processional avenue beyond it. I had spotted the rotted remains of a brelfruit bush near to his tracks when we first approached the long house. Brother Luntas would not have had good words to offer if he had seen the mess Sam had made when he tried to harvest them.Sam has made many messes. I was alone when I found the remains of my bones, stacked in a pile beyond the reach of the water, my skull between my feet. I felt nothing when I threw them into the bay. I could have left them, I suppose: the bone worms had already hollowed the longer shafts in preparation for their final work. But bones would lead to questions; better to let the crabs finish the job.I am setting my last trap when I hear branches crack. I glance towards Maak-em-ay-are-see, and see a gaunt shape of mad intent rushing towards him.My sentry is more interested in watching me!'Landwards!'But it is not my shout that makes him turn.'You're dead! Dead! Get away from me!'Sam throws something – a rock – at his brother ... who doesn't even bother to duck!'Use the spear! Throw the fucking spear!'I watch as he lets the spear clatter out of his hands.'Sam! It's me, Sam. Marc!'Sam is not interested in listening. He barely broke step when he threw the rock. With nothing left in his hands, he chooses to throw himself at his brother. I watch them both topple as I sprint across pebbles.They splash together into the water, Sam's arms wrapped around Marc's hips. And Sam is the first to surface. He may be famished, but his rage makes him quick. As soon as he has disentangled his arms, he pushes them straight down into the water. He screams as loud as the flayman when I took my knife to its neck!He doesn't notice my approach. When I reach the sentry rock I drop my knife and net and dive in, trusting that the water will be deep enough to receive my body. It is: I remembered well. I angle my body into a curve even as I descend: my run has taken me past the men and I must turn quickly.In two strokes I pull alongside the men fighting on the submerged bank of pebbles. Without thought my hand scrabbles for a rock that fits smoothly in its grip.Without hesitation I smash my fist into the back of Sam's head and thrust him to one side as he starts his collapse. Maak-em-ay-are-see resurfaces in a fit of coughs; I offer him my arms as he struggles to find his feet.His fist is swift into my face.[...]

Worlds within Worlds #9.5

Sat, 13 Jul 2013 19:33:00 +0000

'SAM!'The long house has seen some changes since I left it by the wrong door. There's holes in the roof, for a start; a scattering of blackened thatch around the hearth stone suggests that Sam has been using the great dried leaves to keep the fire burning – for a while at least. The stone has not hosted a flame for a good while, and the ashes are cold. Some of the soot has been used to mark words across the floor of the house: I watched Maak-em-ay-are-see's face become worried as his inner Voice turned them back into sounds.'Shouting won't work,' I say. 'We should have hunted him.''He's got to be somewhere near!''He watched you die, remember? He was going to bury your flesh in the sands; I had to persuade him to carry it up the cliffs so we could burn it.''And eat it?'I don't understand why these men are so disgusted by the consumption of old flesh. I still haven't told him where the leather for our bags came from.'Women eat man-flesh. He will remember burning you; he was adamant that you would never return.''Maybe he saw us coming down that track ...''... or heard you. I told you not to scream his name. Names are too important to be uttered so carelessly ...''Hah. So that's why you told me to call you "savage". Makes sense now. And you're sure he's alive ... you're not just saying that?'I point over to the corner furthest from the ladder and closest to the hillside. 'That daffask root has fresh tooth marks in it, he was here no more than 500 breaths past.'The man looks inwards as he counts: 'Half an hour ago, maybe 45 minutes. Is that thing safe to eat?''It's bitter, but it fills the belly. He should have boiled it to a mush and drunk the broth, maybe with poached fish and ...''It won't have sent him to the healing pools.''No,' I agree. 'Though you need to be desperate to try and eat such a thing raw.'Maak-em-ay-are-see offers me a queer look as he returns to the ladder.'What do the words say?''He was trying to keep a diary, but he didn't keep it up for very long.'The explanation doesn't help me. Diary – the word sounds a bit like "die" which, I've come to understand, is a form of "kill". I walk over to the seaward side of the long house (avoiding the space where Sam and I had fought) and scan the small bay and the littoral across the water.'He thinks he murdered you.''Is that a bad thing?' I can see movements along the shore: birds mainly, but possibly rabbits too? It will not take me long to gather the materials to make a snare ...'It's bad for him. Some of the rougher writing seems to be about demons ... I never knew he could write shorthand.''Bad enough to make him eat daffask root?'The man takes a moment to stare at me over his shoulder. 'Bad in his head ... I'm really worried for him.''We should have hunted him,' I say. 'The healing pools can fix more than a man's flesh.'[...]

Worlds within Worlds #9.4

Sat, 13 Jul 2013 18:16:00 +0000

I do not like walking along the avenues. As the flayman had shown, avenues collect dangers like a dip in the sand collects water.This avenue, I am sure, is the one that will take us out of the hills to the long house where Sam kissed me. When I had shared this news with Maak-em-ay-are-see he became very excited; he, too, has come to believe that Sam would most likely stay near the place where we had parted on such – unusual – terms.Not that I've shared those details with him. All I have said of the matter was that I slipped while looking for food and tinder.I don't like the idea of meeting brother Sam. I have a feeling that he will not enjoy seeing me again. I have spent a quiet while sharpening my knives to a keen edge: if there is to be trouble, it will not be my Vital Breath heading back to the healing pools.Sam's reaction to seeing Maak-em-ay-are-see will be ... interesting ... I think.[...]

Worlds within Worlds #9.3

Sat, 13 Jul 2013 17:48:00 +0000

Once upon a time, God made a seed ...The sky has dimmed somewhat, and the wind has cooled from its unnatural heat. Still, I cannot sleep. The words that Maak-em-ay-are-see has fed into my ears turn tumbles like waves, capping my swirling thoughts in white foams.There is a book, he told me, that sets out the true history of how God had come to his world and filled it with wonder. Or, more accurately, there was a book, until his brother Sam set its pages to the flame.Books are wonder-filled things, I have learned, where the knowledge of many men – and women – lies captured in lines and loops just like the ones he has been making on bark. When I asked him if he was going to capture me in his new book, the man had laughed and shown me a drawing of a face that he says is mine. That sketch worries at me, though I don't feel any different: my fingers confirm that I still have my face on the front of my head.The words tethered within the burned book could speak when they were looked at, and the story they told were all about his God's seed – a tool, of sorts – which gives the man that holds it great powers to rule other men and women, even the wind and the storm.These words make no sense. Why would a man want to rule a woman? Perhaps to stop her chewing on his muscles while he still breathed, or to make her give him good medicines or fine clothes ... but such a thing is a dream: women are too tricky to be ruled.Maak-em-ay-are-see has no idea what his words have done to me. He lies on the other side of this grove's hearth stone and snores. I probably pushed him too far on this first dayof our trek; his body is still mending itself, even though he seems happy with it: the body of a fit teenager, and the mind of a full-grown man – I can't wait to find Sam!He told me that the book had been guarded for many years by a gang whose brothers were the best men in their world. Their job was to search for the God's seed, which had been stolen by demons. They had invisible creatures – angels ­– to help them track down these equally invisible demons who lived in the heads of unsuspecting men. For only when the seed had been reunited with the book could it bloom and fruit as God's final plan for the world.I do not understand it when something is both true and false. My gang mate's story feels true in my gut, and yet my eyes and ears and nose and fingers clearly show the falseness of his words. This is the battle which sets my thoughts foaming.'So what part does Fol Huun play in this story,' I had asked.'Why do you call the rock pools "Fol Huun's gift"? Quid pro quo.''They are her way of restoring a man's Inner Voice to the flesh.''So that's how new people are generated – when somebody dies they reincarnate in a new body?''Only men.' I catch his next question in his eyes: 'I don't know where women go to be healed. They have more secrets than trees in these valleys, and a clever man knows not to ask the wrong questions.''But Fol Hoon ... you speak as if it – she – is a real person.''She is not a man, nor a woman. Not even a guardian – great gull – though sometimes she will take the form of one.''So she's a God?''She is ...' I look around me and spread my arms wide. 'She is everything!''Even you?'His question made my forehead hurt, the way it scrunched skin across brow. 'Quid pro quo!'He had smiled at that – the first smile he had offered me since I hauled his hairless flesh from the healing pool.'My uncle told me something – a thing not written in the Book. He had set me a task of looking for the God's seed and, for a while, we thought that Sam's parents might know where it was. He said that while the Book has much to say about the seed, it never describes what it actually looks like. When I asked him why not, he said it would look different to whoever looked at it: maybe a ring, or a brooch, or a sta[...]

Worlds within Worlds #9.2

Sat, 13 Jul 2013 13:47:00 +0000

'Tell me how you got here. You and Sam. How did you come to be in Fol Huun's healing pools?'The peak on which we sit is easily the tallest between here and the sea which, thanks to the lack of trees, I can see. It seems to go on forever before colliding with the sky.Maak-em-ay-are-see is fascinated by the view: 'The horizon must be at least thirty kilometres. Are there other islands out there?''Kewid pro ko,' I remind him.'Ah ... okay. It's all a bit messed up in my head, to be honest.''We have time. We can give ourselves a thousand breaths here before looking for somewhere to sleep.''And food ...''And food,' I agree. 'Give me the water, yes?'He hands the water bag over to me thoughtlessly, already lost in his puzzle of memories. I take a moment to wipe the wooden spout glued into the leather before squeezing a trickle of liquid into my mouth. The bag was a good find, discovered in a storm-blown glade not too far inland from the first. A tattoo that I recognise winds slantwise across it: this skin's owner had belonged to a gang that had some repute in the Race.'I know how I died. There was a fire in the Sanctuary – Sam ... he set fire to the Book, and the fire spread. I choked on the smoke. It was ... horrible! Worse than the choking after I got out of those rock pools.''Fish breathe water,' I agree. 'Not men. Did you die and then wake here?''No ... no. There was a time in between. I remember floating away from my body, towards Sam ... and then Sam was with me ...''He told me he died,''Did he? I asked him, but he wouldn't talk about it. I remember that I was ... happy, content. I would have been happy to fly away from that room, with Sam, forever. But Sam ... he was angry, man! There was something else – someone else? It wasn't my uncle, I'm sure of that. Sam was angry. He chased after the other one, dragged me with him – like he had a towing rope buried in me and I had no choice but to follow.'He reaches out to take the water bag from my hands, and lifts it to splash the warm liquid over his face.'Don't waste it!''Sorry. I don't remember much else. Sam pulled me round his body and then ... into his arm? There was something in his arm: it scared the shit out of me, but he headed straight for it, after that thing ... and then I was here. Floating.''In the healing pool ...' Somewhere deep inside me, the story feels – right, good; as if I've unravelled a knot on my guts, a reminder of something needing to be done, now done.'So what's the story with the healing pools? Every time I die, I'll go back to them and be reborn?''They are Fol Huun's gift, yes ...''Fucking marvellous! Immortality – I can really live forever!''We do not die. We exist for the Race.'The man seems to have lost interest in my words. His eyes have glazed in a kind of wonderment. I am concerned enough to check around our vantage for dangers: more than one kind of creature uses miasmas in the air to calm their prey.'What was your world called?''Huh?''The world where you and Sam lived – what did you call it?''The world is ... The World. Or Earth. Planet Earth.''Not Uekh, or ... Tintuun?''Maybe in another language. The French say "le monde" – every language has a name for the planet. "Terra" is another name. What did you say just now? The pools are someone's gift?''Fol Huun's gift.''Fol ... I've heard that name! I remember it from somewhere – something my Uncle told me? It's hard to remember everything ... and my memories feel all jumbled up.'He has my full attention now. You'll need extra ears for this story, my Inner Voice tells me.[...]

Worlds within Worlds #9.1

Thu, 11 Jul 2013 21:51:00 +0000

9. The Search for Sam One thing Luntas taught me was not to fear the hills. Most of my former gang mates had no trust of the land beyond the shoreline; they would panic if they found themselves stranded in a place where they could not smell salt in the air. For them, such places were part of a woman's mysteries: not to be trusted. Men fished, and played, and prepared themselves for the Race. Women did – everything else.Luntas taught me that the best fruits and nuts are to be found a good walk beyond the cliff walls. Water tastes freshest when taken from springs, not rain puddles. He also taught me that while women are dangerous, they are much the same as men in many ways – they have their pride and their shame, their skills and their needs. A clever man can survive well in the hills if he can gain the trust of the local clans.These hills are as deserted as the shoreline.Maak-em-ay-are-see is a fast learner. He doesn't ask questions incessantly, like his brother Sam; rather he watches, and copies. When he does ask a question, he listens to my words and then captures them on thin bark in a series of tattoo-ink loops and lines.I think he also steals the essence of things in his ink marks. With a few quick lines and smudges he can capture a hill, or a worm, or a fruit, and fit it amid his squiggles ... they look so real, these sketches; my jaw slackens in awe each time he performs that magic!We could have followed the route that Sam and I had taken before, tracking the coastline downwind towards the long house on stilts overlooking the narrow bay. But since remembering Luntas and his lessons, I have grown curious. The guardian was clear to me: the men have gone elsewhere. Was the same true for women?'Which leaves are best?'The voice pulls me from my thoughts. I can see he has dug a hole and performed his business. In his methodical way he has collected a selection of leaves and spread them before him.'To clean between the buttocks? The sculler leaf – it has three points, feels soft, yes? Use it quickly, folding it between wipes. The lighter side has a sap that will sting your fingers if you press too hard, so wrap them first in that longer blade – that's right: that one.''And then bury them all?'I nod, then turn away as he follows instructions. Maak-em-ay-are-see does not like to be stared at too long.This vale is filled with trees, each competing with its neighbours to stretch its twigs closer to the sky. They offer us some welcome shade, and make a good home for a wealth of herbs and flowers, some reaching above my head. The tidiness of the made me wary at first: surely a woman had made it her garden – but this soil had not been tilled for a long while.'Can I have the water, please?'I turn to the man now standing by my side: 'We've not long drunk water ...''I need to wash my hands.'I sigh a glance to the cloud wisps scudding above the canopy: 'Your left hand for wiping; your right for eating.''Oh,' he says. I hand over the water skin and return to my considerations.My new gang mate is keen to go to the city in the caldera. He still thinks that we can get help there. I have a feeling that we may need to go there, but not yet. And I am certain that Sam will not have strayed far from the long house where he kissed me; I have a strong memory of our encounter with the flayman. That had scared Sam badly – why else seek comfort from a stranger? A scared man rarely moves far from the long house.'Shall we collect food here?''Mm?''Food. We didn't bring much with us.'The man has a good point. I check the undergrowth around me, sniffing the air, but my nose offers no guidance. We are surrounded by herbs and grasses which, while useful in their own way, won't help a man fill his belly. I let my eyes wander further, looking for signs of fern stands or cla[...]

Worlds within Worlds #8.5

Wed, 10 Jul 2013 20:40:00 +0000

'I'm not eating raw eggs!''They are the turtle's gift; why do you refuse them?'Maak-em-ay-are-see has made himself a nest, up here in the bier. He sits in a corner of the room half-hidden by strips of old bark and hunks of half-wound twine. Two bags have been stuffed with dead leaves from the thatch above us: I think I will enjoy telling him the leather's source, but not just yet.'We need to make a fire.''The wind is warm enough.'His stare is aggressive, but I know he is not fit to fight.'What about clothes? I need some clothes.''We can search for clothes when you have some strength in your legs, yes?''I could wear your cloak. At least let me cover myself up!''A Cloak is a gift between brothers,' which is not true. 'You are not my brother.'We stare at each other for several breaths – his faster than mine. When he looks away, I feel like I've won an important victory. The man may have tried to make this bier his home, but he is no woman to command me.'This isn't how it's supposed to be!'I turn my back on him, settle into a crouch over my net of roots and fruits. The ruby brelfruit are particularly large, almost to the point of splitting their skin. I grab hold of a clay bowl and push the fruit into it, letting their juices escape before taking my knife to the flesh. Above me, herb pouches hang from a beam; I reach up and grab one, pull open its neck to sniff at the contents. The tart aroma of rash-herb picks at my nostrils – the leaves are old and dry, but maybe they still hold some healing properties in their crinkle. I shrug my shoulders, pour half of the leaves into the pot and stir it all together with my finger.I straighten up and stride back to the man. I have to wave the food in front of his face before he reaches out to grab it.'This is good fruit,' I say, 'with some healing powders. No need for fires to make it fit for the eating.'He picks out a lump and carefully sniffs at it, then sticks out his tongue tip to poke the flesh. When he doesn't collapse – which was a possibility, I suppose, as I have no great understanding of medicinal herbs – he clenches courage in his jaws and pops the lump into his mouth, eyes squeezed shut.'Tell me about your world.'Perhaps he is too busy stuffing the bowl's contents into his mouth to hear my question. But when he lifts it to drain the last juice, I can see from his glance that he has been considering answers.'Quid pro quo.''Huh?''Quid pro quo. You tell me about this world, and I'll tell you about mine.''I have no urge to help you.''Then piss off!''Huh?''Piss off. Go away. I don't need your help.'The offer almost overwhelms me: without knowing it, Maak-em-ay-are-see releases me from my obligation. But, I realise, I am not obligated to him: it is the guardian who set me this task, and my need for answers is too urgent to risk upsetting it just yet.'Do you know where to find brelfruit, or the bark to make a cloak like mine?' My tone is harsh with resignation. 'Do you know how to make a fire? Which fish is good for the eating, and which is good at killing you?'Again we engage in a battle of stares. Again, I win. This time he slumps his body deep into the corner. 'I don't know what to do. Where's Sam?''I do not know where your brother is ...''Is he dead?''Did you die? I do not know if he is still breathing, or if he has returned to the healing pools.''We can look for him?' I shrug. 'You will help me look for him? Please?''Is your need for revenge that desperate? Let him be, for a while at least, yes?''I don't understand ... I need him. I need to be with him.'I did not expect this answer. I can feel my eyes widen to show my surprise.'I ... I love him ...'I take a moment to reach into my net for another brelfruit, quickly sniffing it for threadworms before passing it to him. 'Whe[...]

Worlds within Worlds #8.4

Wed, 10 Jul 2013 18:30:00 +0000

Why do you show me this memory?The great gull perches on a knob of rock a dozen strides upwind from where I sit on the lip of the cliff.You were once like the nestling you hid in the tree. You remember this.As astonishing as this conversation is, I struggle to make sense of the guardian's responses to the questions my Inner Voice has asked.You mean the man?There is no echo of an answer in my skull. I assume that the silence means "yes". The turtles have been busy in the pool by the beach – they have given me three handfuls-worth of their fruits. I reach into my net and pluck one out, then nip at the leathery end to make a hole for the sucking.Luntas. I haven't thought of that man in a good while. My memories of him are not clear: snatches of speech; an occasional image of him knotting nets or spearing fish. He would help to shape a vessel, but I don't remember him ever competing for a place in the team. His favourite places were in the hills, away from his gang mates.He had a better understanding than I of women.The nestling names himself 'Maak em ay are see'. I have never met a man with such a long name.I take a moment to chew on a small morsel of yolked, shelled meat.He is new to Fol Huun. All I hear in my skull is the gentle shushof waves over pebbles.His brother threw me out of the long house. He had a short name, like mine: Sam. He talked of 'day' and 'night'. My name is Kal, but you gave me a longer name when I was in the healing pool.'Ak! Ak! Ak-ak!'Another guardian is approaching us, its wings arch and taut as it glides across the bay. Only at the last moment do they break their shape, as it pushes its legs forward to step onto the rock. The first steps aside to give the newcomer room on its perch.I forget my trail of thoughts as I watch the two batter their beaks together. Their dance is a mixture of foot stamp and hiss, one bobbing its head at the other in a regular rhythm while the other copies the movements a half-breath later. I do not realise that I've taken another turtle fruit in my hand until it touches my lip.Luntas taught me how to find turtle fruits, and the importance of leaving half of the globes in each scrape. He had told me that the turtle fruits were the same as our healing pools: to eat them all would deprive the creatures of their resurrection.It was Luntas who told me about gang tattoos ...Did he teach me everything?Both gulls are staring at me: Your nestling is hungry.I take the hint and leave them to their dance.[...]

Worlds within Worlds #8.3

Wed, 10 Jul 2013 18:29:00 +0000

'Not that one. It's far too hard! Am I wasting my words on a deaf man? Poke it!'The glistening brelfruits lay scattered around my feet, there in the woods high above the bay. Luntas, who had led me to the fruiting grounds, was scowling at me. I was keen not to disappoint him – he was the only man in the gang who had bothered to take an interest in me since I had been pulled from the healing pool. He had promised me that, if I learned quickly, he would persuade the others to carve my skin with tattoo marks, not knives.The fruit in my hand seemed fine to me; its skin had flexed when I pushed my thumb on it, and bounced back to the round when I let go. But when I had plucked it up from the ground, it had pulled a rope of stiff white root behind it.'Shall I push it back in?''No!' The man took a moment to glance at the sky and curse any guardian that might have been nearby. 'Sheesh, they must have tortured you for a thousand sleeps before sending you to our pools. Can you honestly remember nothing from when you last breathed?'I shook my head. 'All I remember is coldness. A coldness like to crack bones.''They say the caldera reaches beyond the clouds, with winds that carry white rain. The women must have kept you in a high cave while they tortured you. Tie the root to that branch over there: if you put it back on the ground now it will spread a rot through the whole patch.'As I followed his orders, I took a moment to feel the whole fruit with my fingers. The base of the globe, close to the root, was much harder than the rest of the shiny red flesh.'It needs to be soft at the bottom, yes?''Firm, not mushy. And you must twist before you lift it. See the cluster of buds close to where the root joins it? In a dozen sleeps, one of those buds would have grown big to replace the fruit you've just plucked.'His words made sense to me. Soon enough my mistake was tied securely to the branch and I was on my knees poking at another brelfruit, and another, until I found one softer than the others. Carefully I twisted it around its base until I heard a soft crackas it broke from its root.'Good,' said Luntas. 'You do know how to learn.' It was with some pride that I placed my prize into the net tied around my naked waist. His net was already half-full, I noticed. 'But stay off your knees, huh? Bend to the fruit, don't kneel to it.''Because that's quicker?''Because once a man is on his knees, he never gets up again.'[...]

Worlds within Worlds #8.2

Tue, 09 Jul 2013 21:19:00 +0000

He tells me that his name is 'Marc – em ay ar see'. To me, it sounds the same as 'maak', but then it is his name, not mine, and he can add whatever sounds he likes to it. I shall call him 'you', when I have to call him anything.I told him my name was 'savage'. He said that 'savage' was a thing, not a name. I didn't bother to argue with him, or tell him my real name: the last time I shared my name I ended up falling through trees and smashing my skull on the rocks.It took an age to get the man to his feet, and another age to shamble him from there to this grove. It was in this grove, I remember, that I first saw Marc, hollering like a mad man, naked and not caring to guard himself from the attentions of women. Now I understand why he acted like that: he is not of Fol Huun; he has no concept of where he is, or how to survive here.Such understanding doesn't make me like the man. He may be my gang mate, but he will never be my brother.For now I've left him sleeping in the grove's dilapidated bier. I am on a quest for food and fresh water. And if I can find that guardian, some answers.[...]

Worlds within Worlds #8.1

Tue, 09 Jul 2013 20:26:00 +0000

8. MarcIt took me less than a dozen heart thumps to grow used to breathing air again. By the way this man is choking and whooping, curled in limbs on the sharp rocks, it will be days before he recovers his strength. Not that this world of Fol Huun has ever experienced days, or nights.Not that I remember what a day, or a night is. I have no memory of living in a world with alternating blue-black-blue skies. But somewhere, deep within me, I knowwhat 'day' means.The healing pool seems to have fixed more than my flesh, this time around.The man at my feet is taller than me. Or he would be, if he could find it within him to control his jerking legs long enough to stand.'I told you not to breathe the water.'If he can hear me, he makes no effort to show it.I want to walk away from this man. The sky shines brightly at the moment, and the rocks have embraced the brightness and responded with a strong heat. The wind, too, blows more warmly than it should. Soon I will need water – proper water, not the sea's brine – and it has been a long while – weeks, maybe – since I last chewed and swallowed real food.I cannot walk away. The guardian made it clear that this man is my responsibility. I am to be his brother, whatever his thoughts on the matter may be.Reluctantly I crouch down by his head and place my hands on his shaking shoulder. I can spot blood on the rocks. I need to move him to safety soon, I realise. The smell of blood will attract the attention of the crabs – proper crabs, not like the little hermit in my healing pool, with pincers capable of snipping through a man's wrist.'Can you hear me? If you can hear me, open your eyes.'His eyes are a mix of brown and grey, larger than mine perhaps – or maybe his face is narrower, longer. He holds my gaze for a moment, no more, before returning to the comforts of his own agonies.'Good. Your name is Maak, yes? I remember you. I saw you on the beach. Do you remember the beach?'He offers me a definite nod, before embarking on another series of body-shaking coughs.'This is good, too. Do you remember the rappoe fish? You caught it on your spear, and then it caught your face on its spines. Tell me if you remember the fish.'The man springs his eyes open so wide as to show a full ring of white about them. His hand clasps at my arm.'You remember the fish, then. This is good.' I consider my words. 'Well, maybe not so much good as useful. But it is not a pain that we should try and remember too well, yes?'He squeezes his face shut in a grimace. Gently I take his hand and lead it up to lay flat on his cheek.'Can you feel through your fingers? Feel your face – see, it is whole again. The only pain there is the pain you remember. It is not a real pain, a now pain.'He tries to speak: 'Ssss. Ssss ... mm ...''Hush, now. There are things we need to do. You need to do. You must stand up, yes? We cannot stay here. This is where that fish lives, and we do not want to attract its attention again, nor that of its friends. You need to stand up!'[...]

Worlds within Worlds #7.3

Tue, 09 Jul 2013 17:16:00 +0000

You are different. You remain old; I know you. Yet you are also new: I do not know you. This is a different thing.I can barely make out the form of the guardian. It perches on a rock just above the water's surface, and that surface is being rippled by the wind. All guardians are big, I know, and most come clothed in a set of grey-on-white feathers. This guardian has a very impressive bill - bright yellow with a red patch beneath the hook that terminates it.The other egg is still new, though I have seen it before. I know it, but I do not remember it. This is another different thing.I remember me, my Inner Voice tells the guardian. Do you remember me?The bird considers this proposition, cocking its head lower to bring its eye closer to mine. I take time to admire the sharpness of its beak.You remember this sky, it says. This is clear to me.I am impressed. The guardians are not known for their helpfulness, or for their conversational skills. I risk another question.I have heard of other skies. A sky as yellow as your beak. And a sky that has no color, and all colours, but mainly blue. I have dreamed of such skies.But you do not remember them.No, I agree.The bird's head disappears. Wings spread wide to fill my sight. 'Ak! Ak! Ak! Ak!' Jiar tried to teach me the language of the guardians, once, though I doubt he knew any more of it than I. This call could be a challenge, or a summoning. No man has a real understanding of the guardians beyond the necessary. It is enough to know that they do not appreciate being plucked, or eaten.The membranes surrounding me have toughened, and the liquids they hold are growing stale. Soon I will need to break free of them and resume the counting of breaths.My resurrection will be much easier if the guardian agrees to help me. I remember the deserted groves and abandoned long houses; I doubt that any brother will be looking for me in this healing pool.Wings fold, and the beak returns to my sight.I know you. I remember you. I welcome you, Kal of Tintuun. You I shall aid. The other – I know it, but I do not remember it. I cannot help it. That is your task.The guardian moves out of my sight, but it is not gone. I feel a sharp stab in my thigh, and another - it is tearing at the membrane already, eager to have me gone from the pool.Where are my brothers?my Inner Voice cries.Stretch your legs. Your brothers have been called to serve a greater purpose.I do as I'm told. I do not struggle as my limbs extend, tearing the membranes along the holes the guardian has made in them. Soon they hang in tatters around me.I remember not to move my chest. Free in the water, I look for hand holds in the rock wall - a ledge would be better, but none has been gifted to me for this resurrection.When my head breaches into air I squeeze my ribs tight onto my lungs, and squeeze my legs deep into my belly. Water leaks from my nostrils and mouth in ropes, and then dribbles.My first breath is deep, and loud, and complete.[...]

Worlds within Worlds #7.2

Mon, 08 Jul 2013 22:11:00 +0000

The crab needs a new home. Its current shell clasps it as tight as the membranes hold me. I have been watching it for a while now as it scrambles around its rough wall, checking the quality and size of potential dwellings with its great blue claw. None pass muster.Closer to me a snail glides across its redweed frond. It is an admirable beast with a strong grey foot and bright-striped stalks for its eyes. Its shell is large enough to attract its own vegetation – a miniature forest of viridian greenthreads, complete with a tiny anemone. I know this snail: its flesh is tart-sweet on the tongue, but fiddly to prepare – it carries within it a spear whose poison can separate a man from his flesh within a hundred heartbeats.Clearly the crab doesn't care. It needs a new home. Already it is scuttling across the rock face towards me, to confront this welcome visitor to our pool. It even leaps at one point, launching itself across a fissure. When it lands, its old home drags it backwards, downwards towards the sands that lie in deep shadows beneath us, almost at the limit of my improving sight. It takes some nifty claw-work, and a savaged anemone in the wrong place at the wrong time, before the crab finds a firm footing and continues its hunt.A thought occurs to me: helping the crab could help me. The frond on which the snail grazes almost touches my tight membrane – I remember stories told by my brothers about snails just like this one: how it likes to feed on new-formed flesh, of how it will glide over the face and slowly puncture through membranes to send a man's Vital Breath screaming in agony to a new healing pool.I can twist in my tightness, send ripples of pressure to push the frond towards the rock wall and the approaching crab.I watch the red leaf recede.I watch the red leaf slowly rebound back towards me. Still the snail glides along its processional path, oblivious to the movements beneath its great, grey foot. Does it know that I'm here?It stops. Slowly, it detaches the base of its head from the frond and lifts up its body. Slowly, it waves its head through the water, as if sniffing for opportunities. Striped stalks retract, then one bulb extends towards me. It is no more than two hands from my face. The other eye also grows, its direction a sure and true copy of its twin.It knows that I'm here.A bole of fear leaches into my throat. If there was air in my lungs, I would bellow!A heart thud passes, then another. Somehow, I've managed to keep my body still. Slowly, the distance between the snail and my face grows – three hands, now four. And a finger. The snail's frond is a branch in watery gale; it has no choice but to sway.It takes an effort to wrench my stare from the flesh grazer. I look to see where the crab has gone. A shock of relief gallops through my limbs when I finally spot its frantic semaphores. It clings to the rock-face, close to where the frond should collide. All the crab needs to do is wait ...It doesn't wait! It can see its new house, and is eager to start the eviction. It leaps from the rock, its many legs splayed like a net.It misses the leaf!How could the bloody thing miss?The old home, I realise. The crab has let weeds grow across the shell and, like a hand through water, the weeds push against the crab's eager speed. It passes within a pincer's tip of the snails trail, and plummets down, and down to places where my unbelieving eyes can barely make out its form. When it hits the sand, a great flurry of grains erupts: a flash of teeth, a slash of spines ...At least I now know that I share my healing pool with a rappoe fish. I must reme[...]

Worlds within Worlds #7.1

Mon, 08 Jul 2013 19:49:00 +0000

7. ResurrectionThe water is warm, and calm. And tight.No. The tightness is not water. The tightness surrounds me, and the water surrounds it. The tightness is ... safe. It is good. It separates me from the surrounding water.I open my eyes.This healing pool is a feast of life. A set of darts captivates my fresh eyes, exercising the muscles within them to focus on this fish, then that, then another one deeper than the others. Brown fish with silver flanks, small and lithe. At one moment they shoal, their movements an execution of perfect team dynamics – a demonstration of how many can become more than one, just as men can become more than men when they join together in the Race. And the next moment, they split in all directions: up, and down, and to all sides – each to its own purpose.Some fish dart into a woodland of redweeds that glisten in their diamond bubbles, each leaf with its own stalk reaching down to a secret holdfast, hidden from my sight. Here, white-knotted worms and bright-tattooed shrimps graze across the fronds. When a fish approaches a worm, I watch it contract into a barrel of spikes. I remember stepping on such worms, when I breathed air; I remember the shock of pain that this pinhead fiend can unleash on a misplaced toe. The fish, too, knows of this worm: it backs away rapidly, soon joined by its gang mates in a new shoal-dance.I test my tightness. Fists and heels stretch against the clear membranes that surround me. The water I swallow is sweet. The healing pool still has much work to do.I close my eyes and dream of cities.[...]

Worlds within Worlds #6.2

Thu, 04 Jul 2013 18:39:00 +0000

I have counted a hundred breaths twenty times; still my body refuses to sleep.Brother Sam sleeps. A while into my count, after we had settled on separate sides of the hot hearth, he had crawled hand-by-knee over to me and shaped his limbs around mine. I had kept my eyes closed and allowed a few snores to rattle from my throat; apparently he was not looking to play for his true snores soon joined my false ones in an offbeat duet.There is a comfort in his warm skin, but not enough to still the chaotic chants of my silent voice. Oh, how I sing in my head, sound on sound: mum, dad; alive, dead. Nonsense words ripe in their healing pools deep in my lung, begging for release and welcome – day, night; sun, thunder...Slowly I shift the weight of the man's leg from my hip – my right hip, I remember – and ease my body from his cuddle. The fire has burned to embers and glowing ash; I should add more logs to it: it had taken me an age to coax flames from the tinder.Let it burn out.I step towards the long wall of the house, settle myself down in a gap between the plank walls where my legs can dangle over the platform’s edge high above the waves.The world I look upon is far darker than it should be. Above me, the clouds are shaking the last of their rain down to the sea's purple waters; only the tightest shreds of mauve sky streak between their grey towers. The – lightning – that so scared me has gone, and the storm no longer bellows in pain. Even the wind is settling back to its true path: as I sit I can hear its gusts ruffle the fronds that stack over the roof; feel them buffet my face.Mum. Dad ...I know these words. I know the intimate shape of them in my throat, the lip's kiss of one and the tongue's tut of the other. I know their touch around my body.I cannot remember them.This thought pulls another from my memory. A guardian's sharp yellow beak pressing into my flesh as it pushed words into my hidden ear: I know you. I do not remember you.It has been eighteen sleeps since I broke from the healing pool. I haven't seen a guardian since before my first sleep.No brothers, no women. No guardians ...'Are you crying?'His voice startles me! I have to grab at the wall to stop my body flinging itself into the air. An instant later I feel his hands clutch around my arm.I stare at his thumbs, his arms; his face. It takes an effort for me to draw air into my chest and, when it departs, it carries a laugh with it.'Fuck, man! When did you learn to be so quiet?'Brother Sam smiles, loosens his grip and slaps me on the shoulder as he settles on the ledge next to me. 'Your eyes are wet ...''It still rains ...''... and red. I didn’t think you were capable of crying.'As he speaks the words, I realise the truth in them. I can feel the tell of an ache in my face that signals a moment of failure, a memory of grief as when the opposition draws clear beyond the power of my sinews, the strength of my gang mates, to pull level. It is a feeling of undeniable, unalterable loss.A sharper gust shivers my skin. 'I'm cold,' I reply. 'The fire’s almost out.''And that makes you cry, Savage?''Another nonsense word springs from your tongue. What does "sav-edj" mean?''You haven't told me your name yet. "Savage" is what you do, with your flint knives and spears and digging for eggs in the mud. I don’t know what else to call you.'I consider these words for a moment. Names are ... difficult ... things. I've learned to my cost that my name in the wrong mouth can tether me as effectively as any stake. But I don't know how to explain this to the[...]

... And that concludes my posts for today.

Wed, 03 Jul 2013 11:20:00 +0000

All the words I've posted today are the words I wrote before the start of Camp NaNo. I hope you both enjoyed them. From here on in, the writing's gonna get a lot rougher - first draft rougher - as I won't have time to rewrite them.

The good news is, the writing block is broken. For the best part of a year Kal and Sam have been sat in that long house doing nothing. After I got them there (last summer) I ran out of things for them to say to each other. And I had no clue about what they would do next. Then, last night, after I had written my first 500 Camp NaNo words, I got myself one of them inspiration thingies. I know what Kal's gonna ask, and what Sam tells him, sat in that long house together.

And I know what's going to happen when Kal finally tells Sam his name.

Of course, if you haven't read the first book of the SpinTrap saga, yopu won't understand why Sam does what he does ...

If you want the book, the buy links can be found in this post.

Worlds within Worlds #6.1

Wed, 03 Jul 2013 11:10:00 +0000

6. The Longhouse'You used me as fucking bait?''I apologise. It was the only way I could deal with it.'Below us, waves pile into the long inlet, dancing as the storm pushes them first this way and then that way. Thankfully this longhouse is sturdily constructed, its roof and walls still entire. The gang who built it, halfway up the side of the hill, are – were – skilled craftsman, with an eye for a good view.'I could have died!''You still breathe, yes?''That's not the point ... you did kill it: tell me you killed it?'I offer the man sat opposite me a smile: 'Kill it?''Kill it. End its life. Like Marc.''If you mean: "did I take its breath from its flesh," then no. I did not killit. That one has been damaged – it will take it a fair while to re-grow its head, but it has not gone.'A look of disgust wraps its creases around his head. 'Are there more of those things around?''I doubt it. They do not tolerate each other's company very well. And they hardly ever venture this close to the sea.''So we're safe here?''From flaymen? Yes. They never climb; they seem to distrust wood.''But there's other dangers – what were those worms in that fruit? Could they have killed me?'Fretworms? They are an annoyance. They live in the fruit, but sometimes they make their home in a man's cheeks, rotting the flesh by their passage. The irritation can lead to torture, but most men afflicted with a fretworm will throw themselves from a cliff long before that happens.''What, they get into your brain?'I glance at the fire sat in its hearth in the middle of the room. The wood that I had found piled at the far end of the longhouse burns brightly, with little smoke.'I've not heard of that happening.''Why else would a man throw himself from a cliff?''To free his Vital Breath from his bones, of course.'Tiring of the constant questions, I stand up and walk across the tight-fitting planks over to the fire. 'Where did you put your bag? We can bake the last of those sourscrape roots; they'll be ready to eat by the time we wake.'Receiving no answer, I turn to see if he is watching me. Instead I find him with his head cocked to one side and his tongue loose at the edge of his lips. I can recognise a thinking posture when I see one.'What worries you?''I thought I was dead,' he starts. 'When I first came to ... I remember dying, I think. In the tomb under the warehouse, and then there were lights, and floating ... and Marc was floating with me; somehow I knew it was him ... and something tried to grab us, engulf us, but we followed the demon – shit, there really was a demon? In my fucking head?'He considers his own question for a moment. 'And then I was floating. Marc helped me escape from the bag in the rock pool. He said we weren't dead, that we would live forever now – together forever ... but I told him I was dead and then ... then he really did die. That fish killed him ...'A crack of burning wood breaks into the relative silence caused by the man's faltering trail of words.'Your brother ... Maak, yes? You say he is dead – killed ...'I retrace my steps, hunker back down and place my hand on Sam's shoulder. 'His flesh is burned,' I continue, 'but his Vital Breath remains.''What do you mean?''Always the questions with you! Your brother's flesh is burned – we burned it: a good honouring, that – but his Vital Breath still exists ...''Like a spirit? A ghost?'I shake my head. 'More words that have no meaning to me. A man’s Vital Breath leaves his body when the pain became too much,[...]

Worlds within Worlds #5.2

Wed, 03 Jul 2013 11:07:00 +0000

The avenues are deceptions, like the tracks of sugar that tempt an unsuspecting fly into the burning waters pooled in the base of the pitcher plant's leaf.'But you must have been born somewhere!'Brother Sam talks too much.I wave him to silence before carefully parting the curtain of dangling traps and slowly pushing my head into the space beyond.This avenue is much rougher than the first, almost like the bed of a dried out stream. It runs in a shallow gully below us. It looks deserted, but something about the place – maybe the lack of noise or a whiff of not-quite-right – makes me mistrust my eyes.The new-grown hairs on my arm pucker: something is down there, waiting.'Everyone is born, and everyone has to ...'I turn and slap my hand across the man's mouth before my heart has a chance to complete its beat. I push him backwards, force him to take unseen steps away from the gully. As soon as we are clear I turn him – my palm still clamped tight to his face – and propel him to the safety of the trees that make this rocky hillside their home.For once, he doesn't struggle.I head for a tree a little way uphill. It is larger than the others, with buttress roots flaring from its wide trunk; at some point, not too long ago, men had marked it for felling, chipping a set of steps into one of the sloping roots.It will serve in a crisis.'Climb!' I whisper into his ear. 'No words, no protests. Be silent, yes? Climb high!'I don't wait to see if he does as he's told.I crouch low as I turn back to the avenue, angling my route seawards towards a spot where, I hope, the gully walls will be at their highest. The ground is more level in this direction, allowing me to use my hands to clamber over and between rocky outcrops. I approach the lip of the gully almost on my belly.I was right to mistrust my eyes.It stands absolutely still, its back tight against the avenue's opposite wall. Its face is directed away from my vantage, with all its senses seemingly focussed on the curtain of pitcher vines a little distance landwards.A flayman! Part of me wonders why it has wandered so far from its normal hunting grounds.Its camouflage is near perfect – it was perfect, I realise, for anyone broaching the avenue from where we had just been. Its fur-less body has taken on the hues of the rocks and soils of the bank behind it, and it has flattened and flared its skin to muffle its outline and minimise any tell-tale shadows. But from this angle the colours don't quite match their background, and darkness behind the legs and arms help define its man-like shape.There's rain in the air, and the breeze is becoming fickle. At the moment it probably can't smell me, but one misguided gust from the coming storm will be enough to ruin my emerging plan.Flaymen. What do I know about them?They are not real men, though they may take a man's shape. Their limbs are thinner and their chests are barely wide enough to accommodate a narrow neck and slim, sloping shoulders. I think of them as stick men – things that creep through the woods looking for people – no, men – to feast on. When travelling landwards, a wise man does not sleep unless one of his brothers watches over him, or he has a woman's protections about him.Achoa once told me that they feed on a man's terror, tracking their prey by the droplets of fear that spring from the pits and crotches of men caught alone in the woods. I'm counting on Sam to flood the woods with a torrent of such sweat. I cannot hope to g[...]

Worlds within Worlds #5.1

Wed, 03 Jul 2013 11:05:00 +0000

5. The FlaymanThe climb to the top of the bulwark hill, which separates the place of the abandoned longhouse and the next valley downwind, was tough but, from up here on the spine, I can see the clear length of the wide woodlands we have just crossed and the much narrower, meaner vale that we need to tackle next. More ominously, I can spot clouds forming between the land and the skies; soon the wind will lie to us and cold rain will clatter our tired bodies.Sam lags behind me. The man makes too much use of his stick to help him climb; he should trust the exertion to help toughen his ankles against future sprains. When he finally scrambles close enough, I cast my hand out and grab at his frayed crutch to help haul him up the last few strides to the summit.'This is a good place for us to eat. Give me your bag.'He shrugs it from his back and hands it over wordlessly, too busy sucking air into his lungs to argue with me. As I take the kelp net from him, he hunkers down on a rock shelf just below me; once seated, he sets to fussing at his leg, pulling the offending ankle onto his knee so he can prod at it.'You should leave it alone,' I tell him. 'Pain only works its spite when you make it feel welcome.'He ignores my advice. From my own bag I fish out a snack: sweet smelling brelfruit – possibly over-ripe. I use the food to bribe his attention away from his injury by holding one of the ruby globes near to his nose. He grasps it quickly, grunts his thanks and bites into the flesh without bothering to check for fretworms.'You speak English,' he says, finally, his chin smeared with juice. 'How do you know English?'The question bemuses me. 'I speak words. I share my words with you – do you not like this gift?''No. I mean I'm glad you're talking now.' He muffles his voice in the fruit as he takes a second bite. 'It's just that this isn't England, yet you speak English.''"Ing Lend" – what is an Ing Lend? What is Ing Lish?''England – it's a place.' He looks around at the view from his ledge. 'A big island. It's the place where I come from. In England we speak English.'I'm sure he means to make sense with his words – I can see no guile in his eyes. I have to shake my head.'There are many places in this land, but we don't give them names. Names are for people, for gangs and clans. Not for rocks and rivers. Words are precious things.''So you don't have a name for any of this?' He waves his fruit wide around him before returning it to his mouth for another bite.'I have heard my gang brothers call it Fol Huun, for this is Fol Huun's world.''Is "Foll Hoon" your chieftain? Your leader? The big man?''Fol Huun is ... Fol Huun. She is everywhere.''She's your goddess, then. You worship her.'I can only shake my head again. 'Your words – they make no sense to me. Goddess? Worship?' I consider the ideas for a moment. 'I have worshipped some women in my brighter moments, taking much enjoyment with them before and after we slept ... I would not know how to worship Fol Huun. She is ... she's not a woman.''Worshipping isn't fucking,' he says, letting his foot fall from its perch on his knee and leaning back against the rock. 'Worshipping is ... you close your eyes and pray to God, and ask Him for favours and blessings to help you get through the bad times, and you have to thank Him for the good stuff as well ... I suppose. Maybe if I had done more worshipping when I was alive, I wouldn't be here now.''Alive. Alive and dea[...]

Worlds within Worlds #4.3

Wed, 03 Jul 2013 11:03:00 +0000

Standing here on the cliffs I have a good view of the little beach upwind of me, with its lagoon and healing pools. One of the men – Marc with the dark hair – lies very still on the sands; the other – Sam – is digging a man-sized hole: already he has hollowed his ditch to the height of his hips.I did not plan to come here again, but my last sleep had been disturbed by visions of a black sky, its unrelenting colour peppered by bright points of light. I had been searching for my shadow while a terror had paced at my back, never seen.Apart from the men on the beach, I am alone in this place ... and it scares me. No man should be alone, not like this.I leave the safety of the lookout point and scramble down the frozen collapse of rocks to the little stream. When I reach the strand the man pauses and looks at me with hopeless eyes.'He's dead. Help me. Please ... help. We have to bury him.'I circle past the man as he resumes his digging. He uses his hands to scrape clumps of wet sand up to the lip of the hole, but as one clump reaches its destination, another two crumble from the sides to the bottom, which already swirls in water.I am glad to see that the Vital Breath of Marc has departed; he did not deserve to suffer such agonies.'Why are you digging a hole?''I have to bury him. I can't leave him here.''How does burying your brother's flesh honour him?'My words break him from his work.'He has to be buried. Dead people get buried, or cremated.''Cremated?''Burned.'I nod my approval at this idea. 'Burning the flesh is a good way to honour a brother. And it would be safer than staying here.'The words that I share with the man seem to bring some focus back into his face.'Is there danger here? Apart from the fucking fish ...''There's danger everywhere,' I tell him, 'though there's more danger in this place than there is elsewhere. Especially because you've dug a hole in the sand. Making holes so close to the healing pools – the crabs will be angry beyond their endurance.''Crabs ...?'I wave my arm towards the cliffs. 'Come with me. We shall build your brother a pyre away from the reach of the crabs, yes?''Yes,' he agrees, wiping his hand across his tear-tracked cheek.[...]