Saturday, March 16, 2013


"Youth", by Nicolas Joseph/Nick Silverpen

The woman stood along the riverbank, her feet crunching along the grasses that were slowly on their way from the dead brown. The urn was tipped over, ashes pouring out. With a grim look, she shook out the last of them into the water, and turned away, a dark expression over her face as she walked through the spring grasses to her village. At last, the bird was dealt with, and soon enough, it would barely be a memory.

Forms may be changed, but ultimately nothing can be destroyed. The ashes followed the stream as it wound along, yet the ashes stuck together, somehow unable to drift apart. The current carried them in silence, flying through the water and away from the dumping site. The ashes of the phoenix mixed with the springtime waters, and in the trickle that could be heard, its fire was still there. Water did not dampen its spirit. 

The woman though she had done the impossible, a most atrocious deed- but one cannot fight fire with fire. But the spirit of the flying flame held the ashes together, as it coursed down the river. Its caws came in the trickles, and the animals emerging cocked their heads as they eyed the pollution. There was definitely something different about it; the fear for the wellbeing of their homes they knew it would not affect, but there was a sense of energy that the animals could feel.

The river eventually wound to a marsh, where the low tide pulled the water from the stream. The damp ashes collected in a mudbank. Despite the season just beginning, it was surprisingly warm, the sun spilling down into the reed  grasses that lined the marshes. A breeze still pushed, cool and reminding that there was still a ways to go. It dipped into the mud, and touched upon the ashes. With the slightest tickle, the water began to separate from them, and one by one the ashes picked up as the phoenix began to fly once more.


"Young Again", by Will:

The forest was dim, even in broad daylight. A few bright rays slanted down through the thick roof of leaves, but the band of monks paid no mind to their surroundings. The path stretched on through the tree trunks, wide enough for four men to walk side by side. There were eight of them altogether, all robed in gray. Hoods covered their faces. They had no need for sight.

In the midst of the group rolled an ox-drawn cart topped by an iron cage. It was not a large cage--only the height of a man, and half that across--but it was very dark within. The bars were thick, criss-crossed with many symbols. A lock was set in one side, but it was rusted shut with age and disuse. The monks trudged along in their thick cloaks and paid the cart no mind.

For a moment, the ox stopped and sniffed, its dull eyes widening. The monks stopped as well, and one of them near the front lowered his hood. White eyes peered into the gloom, and then suddenly he raised a hand. There was a flicker of light, and the trees on either side leapt into sharp relief as power flashed forth—

--But then it stopped abruptly. The monk let his arm fall, his face pale as his eyes dropped to stare at the arrow that stood quivering in his chest. A long moment passed, and then he fell forward. At once the other monks leapt into action, but it was too late. Another volley of arrows hurtled from the brush, and four more fell pierced. There was a thunder of hooves on the path behind, and riders came into view. One of the monks flew toward the cage, hood flapping back as he raised both hands in a sign. But then an arrow buried itself in his shoulder, and he collapsed against the bars as the horsemen came up alongside the cart. One of the riders grabbed the ox’s halter, holding the terrified beast steady.

Another flash leapt up, and an archer came flying out of the underbrush, pierced through with light as the two remaining monks stood back to back, white eyes blazing. But they were not fast enough. Another horseman came pounding down the path behind them, and a sword gleamed in his hand.

It was over quickly. The soldiers filed out of the woods and formed up around the cart. They parted as the last horseman finished cleaning his sword and rode closer. The rider dismounted, pulling off his helmet. His hair was gray, his face hard, but there was mirth in his eyes. He carried himself casually. One of the soldiers approached.

“They were Old, my lord. Just as we expected. None escaped.”

“Good. The hard part is over then, I think,” the gray-haired man replied. He dismissed the soldier, turning his attention to the iron cage. Two strides brought him up to the cart. The body of the monk who had tried to seal the thing away lay motionless on the wooden side-board. The man heaved it off, away from the bars. Something stirred within the confines of the prison, and a shape like a hand drew back where it had been touching the blood-stained body. The gray-haired man peered into the darkness, and a voice spoke:

“You needn’t fear,” it said. “I am grateful, in fact. That sealing would have been...painful.”

“Painful, yes,” the man replied. “I’m glad we could be of service to you, but I could not have you taking another man’s body like that.”

“You are wise, I think. As wise as the Old here perhaps, though somewhat...sharper.”

“I regret that they had to die, but time is short.”

“Oh? Time is nothing to me.”

The man smiled, “Maybe. But I think you are weary of that cage.”

There was a sound like sniffing, and the shape shifted in the dark, moving closer.

“Will you...let me out, woodsman?” Two points shone behind the bars. Two points like eyes, but the gray-haired man knew that they were not eyes.

“Of course not. An Old god has not been let loose for centuries. What mischief you would cause!” He laughed to himself, and there were answering chuckles from the group of soldiers.

“True enough.” The voice sounded resigned. “Well then, what will you do? Not take me back to that dreadful sanctum again, I hope.”

“No, no. Nothing like that,” the man answered. “We shall make a pact with you.”

“A pact? Ah, I have not made a pact for many, many years. Tell me, what sort of pact?”

“That you shall aid us once, in our time of need.”

“Aid you? That would require a great offering indeed.”

“Indeed, and so I offer blood.”

“What blood?”

The gray-haired man gestured to the robed corpses upon the ground.

“Theirs,” he said.

“Oh, no. There is no power in Old blood. Not anymore. It is useless to me. But in Young blood, hmm...” the shape inside the cage moved closer still. The points of light widened, and there was the sniffing sound again. “Yes, there is power in the blood of the Young race. I shall have that. Not much. Only a drop. A drop for my aid.”

The man chuckled, considering for a moment. Then he raised one gloved hand, clenched a finger in his teeth and pulled off the leather riding glove. A knife slid from its sheath and ran along his finger. One droplet shone red upon the metal tip. He held it up in front of the cage.

“One drop for the god of fire and stone, and we shall have your aid.”

“You shall have it, when the time comes. I am bound by my word, woodsman.”

“You are.”

The blade flicked out, and the droplet flew off into the darkness behind the bars. The gray-haired man stepped back, a grim smile upon his face as he watched. All of a sudden, a sound like a mighty wind rose up, and there was a crowing noise, as of many birds. Fire flashed dimly behind the cage-bars, and then a hundred, hundred flaming shapes flashed to life and sprang upward, flapping, out of the cage, up through the smoking canopy of leaves. Up, up, and vanished in the sunlight far above.

For a moment, no one moved. No one breathed. The forest hung still as the light faded away. Finally the gray-haired man stirred.

“Leave the cage,” he said, turning away. “The bodies too. We have what we came for. The fire and stone are our allies today. Now...let the war begin.”

He smiled, sucking on his cut finger as he returned to his horse.

“And I almost feel young again.”


 "Letting Go", by Rob/Janus

He couldn't really say he was sad to see it go.  I mean it was just a stupid ratty old teddy bear--something he hadn't played with or even thought of in absolute years.  I mean sure he remembered back when it was the the best thing that ever happened to him--back when it was his only friend...but that time was long since past.

Jack looked at the sad little thing in his hands, the matted and dirty fur, the single remaining button eye.  He remembered, he remembered back when this silly little bear was the only thing that mattered in life, back when this bear made sure he got to sleep every night.  Heck, he even remembered the thing's name.

"Bunsen burner" he found himself whispering.  He never really knew why he named it that, it just seemed like a funny name and a funny word in general.  I mean it wasn't like he went on to become a great scientist--honestly, the more he thought about it, the more he realized that he probably just named it that because when you're a kid the word "buns" is funnier than just about anything.

Jack paused for a moment, sighing deeply as he held the bear.  It had kept him company through some of his best and worst moments in life.  Flashes of rain, of darkness, of fear, of heartbreak all flitted through his head as he held the bear.  This silly little object literally had been his life for so long--but it was also a life he hadn't lived for a very long time.

An arm touched his shoulder and he turned and looked into the loving eyes of his wife, Emily.
"You okay?" she asked with a sad smile.  He genuinely wasn't sure how to respond, opening and closing his mouth a few times before simply shaking his head and indicating the bear.
"She kept it." was all he managed to get out.
"Of course she kept it, Jack." she said softly "you were her only son."

As she spoke he remembered, remembered when he had first woken up and seen the bear on his pillow.  The same bear that he had been asking for--the same bear that he'd been begging his parents to get for months.  He remembered a sensation of utter joy and glee as he'd run down the hallway to his parents room.

But that was then, and this was now.  The boy of yesterday had given way to the man today, and that man had a duty.
With another heavy sigh and a gentle peck to Emily's cheek he walked from the small room and into the now empty main hall.

"Hey mom" he whispered softly, holding the bear tightly to his chest. "I just wanted to say...I just wanted to say thanks." he paused, collecting himself.  "Thanks for everything.  Thanks for Bunsen Burner--thanks for being there for me--thanks for making my life worth living.  You were the best mom I could ask for...and even though I might not have always told you that....well, I always knew it."

Speaking his piece, he left the ratty little thing on top of the closed coffin and walked from the room.  The boy of yesterday was gone, and with it his childhood things.  But soon the man would have children, and with them would come new youth. 


"Arrhythmic", by Legolover-361

“And these are supposed to work?”

The questioner, Rodney Garfunkel, was somewhat taken aback by the street dealer’s assuring laugh. “Believe me,” said the dealer, flashing a perfect smile and delivering his best impersonation of an infomercial announcer, “with the rate at which these things are flying off the shelves, there’s no question. We’ve received no complaints yet! It works, or your money will be returned — guaranteed.”

Rodney closed his fingers around the capsule of pills, burying it in his palm as if hiding it from the passing New York City crowd, and removed his elbows from the wooden counter of the dealer’s stand. “Right,” he said. “So, uh... how much will this cost?”

“For the veritable Fountain of Youth in pill form? Seven hundred eighty-five dollars.” The dealer paused. “And ninety-nine cents.” Rodney inhaled sharply. “You aren’t getting a better deal anywhere else, I assure you!” insisted the dealer. “There’s a reason these things are only possessed by the rich. Consider this my little piece of assistance to a middle class man.”

He was good: Rodney was digging in his pocket for his debit card before the dealer had finished speaking. “You take debit?”

“We take payment,” said the dealer, whipping out a card reader. “The manner of said payment can vary greatly.”

“...So you take debit.”

With a sigh: “Yes. We take debit.”

Rodney swiped the card, waited for the transaction to clear, and bid farewell. The capsule of pills slipped into his pocket, and he swore he felt his heart skip a beat. His doctor had diagnosed him with heart trouble on this day, June 14, one year ago.

* * *

When no one in the office seemed to be paying attention to Rodney’s cubicle, he retrieved the capsule from his dress pants, still unwrinkled as if newly ironed, and examined it. The container was a dull gray that muddled the pills’ true colors, but Rodney could ascertain through his glasses the pills were white. Oh, how he despised needing glasses to read.

He licked his lips and placed the capsule back in his pocket. Not now, he told himself. Later, when he got home, and his wife was inevitably taking her pre-bedtime shower, he would take a pill. His research indicated the medicine’s effects would take several days and half as many pills to appear, but when they did...

Rodney was only sixty-seven, but he felt old. His dad had died from lung complications at sixty, his mom from heart failure at eighty-nine just two years ago. The memory of her funeral and his halfhearted eulogy still rang clear in his mind like the tolling of the church bells that day. His parents were returned to the Earth, but he would prolong his reunion with them a little more.

No, not now! Rodney shoved the capsule deeper into his pocket and sighed, then returned to the presentation he had to write for the PR department’s meeting in a half-hour.

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