Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The L.A.O.S. Part 4

 Catch up on Part 1!
(Or maybe Part 2?) 
(How's about Part 3?)

I did it. Holy crap, I did it. My hand is part of the desk. My hand is part of the desk. Sudden and irrational panic gripped my chest and I tried to jerk my hand away – and the desk jolted.

Megan cried out, closed her eyes briefly and extracted her own hand – but mine wouldn’t budge. I pulled again, breaths coming shallow and fast, but the desk moved too, wouldn’t separate. I was trapped, I couldn’t get away, and it was like primary school when they caught me in the finger trap that first time and wouldn’t let me out and they all crowded around and shoved, and it was gentle at first until they realised I couldn’t get away, and then it turned mean, and they sang ‘Chris-fit, Chris-fit, Chris-fit is a misfit!’ and I had to hide the bruises from my mother and I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think…

“Chris!”

Megan’s voice cut through the panic and I realised she’d called my name a couple of times, and that the hands on my shoulders weren’t hurting me, but were trying to catch me, trying to prevent me from thrashing. “Steady on, man.”

Greg. I stiffened, gulping in air.

“Chris, you have to calm down!” Megan’s voice was high-pitched, distressed, and she looked close to tears.

I closed my eyes, trying to ignore my hand, and drew in a deep, shaky breath. “I’m calm,” I said, forcing my shoulders to relax. “I’m calm.” I’m not Chris-fit anymore, I reminded myself.

Greg held me for another second, fingers digging into the soft skin between collar bone and shoulder, until I shrugged him away. “I’m calm.” I opened my eyes and sought out Megan’s. “Get me out of this?”

“I can’t,” she said, shaking her head.

Panic rose up again. Hell of a finger-trap. “What do you mean?”

“You have to do it yourself. It’s just the same as getting it in there. But you have to relax.”

I nodded, exhaling. I could do this. I got myself into it, I could get out again. It wasn’t a finger-trap. The shock of seeing my hand in the desk had set off the panic, nothing else. Anyone would freak out at the sight of half their hand missing. Anyone.

I took another deep breath to steady myself and closed my eyes. Once again, I imagined the miniscule structure of my hand, the electron links between atoms and the way the connections danced around the connections in the table. I could do this. And then, suddenly, I could; I was no longer just imagining the atomic structure of my hand, I could see it. And the table, too.

Slowly, slowly, I forced the table away from my hand, and my hand moved fractionally upwards. I resisted the temptation to jerk away all at once and moved steadily, atom by atom by atom. I opened my eyes and stole a glance, and relief flooded over me as I saw that my hand was almost free. I couldn’t help myself; I tore it away the last little bit, wincing as I broke some of the atomic bonds and left skin behind.

I sat still, nursing my hand, too stunned to process what had happened.

“You okay, man?” Greg said quietly, hand hovering like he wanted to put it on my shoulder again.

“Yeah,” I said, shrugging away. “I’m cool.”

Greg shrugged too and sat back on his desk.

I stared at mine, at the place where my hand had sunk.

“So you see it is possible,” Megan said quietly.

My gaze flicked to her for a second, then back to my hand. “Yeah,” I said. “I guess so.”

“Are you in?” she said, voice still soft.

My brows twitched as I questioned her with my eyes. “I have a choice?”

“Of course you do.”

“You said I couldn’t walk away.” I searched her face.

“I lied.”

I clenched and unclenched my jaw, rubbing the spot where my fingertips lacked some of their skin. “Yeah,” I said at last. “Yeah, I’m in.”

The bubble of tension that had been building unnoticed in the room burst, and everyone leaned back in their chairs, breathing deeply. I felt like I’d passed some sort of critical test or something. I guess I had.

Megan smiled. “Welcome to the L.A.O.S.”

I wrinkled my brow. “L.A.O.S.?”

Her smile broke into a grin, but it was Pip that answered my question. “League of Absolutely Ordinary Superheros,” she said.

I got it. Grinning back, I repeated back the words she’d said earlier. “Saving the world through science.”

Pip nodded. “Saving the world through science.”

Feeling like my cheeks might crack from sudden elation, I leaned back and surveyed the group. “So. We’re superheros. We don’t wear spandex, do we?” I added, frowning. “’Cause spandex is just wrong on so many levels.”

Matt frowned. “Spandex is aerodynamic, flexible, flame resistant and helps maintain body temperature. In many ways, it’s the perfect hero fabric.”

 Megan sniggered, probably at the horror on my face.

“However,” Matt continued, “for aesthetic reasons, no. We do not wear spandex.”

“Though for you, Chris, we’re always willing to make an exception,” Greg threw in. “Unless, you know, you have image issues.”

“Shut up,” I said. “So. Non-spandex-wearing superheros. Do we have, like, missions? Who are we rescuing next?”

The group exchanged glances and I narrowed my eyes in suspicion. “We do actually do stuff, right?”

“Well,” said Megan, with the air of someone carefully considering their words. “We do have something that needs rescuing.”

“Yes?” I said, still suspicious.

“You know the E. James Downward Maths trophy?”

Dread bubbled up inside. “Yeah…”

“We have to rescue it from St. Joseph’s.”

I groaned, and the bubble burst. “You’re kidding, right?”

But of course, she wasn’t. In less than one hour, I’d blown my cover as a normal human being, discovered I had what basically equated to superpowers, and joined a superhero club – and my first mission was to win the fracking inter-school Maths competition.

Damn it all. Didn’t I say they’d be planning extra credit work before three?

[Continued next month!]

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Vjaited Enters (A Storm-Dance poem)

Chorus
It comes, the wild storm.
It comes, it comes,
The wild storm, it comes.

Man
What, ho, is this
That churns the trees
And chills the air?

Chorus
The wild storm
It comes, it comes.
The wild storm, it comes.

Man
And what wonder is this,
The soft edging of the breeze?

Chorus
It comes, it comes.
The wild storm,
It comes.

Man
I must go to it, awe-of-all.
One foot I step
Forwards
Into what I have heard but not seen.

Chorus
Don’t go, don’t go;
The wild storm, it comes.
It reaches forth it find you.
Hide, and you will be saved,
Or else it will hold you
Until you are no longer man,
But beast
And the ocean and hills
Will mean no more to you
Than earth’s song
And earth’s pant,
For the wild storm, it comes.

Man
The winds have embraced me
Soft through with magic
No longer threads
Tiny arms, hands, fingers,
But a woven fabric
And the sinuous limbs
Of the liquid spell-stuff
That caress my skin.

Chorus
It comes, the wild storm.
The wild storm, it comes.
It comes with teeth and claws and sword:
Not a caress, but the whispered edge of a blade
Drawn from its sheath.

Man
But, O, how the wisdom of my forefathers
Has turned to ash.
There is nothing to fear
But the snapping and fall of branches in the gale.
Gladly, I go forward.
I find no danger here.

Chorus
Don’t go, don’t go,
The wild storm is here.
It rasps your skin and grows your claws
Sprouts fur and feather, twists your limbs
From square to round to inverse*
To a knot.
Can’t you see?

Man
Oh, God, I see!

Both
Eseteij!


About this poem

Why would the foremost expert on the most dangerous natural phenomenon in the world walk right onto the path of that phenomenon?

Magic storms with the ability to change humans into monsters plague the continent containing the country of Asebei. In the country's language, Abei, they're called eseteij in the singular, eseteijo in the plural. Defending settlements from these storms used to be little more than a hit-and-miss, with no one knowing why what they did work, or why it failed (as it invariably did, sometimes more than others).

Vjaited Roz changed all that when he invented a reliable defense against these storms that could keep entire cities safe. For this he is praised. Of course, he's also considered a madman, because the last thing he ever did was walk straight into a magical storm.

This Asebei poem, meant to be performed aloud, is about him.


*This line refers to the cursive form of the Abei writing system. Some characters have an overall round shape, others have an overall rectangular shape, while others cross themselves and are referred to as inverse. The line is saying that the man's form will be changed and, eventually, twisted beyond recognition