I awoke with a start, the troubadour’s haunting dirge still caressing my ear. I inhaled through my nose to calm my racing heart and found my nostrils filled with the stale stink of dirty bodies and work animals. Rolling over, I retched over the side of my bed. Fortunately, the urge to vomit was replaced by rough coughs before I ruined my carpet. After my coughs subsided, I lay back in bed and wiped the sheen of sweat from my brow. The dream came back to me; I was on the same pilgrimage as the grotesque figures in the painting.
Sunday, March 18, 2018
“Do you see the size of that one?” Erik shouted.
He thrust his finger towards one of the twisted trees that were scattered through the marsh. A giant mosquito perched on the rough bark, buzzing loudly. It was the largest he’d seen so far.
“Shit, don’t point at it. What if it notices us?”
The two men froze, ignoring the conventionally-sized insects that crawled over their exposed skin. The gigantic mosquito took flight and vanished deeper into the stinking marsh.
The men resumed their slog through the thigh-high water, trying to ignore the unseen things rubbing against their tired legs.
Saturday, March 17, 2018
Gazi put her craggy hand on the rough tunnel floor. She could feel the cave spider’s web blocking the path, but not her acolyte. The spider chittered, hoping Gazi’s curiosity bring her to be ensnared in its trap.
Instead, Gazi placed her hands on the stone and whispered a prayer. A moment later she pushed, and felt her hands sink into the stone as though it were wet clay. She continued pushing until she had passed entirely into the rock wall. She swam through the rock until the spider’s web was behind her. After emerging, she continued down the tunnel.
Friday, March 16, 2018
“If one more motherfucker cuts me off…” I growled.
Then some asshole in a Chevy Equinox jerked into my lane and slammed on his breaks. I laid on the horn.
The driver stopped and put it in park. Then they got out of their car. It was a middle-aged man who looked like he used to be athletic, but was still a bully. He stormed towards me.
I was salivating like a dog when a bell rings. I was going to give this fuckface such a beating his own mother wouldn’t be able to tell his face from his ass.
Thursday, March 15, 2018
“Before we arrive at the village, my lord, you should know that the inhabitants are all possessed of a bizarre look and manner. Perhaps due to inbreeding, as is so common in places of extreme isolation, they universally speak with a lisp.”
“Yes, my lord, and they practice a particularly backwards religion deifying snakes. They’ve gone so far as to forbid the killing of the things in their territory. Oddly though, despite the dense population of snakes in the surrounding area, they never seem to enter the village grounds.”
“We shall need caution when we bed down tonight then.”
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Rururox lifted her snout and inhaled the scent of the humans they were tracking. There were several of them, with horses, probably a caravan. She licked up the drool accumulating on her mouth. Humans rarely traveled the underside of the continent and the gnolls considered their meat a delicacy, flavored as it was by the variety of fragrant plants they consumed that were unavailable on the underside.
Rururox turned back to her hunting party. Their snouts were pointed in the direction the scent on the air suggested the humans had traveled, though eventually they’d have to adjust for the wind.
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Cecil crawled from the wreckage of the airship, covered in scrapes and cuts. Once sufficiently recovered, he pushed himself to his feet and looked over the debris. He saw no movement. Slowly, he dug through the shattered timber, searching for other survivors.
Cecil abandoned the search after finding the smashed bodies of a few of the other passengers. He instead started to search for supplies and his armor. Anything breakable had been destroyed. He did manage to find the heavy chest holding his armor. It was intact. He wasn’t sure how useful it would be however, stranded in the wilderness.
Monday, March 12, 2018
Zenbios passed the speaking stone to Talaos. Like the others, Talaos bore the scars of many battles. The best-known had pulled one side of his mouth up, giving him a perpetual half-smile and the name The Grinning Butcher.
“We’re discussing the prospect of war with the state of Pentheos. Many compelling arguments have been made in support of invasion. At the heart of each proponent though, is a desire for glory, wealth slaves, or some other thing. For my part, I care not for any of these things. Go to war or stay at home, I simply love to kill.”
Saturday, March 10, 2018
Fikri woke late and struggled to rise. He checked the offering he had placed the night before. The little altar held a battered statue, worn smooth in places by the touch of time and many hands. Fikri touched the idol’s featureless face with the three fingers of his left hand, as his father and grandfather had every day.
The worn spots on his prayer pillow struggled to expel the two divots from the hours he’d spent droning ancient adulations. The offering lay where he had placed it yesterday, before his supplications. His petitioning hadn’t roused Urtarr from his godly slumber.
Friday, March 9, 2018
She put her hand on the tree. Its life energy was sluggish, not wane. It was waiting for the invigorating touch of spring air before it would stir itself. The taste of the nutrients in the soil crackled across her tongue and the sun warmed her skin all over, even though she stood in the shadow of the massive tree. Something touched her neck. She didn’t flinch, recognizing the sensation of a squirrel stirring in its den high overhead. She looked up, locating the clump of leaves and made a chittering noise. The squirrel’s poked out and it chittered curiously.
Thursday, March 8, 2018
The music started, the double doors opened, everyone turned in their chairs. Standing in the doorway, framed by the setting sun, stood the bride’s silhouette. She walked down the aisle carefully timing her steps to the music. Once she was out of the sunlight and fully in the building, sunbeams filtered through the building’s strained glass, painting her white dress. Everyone’s heads turned, following her as she walked past them. When she reached the end of the aisle, the music stopped. The only thing that broke the silence of the hall were the creaking of chairs as the guests settled.
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
The woman awoke and saw two unfamiliar men staring down at her. Behind them she could see an unfamiliar ceiling.
“How are you feeling?” the older man asked. He had a close-trimmed grey, beard.
“I’m…” her stomach roiled.
The younger man dashed out of view, so fast his floppy cap fell off. He returned just in time to catch her vomit in a wide-mouthed earn.
“Are you feeling better?” he asked when she’d finished.
“Can you remember anything?” the young man asked.
“I remember…” she trailed off.
“Don’t rush her.” The older man said. “It will take time.”
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
“But what is it?”
“It’s a motorized scythe,” the diminutive man replied. “It’ll mow a field in less than half the normal time.”
“Well, at the price you’re asking, it had better.”
“It will pay for itself in a few years.”
“If it breaks?”
“It’s made of wood and steel, any piece you can’t make yourself you can get from your smith.”
“And who’ll bring in the crop in the meantime?”
“Well, certainly there must be labor you can hire in the short-term.”
“Tss, if you think there’s free hands at harvest time, you’ve a lot to learn about farming.”
Monday, March 5, 2018
“What do they call this place again?” Arthur asked his companion.
“A café,” Gregory replied.
“Yes.” Gregory sipped from his clay mug. His eyes widened. “What an amazing product, this coffee.”
“Yes, its rejuvenatory powers are unparalleled.”
“And that’s exactly why I brought you here, Arthur. The natives are content to sit in their cafes and sip their coffee, and that’s that.” He put his hand on his friend’s arm. “But between us two, I think we can take this coffee across all the rainbow bridges. A café in every neighborhood. Filled with those of monetary and temporal means.”
Sunday, March 4, 2018
Grusun carefully placed the lockpick back in bag. The ancient lock refused to open.
“Time to get the hammer,” he said to himself, a habit developed over years of working alone.
He rummaged through his pack, emerging with a sledgehammer. Grusun drew the hammer back and smashed it against the lock. The impact sent a metallic clang echoing down the tunnel.
The door remained shut. Grusun struck the lock several more times, then bent down to examine the results. The lock was intact, but Grusun could see that the hammer-blows had cracked the casing around the mechanism.
“It’s a start.”
Saturday, March 3, 2018
The airships shrank as Stanik plummeted through the air. The sounds of shot and men’s screams faded. All that was left was the wind rushing by. He had thought about the possibility of this moment many times; the whole crew had. But that didn’t prepare him. He couldn’t scream. He didn’t feel his heart racing. It wasn’t until his plunge began to slow that his shock started to dissipate. It wasn’t until after his fall was completely arrested and he was floating in one of the neutral zones that were scattered throughout the sky that panic began to set in.
Friday, March 2, 2018
“We need to get back inside,” I said, unnecessarily.
My fingers were stiff. I could barely close them around the handles of my tools. Everyone struggled to get their equipment back into their bags.
Initially the engine wouldn’t turnover. After the first sputter, we all looked at each other. I could see in their eyes that they were imagining someone finding us tomorrow, seated and frozen to death.
Everyone sighed when the motor finally roared to life. It growled as it idled, angry at being roused. We started to drive slowly back to the ship, accelerating as the engine warmed.
Thursday, March 1, 2018
The view out the window showed a cold, brown, and barren landscape. The inside of the house was equally bleak. A visitor, were that by some miracle there was one, wouldn’t have been given any indication that it was in fact, Christmas day. There was no tree decorated with a riotous explosion of lights and ornaments of innumerable theme. There were no gifts, wrapped carefully with paper that would be thoughtlessly torn away. The small table was bare. The kitchen was spotless, having just experienced its weekly cleaning. There were no signs of any preparation for the receiving of guests.