The Grand Gate

Alain walked behind the cart, his steps slow and measured. Occasionally, the cart hit one of the many potholes in the road, sending dirty, rancid water splashing everywhere, but he anticipated these drops and moved just far enough aside to avoid the worst of the spray.

He’d walked this spot, behind his father’s cart, for two days now. This would be his first trip to the City, the first time that his father deemed him old enough to go along on the twice-yearly pilgrimage to sell their wares, to bring back the battered and scratched silver coins that would pay for the repairs to their little farm.

In Alain’s mind, the City was this mystical place, a wonderland where everything existed, and his father somehow know how to submit their humble wares to trade for the objects they needed. His father, a stout and doughy man named Cuthbert, Cuth to the others in his village, only returned with what was necessary – but one time, Mat’s dad, Singer, brought back a strange small box of crystal that produced wondrous tunes when a small crank in its side was turned. That tiny box filled Alain’s head with all sorts of ideas about what other incredible devices and sorcery might exist in the City. Continue reading

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[AGttA] Chapter 8.3: The Climb

Continued from Chapter 8.2, here.

Read it from the beginning, starting here.

Axiom 8: Adapt to setbacks.

When I woke up, the lion was still there.  He yawned at me when I crawled out from beneath his paw, revealing incisors big enough to easily bite my entire face off, but didn’t seem inclined to attack me.

“Uh, hi,” I said to him.

He blinked huge, golden eyes at me, and then pushed his head forward.  For one terrified second, I thought that he was about to rip into me, but instead he tilted his face aside so that his cheek rubbed against my shoulder, and a low rumble drifted out of his mouth.

“Oh.  Right, cat.”  I reached up and tentatively, still a little worried that I’d draw back a bloody stump, scratched him along his big jaw.  The massive cat purred louder, tilting over to one side so that I could reach all the way under his chin. Continue reading

The Tribal Protector

The village chief stood at the entrance to the hut, fighting to keep his composure. He gazed into the darkness of the hut’s interior, fighting against his own reluctance to step past the threshold.

His hair was turning gray, and his back now bowed forward slightly, but the chief still trusted his ears. From behind him, he heard the sounds of the nightly fire, in the middle of his small village. His friends, family, laughing and chattering about their day, passing around the coconut filled with ayahuasca, taking small sips of the potent brew. He yearned desperately to return to them, to leave this solitary, small hut on the edge of his village alone.

Instead, he forced one last, deep breath into his lungs. He felt the little pull, the stitch in his side where, many years ago, a boar caught him with its tusks as it charged from the undergrowth.

The chief took a step forward, past the threshold of the hut and inside. Continue reading

Night Express

Sitting on the faded fabric of the seat, feeling the familiar rumble of the car rattling over the tracks rising up from beneath him, Richard finally let himself relax. The effort came slowly, and he had to force himself to take the first few shaking, unsteady breaths, but he felt his muscles slowly begin to unwind.

This was all he needed, he told himself. A few minutes to relax. He needed to stop thinking about it all, how it was all falling apart.

Just relax. Continue reading

[AGttA] Chapter 8.2: The Journey

Continued from Chapter 8.1, here.

Read it from the beginning, starting here.

Axiom 8: Adapt to setbacks.

It turns out that deserts are hot.  And the sand really stings when it blows in your eyes.  And even though something doesn’t look that far away, as you start walking towards it, you realize that yes, it really is that far away.

In short, deserts suck.  

I repeated this thought to myself over and over as I trudged through the sand, the tip of the sword blade dragging along as it hung low from my belt and leaving a long track behind me (at least, until the blowing, shifting sand covered it up). Through sunburned, slitted eyes, I glared at the mountain of Megiddo, which appeared absolutely no closer than it had started off whenever I first began hiking.

“Screw you, Apocalypse,” I coughed out from between dry, sore lips before I closed them, trying to keep the last little bit of moisture from seeping out of my husk of a body. Continue reading

The Rot

His footsteps were sure and steady, despite the slipperiness of the moss underfoot. He knew his way to the little knoll, had walked this path many times before.

The mist swirled in around him, and he held the lantern high, although its light failed to illuminate much of interest. Should a boar or other denizen of the forest emerge, the light would grant him no advance warning, no increased chance of escaping to safety.

The mist soaked into his robes, making them grow heavier as they clung to his body. He paid little heed to how they clung to his skin. The journey was more important. No matter whether the forest was dry or wet, he would complete his journey, would reach his destination. Continue reading

Meditation

I woke up and frowned. This wasn’t right. The whole world had gone yellow, and a pervasive smell crept into my nostrils, carrying strong notes of overripe banana.

After a few seconds of physical paralysis, my brain established that yes, I still did possess fingers. I reached up and removed the banana peel from where it sat draped over my face, and looked around.

A plastic roof only a foot above my head leaked sunlight, revealing that I sat in a metal container, about six feet long and three feet wide. Several parts of me ached, suggesting that I’d been tossed into the container, but my fall onto the steel floor had been cushioned by several bulky and half-torn bags of assorted garbage. Continue reading

[AGttA] Chapter 8.1: Megiddo

Continued from Chapter 8.0, here.

Read it from the beginning, starting here.

Axiom 8: Adapt to setbacks.

Okay, I told myself as I forced my eyes open.  Think about good news and bad news.

The good news was that, although I couldn’t confirm for certain that I was in Megiddo, the surroundings around me certainly matched my mental picture.  All around me, dust and sand blew across a constantly, ever-changing surface.  Ahead of me, I could see a single mountain rising up into the air, the scene shimmering in the heat radiating off the sand.

It certainly didn’t look like Hell, at least.  No enclosed cavern, no stalactites hanging from the ceiling, no demons flitting about on their little red wings and waving pitchforks.  

So that was good, at least.  I’d made it out of Hell, back up to the surface of Earth.  Presumably, Heaven was just a single step from here.

Of course, I didn’t know how to get to Heaven from here.  Eremiel hadn’t bothered to share that part of his plan with me.  Add that to the “bad news” column. Continue reading

The Island of Cipatli

Lord Herrington stepped up to the podium, gazing out at his audience. The usual learned men of London had gathered for the Royal Society’s monthly presentation, but he also saw a multitude of members of the public in the audience as well, looking eagerly up at him.

With a sigh, Lord Herrington resisted the urge to reach up and adjust his pince-nez. Word of his return from the New World had traveled quickly, making him something of a celebrity among those with an adventurous mindset. They’d come tonight to here him tell his tale, hoping for glimpses of another world, one far beyond their own humdrum lives.

He intended to speak of his observations on the biological variations in life, but he sensed his audience’s hunger for more. They didn’t want to hear about varying adaptations in the hooves of Cervidates to adapt to the moist jungle environment.

So as he wound down his speech, Lord Herrington decided to throw a bone to these common folks who had come out to hear him speak. Perhaps, he thought to himself, he could ensure that they did not leave completely disappointed. Continue reading

A Hatred of Chocolate

In retrospect, after midnight on a Friday evening in college is not the best time to make a deep, mind-shattering discovery about your best friend.

“Are you serious?” I howled across the table at Barry, pelting him with Hershey Kisses. “You don’t like chocolate? Man, what’s wrong with you!”

Barry did his best to block the shower of small projectiles, but he didn’t want to let go of his beer bottle, so several of the little foil-wrapped chocolates pinked off the glass container. “Nothing’s wrong!” he insisted. “I just don’t like the stuff, okay?”

“Nuh uh, not okay,” I said, shaking my head vehemently back and forth. With all the booze sitting in my stomach and pestering my liver, the head-shaking gesture made the room spin unsteadily, but I clamped both of my hands over my ears until the wooziness passed. “Who doesn’t like chocolate?” Continue reading