Friday, July 7, 2017

The Bone Maze

It was a near thing, killing Gar. "GAR EAT!" he shouted, huge legs striding faster now, bigger than the biggest stalagmites, great feet shaking the ground. Eri ran for her life down the valley of the Bone Maze, approaching the pores where her own tribe lived. Probably the braver ones were crouched at the entrances now, expecting to see a gruesome end to the cleverest, fleetest, most redheaded kid they knew.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Spirit of Song

As the red-hot brand touched his forehead, Bering did not stop singing; to do so would mean ejection from the pilgrimage, and an ignoble end to eight bone-wearying years of study, devotions and ceaseless deception. But the pain was incredible, like a lightning bolt from the hand of God, and involuntarily his deep baritone rose two octaves to a startling wail.

"Marked are you forever, forever are you marked," intoned the preceptor, Marad, plunging the brand into the waiting bucket. Behind Bering, screened from the chancel, twelve other initiates still waited their turn, spared the sight of the pain that awaited them but not the smell, steam mingling with the potent scents of myrrh, hot metal, charcoal and charred flesh, a thick and heady miasma. Don't pass out! Eight years you've spent!

Marad's young acolyte opened a small jar of balm and passed it to him. Marad scooped up some of the white paste with his two right fingers, raising them to the arched ceiling far above. Bering saw him as a thin dark blur through the distortion of tears, sweat and blood streaming down his face. "By the song are you marked; by the song are you healed."

Saturday, June 3, 2017

"But I Like It!"

Most frequent reasons given for continuing to eat meat:

"But I like it!
"It just tastes so good!"
"Mmm, bacon!"

I just want to be clear, when you say things like this, that what you're really saying, in essence, is that all your other arguments have no merit whatsoever. You know it's cruel. You know it's unnecessary. You know it's environmentally unsustainable. Yet you persist in a cruel, unnecessary, destructive habit out of simple selfishness. You are saying, more or less directly, that your desire for sensory gratification outweighs the life of a conscious being and the continued health of our planet. You are saying that you are perfectly willing to murder for pleasure. What's cruelty, if not that?

And when confronted with reasoned arguments concerning this habit, you relinquish all pretense of reason and revert back to a child's reply: "But I like it!" It's a cheap deflection, and that's all.

Look. We all make choices about diet, and we are all caught in a destructive capitalist system of food production. But whether or not you continue to eat meat, you do have an obligation to consider the real consequences of your actions. An animal's life is more than a fatty meal you bought for three dollars at a fast-food joint. It deserves, indeed it demands, our deepest respect. And no one, and I mean no one, needs to eat meat at three meals a day.

So go ahead, write "More bacon for me, then!" in the comments. But know that with those words, you're declaring yourself to have the moral cognizance of a five-year-old.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Jack Be Quick

Note: This story follows upon an earlier one, "Jack in the Box." Read it here.

In those halcyon days before the world ended, Jack had only two speeds: dead asleep or running full tilt. Even compared to other little boys he ran a lot, and ran fast, whether in a school hallway or on a soccer field. Now, on his first day in Hawaii, he flew across the sand to where his father, Lew, reclined on the beach. "Dad! I think there's turtles over here!"

Friday, March 17, 2017

Delusion and Disintegration in Edgar John Pettegree's Flat River

Among the fifty-three paintings bequeathed the world by artist and architect Edgar John Pettegree, one stands anomalous: Flat River, dated just weeks before his death in 1917. While nearly his whole oeuvre is infused with an architect's eye for detail, Flat River appears to break with his previous work, eschewing realism for a hallucinatory, proto-Surrealist view of another world, often claimed to present a Blakeian vision of the voyage of the soul through the afterlife, painted in eerie premonition of his own death. However, as I will show, Pettegree himself regarded it as no mere visual metaphor, but a depiction of an actual repository of human souls, accessible via the occult powers of a former employer, silver baron Henry Magorian. That this indicated a precipitous collapse of Pettegree's sanity cannot be doubted; but it is also true that far from sinking into a lax or vague imaginative effort, he applied the same rigor of craftsmanship to his final painting as in all his prior works.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Geneblaster Disaster

"Don't mess with geneblasters," repeated the captain as they scanned the wreckage of the fuel depot, the blue light of Kiki's scanner fanning out sharply in the dust-heavy night, limning a profusion of broken struts and shattered steel-mesh platforms. "Isn't that what I always say? Kiki, what do I always say about geneblasters?"

"Don't mess with them, sir," the robot repeated dolorously.

"It's just obvious, right? You start –"

An enormous boom, felt as much as heard, the vibration actually visible as a shimmer in the dust, pounded through the darkened city, so they all three involuntarily ducked their heads. But it seemed distant enough, and after a considering pause, Hor pointed out a half-buried chunk of illuximite glowing under the scanner. "Here. Bring the dolly." Illuximite was ten times as dense as gold – and ten times as valuable. "You start altering this, shifting that, introducing whatever crazy mutagen you found at the bottom of the ocean or whatever, and suddenly shit goes crazy. Flesh bubbling up like fucking chewing gum, mouths everywhere, probably acid for blood... shit could lead anywhere."