Friday, December 31, 2021

2 Minutes. Go!

You can hear the bell ringing, but you don't understand the significance. Eyes smeared, you try to find some kind of purchase, something to make you feel present - like you really exist. Like there is reason to the madness you try to corral inside your skull.

It wasn't always like this.

If you reach far enough back, you can remember another existence entirely - lush trees, verdant fields, pastoral expanses that did not try to trick the eye. These places existed. You know this, but knowing doesn't always guarantee understanding. 

You don't understand, do you?

Convince yourself that these shadow memories will suffice. Warm hand on a cold, winter cheek. Stretching into consciousness with no agenda to yoke you to the moment. Try to slip back into that amniotic yesterday. The tension will, at the very least, make you feel something. 

It's hard, listening for those bells. Waiting for the other shoe to drop and understanding that it never really will. No love for the searchers; they just keep searching. Meanwhile, you circle around the thing and pretend like you could grab it if you really wanted to. 

This had all been an exercise. Nothing was solved here today. You are not any more prepared than you were before. So, cast your net and pull it in. See what you've caught and wonder about what slipped through - back to blackness, opaque wandering. It's what you do to fill the time, and the time must be filled. Otherwise, it will crush you.

Hear the bell toll.


  1. An apt bit for the end of the year. Going to be chewing on this one for a bit.

    1. It's quite daunting and very apt. You've lost none of your fire, Dan!

  2. (2nd part in first comment on this post)

    Evie found herself facing the Queen of the Faeries, a creature as cold, cruel, and calculating as she was beautiful. The Queen was, Evie knew, one of the most powerful beings in all of creation. One crossed her at one’s own peril.

    The Queen reached soft, cool, perfect fingers to stroke Evie’s cheek. “You should have known that running would not save you, little mortal. You should have known that you cannot hide from me. You will serve me.”
    Evie tried to Spock an eyebrow at the Queen, but only succeeded in a Groucho-esque brow waggle. “I’m not McDonald’s, lady. I’m not all about the serving.”

    The Queen narrowed her eyes. “You will be. Bow before the Queen of Air and Darkness.”

    And just like that, Evie felt a great weight upon her, not a physical force but the weight of every bad decision, every mistake, every failing of her 32 years. She thought she heard a voice whispering in her ear, reminding her of those shortcomings, telling her she’d never be enough, telling her she was unworthy, that there was nothing good or bright in her future. That she should just give up.

    The force of that whisper, those thoughts, tried to drive her to her knees…but Evie stood. These words were nothing knew; she’d heard them spoken aloud often enough as a child, a teenager, a young adult. She’d heard them and worse from her own head. But she’d beaten back those demons, and she’d be damned if some supernatural tart would bring them back now.

    Evie closed her eyes and focused her conscious thoughts, acknowledging and then dismissing the hateful, hurtful words the being had thrown at her. Then she opened her eyes and looked at the Queen.

    Evie did not straighten into a posture of defiance, nor did she cower or bow down. She simply stood, tense at first, and then less so as she forced her muscles to relax one group at a time.

    “Yeah,” she said after a moment, her voice a little hoarse. “I’m not all about the bowing, either.”

    The Queen’s eyes flashed with rage…and something else. Surprise, maybe even a touch of…not fear, but certainly concern.

    “You dare?” the Queen spat. “You dare defy me?”

    Evie shrugged one shoulder. “It’s not personal. I just learned a long time ago to not let the bullies win.”

    “Foolish mortal. Do you not know what pain I can visit upon your person?”


    1. Evie let out a small, rueful laugh. “Lady, I know more about pain than you can possibly imagine. I know about physical pain, the grief of losing loved ones, the pain of being discarded, ignored, and overlooked. I know the sharp, sweet pain of a perfect moment that you know will never come again, and I know the weird pain of loving someone so much it’s an almost physical hurt.” She spread her hands in an open, almost welcoming gesture. “Don’t get me wrong – I do know what you’re capable of. I know you can slay me. Cause me all kinds of physical torment. But…I’m just not scared of that. I’ve been through things you can’t even imagine, and I’m still here, standing. And if you decide to take me out, I’ll make my exit the same way – on my feet.”

      The Queen snarled in rage and opened her mouth to speak. Evie held up a hand to forestall her.

      “And yeah, I know you know all about my life, my friends and the little family I’ve made. You want to think twice before you try to use threats against them to get me to do your bidding, because I’m very protective of them. If you even try to hurt one of them, I’ll end you, even if I have to treat with the devil himself to do it. Or even someone truly evil, like Mitch McConnell. Whatever it takes, you won’t live to regret the mistake.”

      The Queen drew herself up and Evie thought the Faerie might be about to smite her, so she spoke again quickly.

      “I do respect you, your majesty. Your power, your intelligence. But you need to understand that…” She hesitated for a moment, not sure what she wanted to say. She went with a movie quote. Sort of. “My will is as strong as yours.” She shrugged one shoulder again. “Even if my kingdom isn’t nearly so great. You have no power over me.”

      She waited a beat. “But…I hear the Fae like bargains.”

      The Queen paused in the midst of whatever conjuration she’d been muttering and gave Evie a hard look. “What did you have in mind?”

      Evie flashed her a smile. “You wanted me as a servant. I propose that I become your ally instead. I believe I understand something of your plans, and I’m in your corner. I believe I know why you wanted me specifically, and I am willing to still play the part you had planned for me…with some terms and conditions.”

      The Queen stroked her chin thoughtfully. “What terms and conditions?”

      Evie tilted her head to one side. “I think this might be a very long conversation, and your thugs chased me straight through dinner time. What say you we discuss the finer details over a meal – in the mortal world, of course, because I’m not a fool.”

      The Queen pursed her lips.

      “Change into mortal guise and I’ll take you to the Halal joint near my apartment. Their shawarma is amazing, and I hear the Sidhe are meatasauruses.”

      Evie saw the Queen’s lips silently form the word, “Meatasaures,” a bemused expression on her otherworldly face. She turned her back on the Queen and began walking away, going only a few steps before glancing back over her shoulder and asking, “You coming?”

      The Queen gave her an exasperated look, but she began to stride forward, and by the time she caught up with Evie, she’d assumed her disguise – a pretty, but not too pretty twenty-something mortal girl in jeans and a dark purple sweater.

      “So,” the Queen asked. “What sort of animal is a shawarma?”

      Evie grinned. “Knowledge like that will cost you something, your majesty. Another bargain, then?”

      The Queen gave her a hard look. “What price do you name for this knowledge?”

      “An introduction, to one of the guards you sent after me. The cute one with the emerald-green ponytail.”

      The Queen’s lips twitched, but she didn’t smile. “Done and done. Now, what is a shawarma? Is it similar to a hog? Hogs are disgusting creatures, but quite enjoyable to hunt.”

      Evie threw her head back and laughed. Oh yes, this was going to be fun.

    2. Oh, I love this, LB. This is so on the nose and just my kind of witty. It's very reminiscent of Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden - that's high praise indeed, from me.

  3. The muck continued to pile up. In some places, it covered the floor, the carpet disappearing under a thick layer of grime. There were whole rooms that had become no-go areas, his visitors refusing to enter them without the protection of a sturdy pair of shoes. It was even worse in the kitchen where you would need to wear a pair of thigh-high boots to prevent the sea of insects and small beasts living in there from drawing your blood when you stepped inside. Nobody returned there without a good reason. Even Big Clive stayed resolutely outside whenever he came to call, his ‘loss adjusters’ tossing a coin every time to determine which one would have to go inside.

    And yet it was a home of sorts.

    Nobody knew how long Grunt had been living there. He had been a fixture when the old man who’d previously owned the property had died, his estate passing on to no one due to his lack of surviving family. There was talk of there still being some cousins who lived in the west of the county, beyond the city limits, in the fashionable area where the politicians and local councillors commuted from, but they’d done nothing but register it as an empty plot of land, requiring further development before it could be sold.

    And so, Grunt thrived, mostly undisturbed. I never saw him eat or drink anything, his fingers always busy with a cigar he’d found somewhere in the wreckage and squalor he called his home.

    “What do ya’ want?” he barked, sucking at the stub-end of a slim cheroot. “I got nothing to give away and no need for anything you might want to sell me. I’m open to charity, of course,” he smiled, simpering, “but even then, I’ve got my limits. A man needs to maintain some sense of personal pride or he’ll lose the respect of everyone who knows him. My dignity has a price; I can’t be bought cheaply.”

    I leaned against the wall and then recoiled, the cold of the wet plaster drawing the heat from my arm. The room I was standing in could have been a family’s lounge a long time ago; there was a square-edged box hidden under a stained sheet that could have been a television and a cupboard with a missing door that might have once held keepsakes or assorted items of use to an earlier owner. Grunt was sitting to the left of a window on a broken-backed armchair with little of its upholstery remaining. It could have been beige or cream or almost any colour when it was new; it was mottled grey and green now and looked moist to the touch.

    “Mr Grant,” I said, already knowing the answer. “The council have found you a new home to live in, up in the east of the town. It’ll be secure and comfortable and clean and will be easy to maintain.”


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