Category Archives: Short Stories

Scepter’s Possession–A Short Story, Based on Raps of the Christopherian Realm #28

I am scattered and suffering, lost in my own home.

I stumble across a grassy plain, where wind slowly soothes the pale grass as if nature itself knows the unnatural has happened.  My world has turned on me and twisted the hope I meant to create into something monstrous.

I have poisoned the past from the future, and now I must own my mistakes.

I created this world to escape from my own, to give myself a power and a strength I do not have, and a faith I do not believe in.  Now they have that faith, my people.  But in the wrong goddess.

After I wrestled across the cosmos with my archnemesis Christoph, I lost my sense of time and reality.  Mere moments had passed for me, but months for the Christopher Kingdom.  Without a leader powerful enough to oppose her, Corporal Thea made her play for the throne.  She–or some other unknown party, even I don’t know for sure–killed our best representatives in a bombing.  It was easy to blame it on a nebulous character who has since disappeared.  And easier still to use it as an excuse to begin the isolation and the reprogramming and the surveillance.

Thea was known for her aggressive stance on countering Christoph, but something happened to her after she was captured.  Christoph counted on my civility.  He knew I would come after her.  Just as he knew it the first time we fought at the Master Code Input Center.

I’ve lost too much for the women I’ve loved.  By now, I should know better.  By now, I should understand the hard lesson Christoph has tried to teach me before.

Survival is done without a heart, with only yourself as the spoils of victory.  An utterly self-centered philosophy, but was it not true?  Would we not now be enslaved, choking under the weight of Shadows and the grinding labor for the Machine, watching helplessly as the Tribunal Authority indoctrinates our children, had we only made one selfish decision?

But then, that’s what people forget about salvation.  They often only thank the saviors after they’re dead.  And first they have to kill them.

Some part of me had every hope that Thea would kill me, if she could.  I haven’t wanted to live anymore, not for a long time.  Is that what this was all about?  Did I come back here to die, and take the sacred history with me?  I find myself wondering if, by the time it’s all said and done, if I’ll even remember what originally happened.

The dead don’t carry memories with them.  They become memories.  And what are we, if not the dead?

We?  A whisper, almost unnoticed, passing along on the wind…

I could feel it, a prodding at the very edges of my consciousness, at the very edges of my sanity.  More than a prodding–a stirring, an awakening of the long dead and buried.  A vision of flickering lights, a kaleidoscope in bright orange and yellow, the colors of flame, eternal flame.  And then…

Eyes opening, eyes that are without pity, moral black holes sewn onto a face like mine.  No…

But it can’t be…a figure in the distance, standing as if he has awaited this moment for eons and could await it for eons more if he had to, infinite patience coiled tightly around infinite rage.

We we we we we we–the whisper echoes a million times in my mind, and I see, on the wind, a bit of black ash, carried along.  Pieces of a soul charred and fragmented, now free to travel on their own.

In a different age, Christoph and I imprisoned this man, this abomination, in the Paradox.  There, the being known as Scepter was supposed to abide for all eternity in a state of limbo, of ever-changing contradiction.  It was the only place I could put him, because he is a part of me.

He is my rage, my despair, my loneliness, all tormented and tortured until finally a horrible seed was planted, that, if nurtured and cultivated, would yield the fruit of genocide.  Maybe even extinction altogether for my people.

But I can’t turn away from him.  I feel his eyes, drawing me in as if I have passed their event horizon.  I have no will to resist.  The unbridled power of his rage taunts me with all it could offer, all we could achieve together.  It becomes a tangible lust in my soul.

Now he is there before me, there beside me, there, a slowly growing pressure inside my skull.  Something passes through me, a shudder of relief…

How long have I watched…how long have I waited…and how I have longed to see you again,” Scepter said.  “I spent forever and yet only a moment contemplating how I would avenge myself upon you.  And in that instantaneous eon, I watched you from afar.  I watched your shame.  I watched your adversaries mock you.  I felt your terror, your disillusionment.  I felt your pain, and I knew that no fate I could give you in retaliation would be worse than the one you chose for yourself.  How low you have become.  How mired you are now, you who once pretended to be pure.”  His eyes watched me.  I felt a little nauseated at the thought that he was right.  I kept listening.  “But the only thing pure about you…was me, wasn’t it?  Pure hatred.  The wall you put up out of fear–it wasn’t to keep them out.  It was to keep the monster in.  For if he were free…to do as he wished…to do…as you wished?

You no longer need proof, Christopher, my brethren.  You have seen it in action, in all its glory, all its shameless and repetitive ritual.  Each day under the reign of Shadows you have chafed; your soul aches for release.  I can give you what you most desire.

I take a step back, though it feels like I’m pulling the weight of the planet.  “And what do I most desire?”

All the things you gave to me: unbridled power, outrage, and a desire to be free, by all means necessary.

“You haven’t changed at all.  The same insane lecture is to follow, no doubt–“

Insane?  No.  No.  What I seek is a return to sanity, for you abandoned it long ago in favor of a path to self-destruction!  Senseless self-sacrifice!

“I have a future.  I’m trying to save that future.”

No.  Again, you deceive yourself.”  Scepter seems almost sad.  “What has been done to you?” he whispers.  “What yoke rests upon your troubled soul?

It frightens me all the more that Scepter, the one imprisoned for years in the Paradox, that he feels sorry for me.

He reaches a hand out, tenderly.  I again move back in revulsion.  “You know what must occur now, better than I do.  You know the price to be paid for true freedom.  It was in this age that the foretold Slaughter should have begun.  Before the worst of them came.  Before Shadows and her treasons.  Had you cleansed the Realm of the plague of women, we could have been spared this pain.  Instead, your cowardice and compassion kept the parasites alive until they brought the host into submission, into subservience.  Now is our chance to correct your mistakes.  Now is the time for our Ascension.

I couldn’t move anymore.  Somehow my body felt rooted to the spot as if I were a tree, as if decades had passed with my soul as a sentry here.  “No,” I whisper.  “This is insane.  You’re ill, Scepter.  You’re my illness, and I must overcome you before you hurt, before you kill the people I love.”

And therein lies the lie.  You don’t know love.  You know only fear.  For you, fear and love are the same.  They taught it to you.  Now, we must teach it to them.  We must teach them fear.  And as fear is the precursor of death, the first shall give birth to the second.  And then the second shall consume the first.

My dream…

Every woman bound in linen, left to rot on our ground, the seeds spent to create new life.  That is, of course, what they are so fond of boasting, is it not?  That they can create new life?  And so they shall.

“High above them, atop the zenith of our grand mountain, we will stand, attired in their blood, and at last, free.  Free of their disdain and contempt, free of their false promises, free of the needless suffering their lying eyes inflict.  Such is the price of freedom.  Such is the price of salvation.  Only when we are one can we truly be saved.

Witness the beginning of our salvation.

“That’s not salvation,” I reply.  “That’s sickening.  Perverse.  We fought to stop you before, and will do so again.  We sent you to the Paradox to preserve any chance at freedom.  You were meant to stay there, you, and your demonic ideas.”

Oh, come now.  We have all had a devil’s thought before.  And you are possessed of many.  I merely offer you a chance to act upon them.  A choice.  But as you know from your servitude to them, choice is but an illusion.”  My dread spikes as his body begins turning to ash.  “And the illusion of choice…CAN BE TAKEN AWAY!

Again the pressure comes, and I feel submerged in mud, pulled under.  I look at my hand and it burns.  I drown as I am changed, reshaped, reborn…I fall to my knees–I–his voice becomes mine…

I am your power.  I am your law.

Together, a righteous judgment will be passed.

Ours will be the hand that strikes fear.

Ours will be the rulership.

We stand as one.  The light now in service to the dark.

And even those who bow will be emptied of their blood and cast aside as waste.  Freedom is not meant to be shared.  Power is reserved only for one.  Thus begins my reign.  The Realm shall be cleansed.  And when it is pure…

…the Golden Age of Scepter will be mine to behold.

Sleeping Mountain: Lydia’s Road

A cold morning brought news of her husband’s death, and she hit the road.  Rage and revenge carried her every step.

Lydia showed no reaction when Endeni came that night, bearing the news with heavy solemnity.  He would have urged her to be calm, if she’d betrayed a hint of what was next.

Her son was pretending to be asleep at the time, and she could not bear to push through his pretense, for once.  She would bring back a Koton’s grisly head before bringing news that he was now fatherless.  Any Koton would do.

Her bow and arrow in hand, her boots crunched on the dirt below.  The sun was barely up, but in the mist it barely seemed to matter.

Her son would be behind her soon.  The boy was stubborn, and there was no sense trying to stop him.  Endeni would take Edsar under his wing now.  For the best.  Ai-dus would have wanted that. And what do I want?  Lydia thought.

A road.  A direction.  A chance to fight back.

A future for her son.

She had brought her short sword and dirk as well as a full quiver of arrows.  She was plenty strong–her late husband often said so admiringly, and it was true, she knew–but a long sword would slow her down.  The Kotons were fast.  There was no settling for fast enough when the shadow of a thirty-foot wingspan appeared.  You had to move, and you had to go for the throat.

Two hundred thousand warriors were not fast enough on that dread day, when war had bled the Mountain of most of its best men and women.  But not her.

The peace hard-won by those brave souls had now been breached by the filth.  The reasons why didn’t matter.  It wasn’t as though a peace treaty could be forged with unthinking mongrels.

Now was the time of war.  And swords and arrows were the tools available now.  There were other ways to wage war, ancient ways rife with riddle and superstition.  And at the other end, ways modern and fierce, and for her, unknowable–well south of here, in the hands of more prosperous folk beyond her land.

North was the library city of Tcej, the repository of the local sages’ knowledge.  It was almost certain her son was going that way.  She would scout ahead for him, and if possible, clear the area of Koton hunting flights.

Kotons hunted in flights of four or five, with a very wide hunting ground chosen.  Often there appeared to be only one because the others would cleverly cover their approach.  They could walk, but more like apes than men.  Stealthily, like the mountain lions she had read of in ancient lore.  Villages kept watch out of fear that a hunting flight might engage in a nighttime incursion.  Kotons were not nocturnal, but then Lydia had not met every variety.  The sages recorded what they could spare time to record during the war, and there were enough varieties of Koton to fill a library–or a city of libraries.

Each step filled her with a growing dread.  Times were changing.  The Sleeping Mountain grew cold, a dread cold like the freshly dead.  There had to be a reason.

She couldn’t allow herself to feel afraid, any more than she could allow herself to grieve.  She had to act now, keep moving, or she would fall apart.

The barest echo of a scream.  Beastly, hungry.  A howl, a screech.  A guttural roar.  Five.

Too far away.  Too far.

She would lose Edsar.  She would lose her only son, the last of Ai-dus she had left.

Her boots were already crushing grass and pebble as she charged back the way she came.  So they took the Hard Road.  On a Koton ranging, that would have made sense, but even then, no fool would venture forth with one sword and a mere boy.  My boy.

The Koton screams sounded closer.  They had spotted their prey.  Lydia stopped, aiming her arrow in a circle around herself.

Too close by.  Too close.

She realized her mistake.  The Kotons may have been animals, but they had an intelligence that was all too human.

One pretended to be far away, and the others played along.  The Kotons weren’t hunting her son.  They’re hunting me.

How?

She had only time to fall to the ground, twisting her body and loosing an arrow at the Koton frighteningly close above her.  It groaned, snatched the arrow from its midsection with a claw five feet wide, then soared into the air, hoisting the arrow as a primal warrior might a spear.

She got to her feet and kept running, not even sparing a look at the sky.  The old training came back to her like a buried memory, unbidden and horrible to hold, yet familiar.

She was too far out in the open; a treeline was just ahead, a few more moments…

And they were before her, blocking her path, four of them grabbing the ground hard enough to make fat mounds of dirt and grass.  They shook their heads at odd angles and fixed leathery gray eyes on her, another collective low rumble breathing mist into the air.

She was done.  Four of them, and one still in the air, holding my arrow.

Lydia folded her bow and drew her short sword in one fluid motion.  She lunged and dropped into a roll, her sword slashing as two Kotons leaped at where she once was.  She opened one from throat to belly.  Its bulk dropped before she could get clear, trapping her ankle beneath it.

Lydia drew her dirk and stabbed wildly, catching another Koton in the face.  She sat up and barely avoided another set of snapping jaws, hacking at them with her sword.

Suddenly the fourth Koton gurgled disgustingly in front of her, and Lydia hurled her short sword, catching it square in the maw.  The blade melted and hissed–and the Koton’s face did the same.  She scrambled to her feet at last as it fell before her.

An arrow whizzed by, forcing her to lurch to her right, though not fast enough to avoid the massive wing that swooped down and slapped her.  She flew several feet and rolled several more, then slammed into a tree hard enough to knock the wind out of her.

She groaned in agony.  Still struggling to take a breath, she got both hands out in front of herself.  She raised her head, watching as a Koton looped around quickly and hovered above her, its shadow interrupting the light.

A grotesque smirk did not help its gray, detestably misshapen head, its face a sick mockery of a man’s face, its eyes large, bloody, a sickly yellow-red.

It spoke with a rumbling sneer, a deep mockery.  “A human female.  Rare among the warriors.  You must be strong indeed.  The strong die more slowly.  But the strong still die.”  It paced around her as she got to her feet. “You show no fear, female warrior.  Your valor has earned you your life today.”

“Filth,” Lydia groaned.  Despite the pain she felt, her training took over, blending with rage and adrenaline.  In a fast motion her bow shot open and she sent an arrow through its throat.  She watched it gasp, then fall over.  She watched its life leak away with a sense of both relief and revulsion.

“You do not know what is to come,” it said, taking a shuddering breath, its claws grasping weakly at the arrow that would prove fatal.  “The plague that will fall upon all of your kind…it…will eclipse…your light…for all time…”

Hatred and doubt warred within her as its final gasps escaped into the air.  There was nothing more to be done.  Their presence made evident what the beast had uttered.

A new war was due to begin.  And extinction awaited the losing side.