April 2024 Archives

This will be the third Connected Worlds story, after Fountains of Aescalon (Amazon link Books2Read link) and The Monad Trap (Amazon link Books2Read link), and is my main project at the moment. Progress has been slower than I would like; Alexan is difficult to write.

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The ground shivered beneath our feet.

"Husband, did's't thee feel that?" Petra asked.

"I would have had to be dead not to."

"Thee seems unnaturally calm!"

"I've never observed panic to improve a situation, milady. I note it occurred at the moment I expected the Scourging to begin. Treemount shivered with an impact to Ygg. I should investigate our customs posts."

"What could have caused it?"

"Any number of things. The coincidence in timing may indicate something to do with Aescalon or the exit from Aescalon, but it's profitless to speculate at this point. Observation first, then hypothesis, then tests. Would you like to gather some data?"

"It seems your homunculi are likely more suited to the task."

"As you wish, milady. I shall endeavor to keep you informed of my whereabouts and the progress of the investigation."

"Thee dost not have my permission to vanish for days, milord!"

"I shall endeavor to return before evening, my love. I doubt any examination a half day delayed shall become impossible immediately thereafter, but remember my divine curse does reinforce my own ultsi bent of curiosity."

"Thy divine curse may find itself banished from my bedchamber should it tarry overlong."

That was an empty threat if ever there was one, but better to turn it aside. "Milady is perfectly capable of finding me anywhere on Ygg."

"Milady has two children to care for, husband, and does not wish their father to be gone overlong." That was her divine curse, devotion to motherhood, or rather, family, as she was as devoted to me as she was to them. She wanted to be mothering her children constantly; only the demands of ultsi children kept her from demanding we produce more immediately. Catharin was twelve by Migurd reckoning, Ansharos nine. Anyone else would have been driven insane with their demands; milady wife gloried in filling them. It was what she had remade herself for.

"Milady's husband does not wish to be gone any longer than she wishes him to be gone, but duty may require more."

"See to it that he doth not linger overlong, lest he find himself replaced."

That was more jest than anything else; we'd bound ourselves together for better or worse, and neither one of us was capable of breaking that bond. Nor did either one of us want to. "The sooner I am gone, the sooner I shall return!"

"Then get ye gone!" She actually smiled. "Neither I nor anyone else keepeth thee imprisoned!"

"Only my heart, lady." With that, I took myself to the gate at the top of Ygg in a single moment.

What I found was a landscape of devastation.

Copyright 2024 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved.

GOTM 400x600.jpg


The tank was an open area separated into cells by bars and not much else. Each had four bunks attached to the 'walls' two sets each of above and below. There were already three occupied bunks so I simply climbed into the fourth, the upper bunk on the right, the side 'behind' the cell door. It had neither pillow nor blankets; I presumed one of my 'roommates' had appropriated them. Mr. Stuart had instructed me not to arouse the other inmates, so I simply made myself as comfortable as I could under the circumstances.
I wasn't asleep yet when the lights suddenly blew out.

I had just time enough to think, this is not good when my cell mates jerkily got out of their bed in unison, like human marionettes on invisible strings, illuminated by the low, eerie light of computer monitors from the room next door.

The only way to make it obvious I wasn't the aggressor in whatever was about to happen was to stay right here in my bunk and scream, "Guards! GUARDS! GUARDS!" There was no immediate response. I kept yelling it anyway. It made the theater of what was going on undeniable. In the dim light, I noticed the inmates in the other cells also moving jerkily, like someone was controlling them.

"The guards can't help you now," a low growling voice issued from every other throat in the room. In the darkness, it sounded sibilant, like a snake. "You have angered the God, and you shall be made to pay."

I'm not going to kid you, I nearly lost control of my bladder I was so scared. But suddenly it was like all the strings were cut; the marionettes broke free. I supposed there had to be limits; they couldn't all have been minions of the Mad God. They hadn't accepted his bargain - he couldn't make them do much.

The lights were still out in the room. A few of my fellow detainees fell over, but most managed to preserve their balance, shaking their heads and asking questions that were variations on "What just happened?"

I was not going to attract attention to myself. I just lay there pretending nothing had happened. The mental state of my fellow detainees being what it was, none of them realized I was 'odd man out' before others had returned to their beds. Now that it was over, I had to admit I was glad the Mad God had tipped his hand - now I knew he was gunning for me, and was at least forewarned of other attempts.

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Copyright 2023 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved.

I was fourteen the first time I saw someone vanish.

It was a girl, of course. I remember her as being tall and thin, her skin the rich dark brown of fertile soil, with tightly curled black hair, falling in clumps to her shoulders. Her bathing suit was lighter brown, and looked as if it were completely dry. In fact, I don't remember water dripping off her at all as she exited the lake.

Looking back now, I'd thought I was being cool and low key about scoping her out as she left the lake, which means I was staring and probably drooling. I knew she was way beyond me, or anyone else in the troop. We were all watching.

I saw from the way she moved that she wasn't really a girl at all. She moved lightly, not disturbing the leaves or dirt under her bare feet. Young as I was, I knew she had to be older. Nobody that age masters that kind of grace and effortless self-control. Not the dancers who practiced in the loft above the gym and took private lessons, not the martial arts devotees who spent every possible moment at the dojo and might already be fourth or fifth dan or the equivalent, and definitely not boy scout nerds like me, no matter how much time we spent outdoors learning how to move quietly and not disturb the animals. She made the best of us look like clumsy blind bumblers, and she did it effortlessly. She looked maybe sixteen or eighteen, but she had to be older.

You could tell there was something special about her just looking at the way she moved, like the sunlight that hit her was somehow made special by her presence. Yet she had an air of complete nonchalance. She knew she was beautiful and desirable, but to her it was nothing special, it was just the way she was. She knew we were watching her, enjoying watching her, but it didn't harm her and so she enjoyed our enjoyment.

As she approached a large stand of manzanita, she turned and I caught a glimpse of her ear as her already dry hair moved, trailing her head through the turn. The ear I saw was small, and pointed, like some of the aliens on Star Trek. Our collective jaws dropped. She looked right at me, and laughed. Canines more pointed than anything I'd seen on a human flashed momentarily.

Then she turned back to the manzanita. Suddenly, her clothing shifted, no longer a two-piece thong, becoming instead a gown in rich earth colors, somehow all the more alluring. She turned again, walked under an arch of overhanging red branches, and was gone.

Not "out of sight" gone, "vanished" gone.

Being fourteen and both disturbed and intrigued by what I'd seen, I remember picking myself up off my towel on the lakeshore to check. Several other members of the troop followed. We could barely make out that she had left a trail, light footprints with long toes in a couple of places where she had crossed bare dirt. But it stopped dead under the manzanita arch. Nor was there a path to continue. Beyond a small space under the arch, the bushes closed in and became impassable to anything bigger than maybe a cat. There wasn't anywhere further to go.

We talked it over for half an hour, and intermittently the rest of the weekend and occasionally after, among those who had been there. We all agreed that we'd seen a young woman leave the lake. But beautiful young supermodels do not vanish without further trace in a manzanita thicket. Eventually, we agreed she'd somehow managed to go around rather than through. Agreeing that it had to be true didn't make it so, however, and I remembered what I had seen in the back of my head. I think we all knew that something unusual had happened, but didn't want to admit it for fear of appearing naïve.

What a group of children we were.

Copyright 2019 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved.

 



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