Friday, September 26, 2008

"Warriors of the Midnight Sun" - Act III

Here's Act III of "Warriors of the Midnight Sun". I hope you're enjoying.


“Warriors of the Midnight Sun”
© 2008 by Charles Shaver. All rights reserved.



THE MOTHER: Wherein the Mother Joins Momoki in Hell; A Gathering at the Throne of Aniabas; Stavros Joins Wu Chan Chu



Neighbors found and retrieved Joto Ba’s body. A funeral was hastily held for him. Many came from all around, not merely because he was well-liked, which he was, but because many desired the truth of his death, to confirm his murder.

Dian wailed at her husband’s funeral. She had left home as a young woman and married Joto Ba because of her love for him. She had struggled so hard to be a fine wife and mother. Her pride and joy, her daughter, had been stolen from her home. She felt empty, without worth or purpose.

On went her wailing, long after the funeral. She left her home and came to kneel by the side of the small lake in the land. Each night her neighbors would hear her screaming in pain, in agony for her lost family. So horrid was her weeping that no one could muster the courage to attend to her, to go to her side.

Night after night the people near the lake would hear her wail and ignore her, though largely unsuccessfully.

One night, on a night when her cries were so excruciating many gathered and debated going to her, her wails finally ceased. Not one of her neighbors spoke a thing more of her. It would be days later when someone would finally find the courage to retrieve and bury her body. And when they did, she had already begin her new life, her afterlife.

When Dian came into the Land of the Midnight Sun, she was of dark features like the previously selected had been. Her eyes glowed, matching the Midnight Sun. In her stomach was a streak of red where she had plunged a knife.

Joto Ba was there at her side. He reached out a hand and touched her shoulder. She looked at him.

Joto Ba gestured to the marmoset seated upon a nearby black stone. He said, “This is Momoki. He will help us.”



Quite the awe was Balori and his men as they rode into the kingdom of Aniabas. Many of Aniabas’ subjects had gone and only those that desired to defend their kingdom and liege remained. Many were battle-hardened soldiers, yet still they gasped at the presence of a Gifted One.

Balori was given passage to the castle where he alone was taken before Aniabas.

Aniabas, Balori mused, appeared a grand figure on seated upon his giant throne of gold and royal reds. His crown was immense and appeared heavy. He wore heavy armor and a cape of bright red trimmed with gold frills. Balori wondered at the man’s scarred and ugly face. To the sides of the throne room, in dark recesses, Balori spied a few men armed with bows loaded with arrows pointed directly at him.

Said the king somewhat suspiciously, “Why have you come here?”

“I am Balori Shongoyo of the Elephants of Ife. I have been charged by the Eternal Empress to retrieve from the demon to the north of your kingdom the Jewel of Zingtai and with it restore the stars to the nighttime sky. I have gone to the demon and he refuses to give up the jewel without a fight. I and my men alone cannot possibly overthrow the demon alone. We must seek help, hence I have come to you under the assumption you wish to rid your northern border of the demon.”

King Aniabas considered the elephant. He was a large creature and wondered at his powers. He said, “Your assumptions are true. How many men do you bring?”

Balori said, “A few dozen.”

“Feh! That is no army!”

“Hence I am here.”

King Aniabas asked, “What can you do as a Gifted One?”

“I have been trained by Masters Nahum and Dark Ram in the ways of fighting. I can fight with three weapons at once. I can crush a man’s skull under my foot,” bragged Balori as he eyed the hidden archers.

“Then you are as strong as you appear. What of your men?” asked Aniabas.

“Many are trained fighters. A few have personal matters to deal with against the demon. They are all loyal and strong and healthy.”

“And what personal matter have you with the demon?”

Balori huffed impatiently. He said, “The Eternal Empress uses my people as her slaves. If I can restore the stars to the night, she has promised to let them go.”

“Are you certain she will make good on her promise?”

This angered Balori. He yelled, “She better!” as he clenched his fists.

Aniabas considered Balori’s reaction, seeing they betrayed the truth of his words with passion for success in his quest. After considering many more things, Aniabas said, “Welcome Balori Shongoyo. Welcome to my kingdom and my side.”

“No!” Vitor cried and stepped from a dark recess. He drew his sword against Balori but did not attack. He said, “My liege, we do not know this creature. He could be lying. Can we put all our trust in a stranger at such a precarious time?”

Said Balori, “Come to me, whelp. Attack me. I’ll show your king what Masters Nahum and Dark Ram have taught me. I’ll show you my forehead.”

Aniabas said, “I doubt he will betray us. He is too impassioned about freeing his people. And a Gifted One at our side would definitely tip the scales of chance toward our favor. Put down your sword, Vitor. I know you are my general and my personal guard and in that you succeed, but now I tell you this elephant is not our enemy. Put down your sword.”

Vitor reluctantly followed his liege’s command.

Balori stared down at Vitor.

Aniabas stood. “Take me to your men, Balori. I would inspect them.”

Balori nodded, “Of course, your highness.”



Long had Sinverguenza and his companions traveled. When they felt it was safe, when they knew the girl Inno would not recognize the countryside and make attempts at escape, they unbound her. Sinverguenza took her as his own and had he not been so hastily returning to his master, the demon-dog Yaska Selith, that he would have taken her as his bride and consummated their relationship. She did not love him and he could see that in the way she looked at him. He did not care. He was determined to make her love him as he desperately loved her.

After many days of hard rain they finally came to Owl Bridge and crossed it to enter the Plain of Adoration. Sinverguenza went immediately to Yaska Selith’s side and presented to him Motharus.

“He is a mighty fighter,” he told Yaska Selith. “He left the championship of the Peony Tea House to come serve you.”

“A Gifted One, eh?” Yaska Selith eyed Motharus.

Motharus flew up to the demon-dog’s eye level. “I have been told to come to you,” he said.


Motharus nodded, “By the demon Adonai Ku-jal.” Motharus hoped the demon-dog would know the name.

“And he speaks to you?” asked Yaska Selith.

“Yes. Within my mind.”

Yaska Selith nodded with understanding. “He rides you as a vessel in this world. He plays with your mind. Does he know me? I do not know this demon.”

Motharus searched his mind, but Adonai Ku-jal was not making his presence known. “I do not know that he knows you, but he told me to come to your side and serve you.”

“Welcome, then, Motharus. Welcome to the Plain of Adoration and welcome to my side.” Yaska Selith looked down at Sinverguenza, “The others you sent have come to me. my numbers swell because of you and my riches grow. I am grateful to you, Sinverguenza. Know you have the favor of Yaska Selith.”

Sinverguenza smiled.

Some time passed. Sinverguenza settled once more onto the plain and kept Inno at his side. He reacquainted himself with those that had followed him while he was away from the demon-dog including Laskmana, the woman who had been his second. She filled that role once more as an informal hierarchy of command seemed to form wherein Sinverguenza, Motharus, Raiju Yu the Weasel King and Neboshazzar the Ruiner were made Yaska Selith’s lieutenants. From there each of them had made their own seconds and personal attendants.

This was how Zom Loa found Yaska Selith and his followers as he came onto the Plain of Adoration.

He came across Owl Bridge, his tentacles whipping out one after another, pulling him closer to the wicked knot of men and women. As he drew near so few of them appeared to notice him, as though he were somehow a natural creature, as though he were once again at the Peony Tea House where Gifted Ones frequented often. Those few that did pay his attention brought to him foods and wines and welcomed him to their numbers.

“You’ve come to see our great master?” asked one.

“I come to find the demon,” said Zom Loa.

“That is he,” said the man who spoke to him as he pointed high to the demon-dog some distance from them.

Zom Loa eyed the demon-dog. He said, “I’ve seen him before.”

“Have you?” the man asked excitedly. “You must have seen him then when first he came into the world and traveled the many countrysides.”

Zom Loa thought back to Ebi and Pup, to the Ruby Bug, remembering the change the dog that changed into the massive creature he now saw. He wondered if the people gathered around him understood his origins, understood he was perhaps not truly a demon. Zom Loa knew, for he had studied so many years, since childhood, the many legions of demons and their tales. But he doubted these people much cared about Yaska Selith’s true nature. Yaska Selith was a Gifted One, a rather large and powerful looking one at that. And such power was attractive. He knew then any argument towards the truth would be disarmed.

He knew, also, not only would many flock to Yaska Selith’s side to love him, many would come to usurp him.

Zom Loa asked, “Could I meet with him? I’ve something to say to him. We may be in dire straits momentarily.”

“Oh? What could you know?” asked the man.

“I am a Gifted One and while I am no demon, I am hunted by men. If my small presence in the world can be hunted, surely Yaska Selith’s name passes over the lips of assassins. We must warn him to fortify this plain.”

Zom Loa was taken to Yaska Selith. He suggested to the demon-dog he send men to the far side of Owl Bridge to guard the passage there. It was done. And so were many other plans.

Sinverguenza and Zom Loa were introduced. Together with Yaska Selith, they prepared for any oncoming assaults.

When the world grew dark under Kalavata’s outstretched wings, Yaska Selith turned his head to look at Neboshazzar perched upon his furry shoulder and spoke softly, “I fear this Zom Loa speaks the truth. There may very well be many plotting against us.”

Neboshazzar’s head bobbed nervously, he shifted his weight from one talon-filled foot to the other. His dark head lifted and he breathed deep. Murder indeed appear to be on the air. It made Neboshazzar quite hungry. His jagged mercury teeth clacked together as the night grew darker still.



It had been many years since the traveling merchant Hano last visited the people of Yuki village. As he entered the hilly countryside he was pleased to find all was as he had remembered. The windmill still lifted on the air, churning the rice within into mochi. The people remained working in the paddies, though now each was years older. The land was bright and green and alive and it made him happy. He smiled at the day and at the farmlands and at the farmers as he came to rest in front of the hut of Dubai.

He waited some time in the hut as Dubai worked the fields with the others. Elsa tended to him and fed him and gave him a cup of rice wine. Hano was quite pleased and they chatted happily.

As dusk came on the land Dubai returned to his hut with Stavros in tow. They, too, were happily chatting as they entered the hut.

“Hano!” called Dubai as he entered his hut. The two men clasped one another as family. Stavros smiled at the man and bowed in respect as they were introduced.

“Who is this?” asked Hano, his face not contorted with suspicion.

“This is Stavros. He lives with us now,” explained Dubai.

The three sat at a small table as Elsa stoked a fire and made supper for them. Their meal was awash with light talk and happy reminiscences. Stavros learned Hano was, indeed, a distant relative of Dubai and had been born in Yuki. When he came of age he had moved to the nearby town, then taken up the occupation of traveling merchant. Stavros explained he had once made friends with a traveling merchant, a man who had taken great care of him.

At last Hano turned to Stavros and said, “Tell me, friend, what business does a Gifted One such as yourself have in our little Yuki?”

Stavros explained his battle with the Brothers Jackal, the death of his people, and spoke of the giant demon-dog Yaska Selith.

Hano listened carefully. When Stavros paused in his tale, Hano said, “I passed a small collection of mercenaries traveling east a day ago. I did not approach them. Their leader appeared to be a Gifted One, as well. I asked about them however, and I learned the Gifted One is a demi-goddess, a frog, seeking a giant demon-dog.”

This sparked new life in Stavros, new passions he had not felt strongly in some time. He said, “Where were they?”

“They were a day’s ride behind me. I could travel faster than them only because I was alone and had no merchandise with me. I suspect they’ll be in town by tomorrow morning.”

Stavros thought matters over. He looked to Dubai who eyed him suspiciously. “They seek the very demon-dog,” he said.

Dubai shook his head. “It cannot be.”

“What other demon-dog resides within the world instead of the Many Hells?” asked Stavros. “It can only be the very one.”

Dubai considered this and, at last, nodded in agreement.

“I must go find them.”

Elsa came to Stavros. “Please, no. Your home is here now.”

“But my people,” was all Stavros said. He looked to Hano, “By next morning, you say?”

Hano nodded.

“Then I’ll go to meet with them.”

“To what end?” asked Dubai.

“To discover their purpose, to discover if their demon-dog is mine.” Stavros stood. “If I’m to be in town first thing in the morning, I’ll have to sleep now. I wish we could spend more time together, hano, but I hope you understand the importance of these matters.”

Hano said he understood.

As Stavros fell asleep on his small cot with a mattress filled with straw, he could hear Dubai and Hano speaking softly.

“I do not trust him.”

“Many were suspicious, Hano. But he has proven trustworthy.”

“Until now. Perhaps he is a demon’s imp. Perhaps he is this demon-dog’s servant and you’ve been allowing him to stay here. How could you do this? Did you not consider the safety of the people of Yuki?”

“I considered many things,” defended Dubai. “And I’ll consider anything you’ve to offer about him, but I will not consider his betrayal. He is a Gifted One and he is a good creature. I am convinced he was sent here by the gods to care for. In the time he has been here, not only has he added his hands to our paddies, but our harvest has nearly doubled. He is most certainly a creature of good fortune.”

“And I love him,” Elsa interrupted.

There was a long silence. Stavros, who had been listening in a state between sleep and wakefulness, opened his eyes upon hearing this.

Dubai whispered, “Quiet, granddaughter. Go to bed.”

Stavros heard the rustling sounds of Elsa preparing for and getting into her own cot. He then heard the two men stepping outside for a long, private walk. He thought a while about what his presence must mean to the people of Yuki. Surely many had been frightened of him, thought he as he remembered the first village he had come into when he had been carrying the giant green jewel, of how he had been chases away.

The people of Yuki were good people, he decided, and if they wanted him to leave he would do so. He hoped only they would know to trust him enough to tell him so.

Stavros stopped his wandering thoughts. He told himself, “I have another people to tend to.” He thought of the Ruska Rome. He reached under his cot and pulled from it his accordion. He felt it with his clawed fingers in the dark. His heart ached with missing the Ruska Roma as he quietly returned it to the darkness beneath his cot.

He rolled on his back and stared into darkness. “A frog demi-goddess,” he whispered to himself.

Sleep finally came to him.

Long before Etain poked her head over the horizon the next morning, Stavros was awake and gone from Yuki. He traveled alone, quietly, down the hilly country toward the town. His mind roiled with thoughts. He hoped he had not missed the frog demi-goddess, he hoped Hano had not be wrong in their direction or speed.

As the town came into view, so too did the encampment of a small group of mercenaries just on the edge of town. It was a small collection of men and women, about forty in all, Stavros surmised. He steered himself towards them and as he approached them he saw they were already awake and eating and preparing for their day’s travels. It did not take much effort for Stavros to spot the frog demi-goddess. Hope pounded within his chest as he entered the encampment. He asked a few of the mercenaries if he could speak with their leader. He was pointed toward the frog and told she was quite approachable, though at times impatient as she was determined to march onward.

Stavros drew near her.

“Are you the frog demi-goddess that seeks a demon-dog?” Stavros asked.

Wu Chan Chu, busily packing her supplies and placing them on her back, looked at Stavros. She considered him a long time. “That I am.”

“This demon-dog, does he travel with a pair of jackals?”

“He once traveled, though now I’m told he’s settled upon the Plain of Adoration. I know nothing of those that are with him, except that one called Black Tentacle seeks his company and I seek Black Tentacle. Everyone else here seeks the demon and a few seek glory at my side.”

“I seek the two jackals that are with him.”

One of Wu Chan Chu’s men confirmed he had heard Yaska Selith traveled with two jackals. “I saw them myself,” said the man.

“Then it is the very demon-dog!” said Stavros. “I would join with you!”

Wu Chan Chu eyed Stavros’ small hunch. “Though I recognize you as a Gifted One, I doubt we could use a broken rat.” She then commanded her men to hastily pack and break camp so they may start out for the day.

Stavros was enraged. He attacked Wu Chan Chu, grabbing her by the arm and pushing at her.

Wu Chan Chu struck back. She punched Stavros, slamming two fists into his chest and sending him backwards onto the ground. Her face contorted with anger. “How dare you touch me? Lesser creatures have died at my hands for that very offense! Off with you, rat! You have no purpose here!”

Wu Chan Chu and her men, their camp broken and supplies packed, walked away.

Stavros picked himself off the ground and ran after her. He considered her words and knew this frog would not answer to violence except with violence. He instead decided to plead. He ran around her and bent himself painfully low to the ground. His crooked back popped and he groaned as he prostrated, his hands clasped together and pleading, his arms outstretched, his head low.

“Please!” cried Stavros. He looked up at Wu Chan Chu. “These creatures, those jackals, they killed my people. Every last one of them died. I alone survived and they left me broken as you see me now. But I have grown strong since then with work in the rice paddies. I can still fight. Please, demi-goddess, the memory of my people demand it.”

Shabar, the farmer and once counsel to the Eternal Empress, stepped forward and said, “Wu Chan Chu, if he has fought the creatures before, perhaps he could lend aid with what he has previously seen and knows.”

Wu Chan Chu paid Shabar no heed. She ordered her mercenaries around Stavros.

As she passed, Stavros stood and they stared at one another.

“Whether I join with you here is no matter,” Stavros said determinedly. “I will follow you to this plain and find the jackals and kill them.”

Wu Chan Chu breathed deep. She gave a small croak. “You’ve no supplies. The plain, I’m told, is a long distance from here.”

“I’ve supplies in a village nearby. And a good, strong sword.”

“I’ll not wait for you. We press onward at a difficult pace.”

“I’ll keep up,” said Stavros.

Wu Chan Chu watched as her mercenaries obediently marched ahead of them. At last she nodded, saying, “I’ll not wait. Gather your things and catch up with us when you can.”

Stavro smiled, baring his long rat teeth. “Thank you.”

Wu Chan Chu walked away from him and joined her men, taking the lead and pressing east.

Stavros ran back to Yuki. There his running caused quite a commotion. Many of the people, already working in the paddies and in the mill with Etain breaking over the horizon, stopped to watch him pass by.

He ran into the hut of Dubai. The elder was there, as was Elsa. Hano was not.

“They seek the very demon-dog,” explained Stavros. He was a flurry of fur and activity as he scooped up first his accordion and finally his sword. He stopped long enough to look at Dubai. “Where’s Hano?”

“He’s gone on about his business,” said Dubai.

Stavros was hesitant. He said, “I have to go.”

Dubai smiled and nodded.

Elsa approached. She handed Stavros a bundle filled with rice and mochi and with it a clay jar filled with rice wine.

“You knew,” said Stavros as he took the food and wine.

They nodded.

Stavros slung his sword on his back. He tied the accordion at his waist along with the wine. He looked again at the ones who had most recently been his family.

“I have to,” he said again.

“We know,” Dubai said as he hugged Stavros. “Fare well.”

Elsa looked at him longingly, tears in her eyes but as yet not spilling. “Will you return to us?”

Stavros wanted to say that he would, but knew he had once before been defeated by the Brothers Jackal. He knew the times ahead of him would be bloody and messy and he did not want to lie to her, to commit an affront to those who had so lovingly accepted him.

Said Stavros, “I do not know that I’ll be able to.”

Elsa nodded, straightening his clothes about the neck and fighting back tears. She knew he spoke the truth.

Stavros grabbed her by the shoulders. “If I can, I will.”

She smiled.

They hugged.

With a flurry of activity, with many goodbyes, Stavros was gone from the small village of Yuki.



Renorio settled onto the Plain of Adoration with little notice. He made acquaintances and lived peaceably amongst the people there all the while secretly desiring the girl Inno. But rarely did Sinverguenza allowed her out of his sight. Even as he commanded the Bone Warriors she was nearby. Always did she appear nervous and afraid. He desperately desired to steal away with her, to treat her kindly so she would love him and when they left the plain he would…

Renoiro rarely allowed himself to think further. He instead became friends with Laskmana. She grew to trust him. At last, one day, he lead her away and when they were alone he produced a small knife and stabbed her in the chest and began the slow process of peeling her skin away from her body.

Two men found Renorio bent over the body of Laskmana. They were outraged and disgusted by what they saw. They grabbed Renorio and dragged him away the body, raising an alarm until more people came and witnessed the deed Renorio had been caught doing.

At that moment Yaska Selith had called Sinvergenza to his side. He placed a hand down to the plain and picked Sinverguenza gently up to bring him to his own eye level. Said the demon-dog, “There may be plots forming against us. We must not only fortify our borders, we must do away with our greatest threat.”

“You mean the king to the south?”

Yaska Selith nodded. “Indeed, I do.”

“I doubt he’s had enough time to completely revitalize and reform an army. A few of our people have gone there and mingle with the citizenry. They say the common man is all but gone, only soldiers remain and then not many. We may match this king in number, but if he truly has an army justly due to a kingdom they will be well-trained. We have many experienced fighters here, but we are more likely less organized and informal than a king’s men.

“If we are to abolish this king, we would most likely do best by subversive action.”

“And how would you suggest this? Setting them afire? Assassination?”

Sinvergiunza confessed, “I cannot truly say. My experience with subversion does not exist.”

It was then the two men dragged Renorio before Yaska Selith. They told the demon-dog of what they had found as he lowered Sinverguenza to the ground, of how Renorio had murdered Laskmana and was skinning her corpse. They then produced the cloak of skins they had found amongst his possessions.

“He is a foul creature!” cried one man.

Yaska Selith sighed. He stared a long time at Renorio who crouched, frightened and silent, before him. He then looked to Sinverguenza and thought of the matters they had been discussing. He wished he could concentrate on matters with Sinverguenza without interruption from the others about their frivolous tribulations. Again he sighed, then thought of something. He said to Sinverguenza, “Perhaps we have found our subversive operative.”

Sinverguenza looked to Renorio, disgusted by the thought of this man he had traveled with skinning the woman that had once been his second in command. He knew then Yaska Selith’s idea of using Renorio was perhaps well placed.

Sinverguenza looked up at Yaska Selith. “He succeeded in striking fear here. He most assuredly would do the same in the kingdom.”



The Spear of Sorrows broke free from the roots and vines that had held it in place at the base of the mountain called Taliesin. Aelis awoke within it as Xiao-tep formed his fins into strong arms and held his weapon forged by dwarven smiths once more. She squirmed within, crying softly, questioning.

Xiao-tep turned to Comet Fox. “Perhaps we should part ways.”

Comet Fox nodded. “I would go the Peony Tea House. Wu Chan Chu is most likely yet upset with me, but with word of a demon and her love of a good fight will perhaps persuade her to hear me out on matters.”

Xiao-tep agreed. “You should mend matters with her. If you cannot persuade her any other way, tell her I seek her, that I ask for her aid.”

Comet Fox smiled. “We’re at it again.”

Xiao-tep did not smile. He eyed his spear. “I wish it were not so.” He then looked to Comet Fox, “There was a kingdom to the south of the plain. I will go there and determine our allies. Fare well, friend.”

Xiao-tep bowed deeply at the waist with great respect for his friend.

Comet Fox smiled and winked. “Until we see each other again.”

Comet Fox flew from Taliesin, a great comet-like tail following behind him.

Xiao-tep breathed deep. He told a Otti, Aglina and Zingtai of his plans. They all wished him well and he left the Mountain That Lived in the Sky.

Taliesin was once more without a caretaker.



Xiao-tep was well-received by the soldiers. King Aniabas welcomed him and his alliance in the fight against the demon-dog Yaska Selith.

“He plagues me with his presence,” said Aniabas.

Xiao-tep stared at the deeply scarred face of the king. “I will do what I can. I have fought one other demon.”

“Have you? Then you will be a great benefit to our cause.”

“I can only hope,” said Xiao-tep.


Be sure to check back next Friday, October 3rd, for Act IV!

Friday, September 19, 2008

"Warriors of the Midnight Sun" - Act II

Here is Act II of "Warriors of the Midnight Sun". Act 3 will be post next Friday.



“Warriors of the Midnight Sun”
© 2008 by Charles Shaver. All rights reserved.



THE FARMER: Wherein Sinverguenza Kidnaps Inno, Daughter of Joto Ba and Dian; Shabar Joins with Wu Chan Chu; Balori Shongoyo Confronts the Demon-dog Yaska Selith



In far off lands where men grow rich with agriculture and politics there was the family Sengyu. Father Sengyu was quite the farmer and his wealth provided for his wife, Mother Sengyu, in the ways of status. Often she would host evening or afternoon teas while her husband and his people worked their massive farm and nannies cared for her only daughter, Dian.

Dian grew to be a beautiful girl and all the town loved her dearly. “She’ll make a fine princess for some royal man to marry,” would often be heard of her. She was smart in math and language and wise in the ways of the land, a skill she had learned from her father.

And though Dian understood the importance of her station and all that her parents afforded her in way of education and wealth, she disagreed with her mother in the matters of love. She disagreed largely in that Mother Sengyu had designs to arrange her marriage with a successful camel rancher whom Dian had never met. Instead, she secretly loved Joto Ba, one of her father’s men who worked in the fields.

One evening, a mere week prior to her crowning into womanhood upon her sixteenth birthday, Dian went forth into the fields to find her father. When she did, she asked her father if he would join her in a cup of afternoon tea. At first he said he was much too busy, but at last he joined her within the confines of one of the family’s many barns for tea.

“What is the real purpose of this?” Father Sengyu asked pleasantly as he poured tea for the both of them.

“Real purpose? What do you mean?” asked Dian.

“Come, come. We’ve not drawn tea together for nearly four years now. I can only imagine you bring me hear to discuss some matter with me and as your birthday approaches I can guess it has to do with that.”

Dian smiled. “I cannot possibly hide a thing from you.”

Father Sengyu smiled. “Not even your love for Joto Ba.”

At this revelation that her father knew of her secrets concerning Joto Ba she gasped. “Father! How did you know?”

“This is my farm, dear. I know everything that goes on here.”

She smiled at her father and said, “I wish to marry Joto Ba, not the camel man.”

Father Sengyu nodded. “I understand. But you’re mother has gone to great lengths to arrange this marriage for you.”

Dian sighed, sipping at her tea. “I know. But I’ve not even met the man! How could I be hid bride?”

“You will earn to love him. And, if nothing else, he will provide you children you will love.”

The thought of children troubled Dian. Her eyes clenched together. She felt herself on the verge of tears.

“Dear daughter, what’s the matter?” asked Father Sengyu. He could sense she was upset over more than the wedding.

“Father,” said Dain. “I have to marry Joto Ba.”

“No you don’t. What you feel is simple childish infatuation.”

Dian shook her head. “No father, it’s not that. It’s not that at all. I have to marry him for I carry his child in me as we speak.”

Father Sengyu puffed quietly upon his pipe a long time before answering. “I understand.”

“You’re not angry, are you?”

Father Sengyu shook his head. “No. I was simply thinking about how odd life can turn out. I’ve traveled a long way to be where I’m at and now I see my daughter starting on her own.”

“You’re not sad, are you?”

“A little, but no more than any other father who has just noticed her child has grown at some point without him. But I am not angry or sad about you,” he assured.

“Oh, father!” Dian flung herself from her seat and into her father’s arms. For a moment she cursed herself for being such a child, running into her father’s arms. But when his embrace closed around her, she no longer cared. Their embrace sent Dian into reminiscing her childhood when her father would hold her on his lap and read her stories before bedtimes. Often, she amused, he appeared more enthralled by the tales that she ever was.

“What of mother?” asked Dian.

“You need to tell her.”

“She won’t like it.”

“No,” said Father Sengyu. “She won’t.”

That night over dinner Dian told her mother she was pregnant with the child of one of Father Sengyu’s workers.

“What?” raged the mother. She rose and struck her daughter across the face. “After all we’ve done for you, you go and accept the seed of a lousy field worker?”

Mother Sengyu beat her daughter again and again. She chased the girl all through their home, throwing every object she could grab. She slapped her daughter’s face, her arms and pulled her hair, raging so loudly the workers within the home stepped outside, afraid.

All Dian could think of was protecting her child. She finally fell in the kitchen and curled up, her back to her mother so she could not slap her in the belly and harm the unborn child there.

Mother Sengyu picked a rather large and menacing meat cleaver from a butcher block and screamed, “Get up, you whore! You ungrateful whore, stand up! I’ll cut that bastard’s ugly, worthless child from you myself; then I’ll go out and cut off his manhood so he can never do this again!”

One of the workers, fearing Mother Sengyu would truly kill the unborn child or Dian, ran to find Father Sengyu. He came to the kitchen immediately.

“Get up!” screamed Mother Sengyu. She grabbed Dian’s arm, but found her own arm held fast by Father Sengyu’s hand.

“Get your filthy hands off me!” screamed Mother Sengyu. She swiped the knife at her husband, opening a bloody red wound upon his cheek.

Father Sengyu ignored his wound and grabbed his wife with both hands, crushing her wrists until she was made to drop the knife, clanking to the kitchen floor.

Dian sobbed wildly. A nanny came to her side and pulled her away, out of the kitchen.

Father Sengyu, when he saw some of the rage weaken in his wife’s eyes, let go of her. He said, “Our daughter is pregnant with our grandchild. We should be celebrating.”

“This is not how things were supposed to be,” said Mother Sengyu, the screamed so all the countryside could hear, “She’s an ungrateful whore!”

Father Sengyu slapped his wife across the face. She reeled in exaggerated horror and pain. She looked at him with disgust.

He stared calmly back, saying, “That’s our daughter you speak of.”

“I want her out of here! If she’s not out by dawn tomorrow I’ll kill her! I’ll kill you all!” Mother Sengyu screamed. She left her husband standing alone and quiet in the kitchen.

The next day Father Sengyu had his workers gather supplies and two horses. He brought Dian and Joto Ba to his side and handed them a pouch of money. He said, “I’m afraid she’s still quite angry. Perhaps it is best you leave for a time, until I get the chance to smooth matters over with her. Take these horses and money and go. I know the owner of the store in the nearest town. I’ve sent word I’m sending you to him. You can stay with him a day or two, after that I’m afraid you’ll have to make it on your own, but stay in touch. Send word where you’re at, wherever you go. I’ll let you know when you can return.”

“I’m sorry things turned out this way,” said Joto Ba. “I’m so very sorry.”

“I know,” said Father Sengyu. “Take care of her.”

Joto Ba’s eyes leveled with determination. “I will. That I promise you.”

Joto Ba and Dian mounted their horses.

“What about you, father? Won’t she take her hate out on you?” asked Dian.

“That is for me to cope with,” said Father Sengyu. “You’re mother has always been full of anger.”

“Then why stay with her? Come with us, or send her away.”

Father Sengyu shook his head. “My dear daughter, one day you will learn we each have our demons to contend with. It does no good to run from them.”

Dian looked at her father, wondering. She thought about the many times she had witnessed her mother in a rage, screaming at her father or the workers. She asked, “Father, have you ever been happy with her?”

Father Sengyu smiled. “Of course I have. She gave life to my daughter.”

Joto Ba lead the way as they left. Dian wept as she looked over her shoulder, watching her father who stood near the road.

Father Sengyu stood watching until he could no longer see the blurred image of his daughter and future son-in-law on the horizon. He stood watching a while longer before he breathed deep, said a pray to the many gods asking them to watch over his child and her husband-to-be, then turned and entered his home.



Joto Ba and Dian traveled many long months before finally settling in a region where they were able to use some of the money Father Sengyu had given them to buy some land and farm it. They sent word with a few travelers to let Father Sengyu know where they were, but they never heard back from him. They always wondered about him and their old life.

Joto Ba married Dian and they had a baby girl. They named her Inno, after Father Sengyu’s mother. They grew old together as their daughter grew up. Joto Ba grew strong and thin with working his farm. He grew grain in the hot sun. Joto Ba could often be found swinging his sickle in his fields.

Inno grew into a beautiful, fine young woman. She became the jewel of the countryside and all who met her immediately fell in love with her.

As Joto Ba had promised to love and care for Dian, so too did Dian secretly promise to love and care for Inno in a way she would never know anger, promising to be the best mother should could be. Dian succeeded in this. Inno was the pride of her parents.

As Inno grew to age, a week prior to her sixteenth birthday, three warriors came traveling through their country. Many rumored the devilry they were capable of as one wore bones upon his leather armor and another was a kestrel-headed Gifted One.

As it was night, Sinverguenza, Motharus and Renorio stopped by Joto Ba and Dian’s home to ask if they could stay the night.

Uncertain, Joto Ba felt it only right to offer them a warm place to stay. He invited them into their home.

As Dian fed the three strangers, Sinverguenza commented, “Your daughter is quite beautiful.”

Joto Ba, nervously, gave his thanks.

Sinvergueza not so secretly desired Inno. He eyed her all through dinner.

That night the house quietly slept, but the next morning, when Joto Ba and Dian awoke, they found their guests had snuck out in the early hours of the morning and with them they had taken their daughter.

“I cannot believe you allowed them into our home!” raged Dian.

Joto Ba, his eyes wide with fear, picked up his sickle and told his wife, “Remain here. I’ll go after them.”

Joto Ba gathered and mounted his horse and rode hard in the direction he knew them to be going. He rode on and on until he found them walking by the side of the road, Inno tied and gagged and being forced to walk ahead of them.

Joto Ba rode up swiftly, the sickle extended, and swung it at Sinverguenza who easily ducked the oncoming blow.

Motharus, who had been holding a rope tied about Inno’s waist, handed it over to Renorio and said, “Watch after her.”

Joto Ba turned his horse and charged once more.

Motharus lifted onto the air, bringing his knees up into the chest of Joto Ba as he rode near and knocking him free from his horse. The horse, without a rider, ran on and on and disappeared on the horizon.

Joto Ba stood, the sickle still in his hand. He swung it at Motharus who grabbed the implement and pulled it from his hands, throwing it to the ground.

“I’ll kill you all!” yelled Joto Ba, bringing his fists up, nervous and unknowing of what to do.

Sinverguenza picked up the implement. He brandished it with a smile. “So the farmer wishes to be a warrior. Know you how to fight? Haha! I can see in your eyes and how you hold yourself now you know nothing of fighting. Not that I’m a great fighter, but I can appreciate a good fight from a distance. For instance, my friend here, did you know he was once the champion at the Peony Tea House? He knows how to fight. His Muay Thai is good. Motharus, give this farmer a lesson in fighting.”

Motharus attacked. His punch cracked Joto Ba’s jaw. He followed the punch with an elbow to the head. Darkness filled Joto Ba’s vision and, as he fell, he felt as though he were floating away from his body.

Motharus and Sinverguenza both laughed as Joto Ba rolled on the ground, his hands at his head and eyes winced, moaning incoherently as his broken jaw refused to work, to give shape to his cries.

Sinverguenza approached the fallen farmer. “Get up, farmer! Your lesson is far from over!”

At this Sinverguenza drove the sickle down and into the chest of Joto Ba. The blade lodged into Joto Ba’s ribs and he cried out in pain as blood welled in his throat and spilled from his mouth. Sinverguenza pulled on the sickle’s handle and the lodged blade lifted Joto Ba off the ground from the waist up.

Motharus approached the farmer. He brought an elbow down onto Joto Ba’s head.

Joto Ba’s vision swam through darkness and sparkling, twinkling lights. He stopped moaning. Now he only grunted with every heavy, laborer breath.

Sinverguenza let go the sickle and Joto Ba dropped to the ground. He said, “Finish it, Motharus.”

Motharus lifted his leg backwards and kicked Joto Ba’s temple. The skull cracked. The farmer’s head flung back and his neck snapped.

As Sinverguenza and Motharus poked at Joto Ba to assure themselves of his death, Renorio gently caressed Inno. He leaned close to her and smelled her skin. His mouth worked, his tongue wetting his lips. He wondered if he could steal the young prize away from Sinverguenza. He was about to stick out his tongue, to taste the young girl when Sinverguenza’s approach made him stop.

Motharus grabbed the rope from Renorio. Neither he nor Sinverguenza suspected a thing and Renorio was glad for it.

The three traveled on, pushing their prize ahead of themselves.

Joto Ba’s body day lay motionless by the side of the road. It was to remain there for a full day before anyone would find it. And though the farmer’s life had ended, his afterlife was just beginning for deep within the Land of the Midnight Sun, Joto Ba appeared in a form that was dark and billowing. His eyes glowed red, as did a hole where once he had been stabbed in the chest with his own sickle.

Joto Ba looked at the creature sitting nearby, the creature sitting atop the Black Rock of Meditation.

“Welcome,” said the marmoset. “I am Momoki, Master of the Chamber of Despair. You have been chosen to ride with me in your afterlife against a demon-dog, a false demon called Yaska Seltih, and end his reign of blight upon the world.”



Shabar rode on. Storms had come to the land. It made his trek long and lonesome. He was soaked by the time he came to a small town where rumors abounded about a frog demi-goddess who was traveling east, after a demon of some kind. One person added he had heard in another village an elephant was leading men towards the same route. Shabar asked many questions and could only guess this frog and elephant – both apparently Gifted Ones – were heading for the same place and that the elephant was Balori.

This news drive him onward harder than ever.

Finally, days later, as the rains lightened, then stopped, he came across a small collection of men and women claiming to be warriors. At their center was a frog demi-goddess. He presented himself to her.

“I am Shabar. Once I was counsel to the Eternal Empress and oversaw the Elephant Crusade. Now I seek to aide the one called Balori. I am told he has been changed into an immortal Gifted One and seeks to place the stars once more into the night sky.”

Wu Chan Chu considered this man. “I do not know any Balori, nor have I ever met an immortal elephant. I go to find the one called Black Tentacle. I am told he seeks a demon that lives upon the Plain of Adoration. If the demon has anything to do with the disappearance of the stars, your Balori may be there, but I know nothing of him. Join us if you will, but these men go to fight the demon for wrongs he has committed onto them and the world. I seek Black Tentacle and only Black Tentacle.”

Shabar listened carefully. He considered joining this band of warriors. He ate supper with them that night and slept with them. By the next morning, he had made up his mind.

Wu Chan Chu urged her fellow fighters to gather their equipment. “By the gods, if I didn’t think a demon was involved and I could go only for Black Tentacle, I would leave you all behind, but I may need you to serve as a distraction. Wrest yourselves from sleep and let’s go!”

She paused a moment, eyeing Shabar as he readied himself.

“You go with us, then?” she asked.

Shabar nodded.

“I cannot promise you’ll find your friend,” she warned.

“I understand, but this is the best possibility I’ve learned of yet. If nothing else, I’ve been traveling alone a long time and when a man is alone for so long his thoughts can turn wicked, especially if he’s left home with an ill wind to his back.”

Wu Chan Chu thought on this. She said, “Keep up. I will not slow my progress for an idiot or a lazy bastard. Keep at my pace and we may reach this Plain of Adoration in proper time. I will not wait.”

Shabar again nodded, saying, “I will keep up.”



Fei Li Mi had been living upon the Plain of Adoration for a small time, easing his way closer to the demon-dog, speaking with him and making a home for himself when rumors spread through the field and eyes were turned upward toward the Black Mountains. Fei Li Mi peered onto the mountains and there saw the elephant Balori floated slowly down into the plain. He came closer, closer, nodding to those who said hello to him and welcoming him to the plain. He felt they meant him to stay. He wondered why anyone would stay.

Fei Li Mi watched with Yaska Selith and Neboshazzar, who was perched upon the demon-dog’s shoulder, as the elephant flew nearer before lifting himself off the ground using his mystic cloud and drawing face-to-face with Yaska Selith.

Neboshazzar screeched angrily at the elephant. Balori winced at the sound before giving the ghastly beast a sour look.

Fei Li Mi took to the air and came level with Balori and Yaska Selith’s face.

Balori’s eyes widened, then narrowed. “Fei Li Mi, I am not surprised you are here.”

“Then you should not be surprised you are not welcome, at least for my part.”

“Know you this elephant?” asked Yaska Selith.

Fei Li Mi nodded. “Indeed. We once served the same mistress.”

“Once served?” asked Balori. “Am I to understand you no longer serve the Eternal Empress.”

“No longer,” confirmed Fei Li Mi. “When first I came onto the plain of adoration I was welcomed with open arms. The children here love and accept me and the people do not judge me based upon their whims. Here I am–”

“Shut you gods bedamned mouth, fish,” cursed Balori. “I care not why you are here.” Balori then turned to Yaska Selth and said, “Demon, I come seeking the Jewel of Zingtai. I would take it and peacefully go.”

“Jewel of Zingtai?” asked Yaska Selith. “What would that be?”

Balori’s heart suddenly sank. He feared the demon-dog knew nothing, therefore did not have the jewel. He explained, “It is a jewel from off the wing of Zingtai the Nighttime Butterfly. Without it she cannot fly, thus we have lost the stars. If I can retrieve it, the stars will return to the nighttime skies and all would benefit from their beauty.”

“Would they now?” asked Yaska Selith. He leaned back on his haunches and said, “Perhaps I have your jewel. Many great treasures are sent to me by adoring friends. And I must confess to you an obsession I have with shiny, pretty things. Looking at them makes me want to eat them!” At this Yaska Selith gurgled forth barking laughter.

“He does not have it,” said Fei Li Mi. “So leave at once.”

“How do you know I do not have this jewel?” asked Yaska Selith of Fei Li Mi.

The fish responded, “I have been here a short time and I have yet once to see or hear of it.”

“Do you know where I keep my treasures, fish?” asked the demon-dog.

Fei Li Mi had to confess he did not, “Though I hear you bury them.”

“I do! I do! In fact, this small mound of dirt I now sit upon is the very spot where I bury all my beautiful treasures.” Yaska Selith turned to Balori and asked, “What does your jewel look like?”

“It is as an oversized emerald,” said Balori.

Yaska Selith reached a clawed hand under himself and dug into the ground there. He then produced a giant emerald with two small chips in it where Zom Loa and Stavros had both taken a bit for themselves to eat.

“Could this be it?” asked the demon-dog.

“It has to be! There could be but one giant emerald!” Balori cried out. “Will you give it to me, demon?”

Yaska Selith considered giving it to the elephant, but the gleam and shine of the jewel enticed him. He brought the emerald near and sniffed it, placed it in his mouth and nibbled it playfully, then took it out of his mouth and swiftly plunged it into the ground beneath him.

“No!” cried Yaska Selith. “It is mine! All these treasures I sit upon are mine. You cannot have a single one!”

Balori trumpeted in anger. He said, “If you do not give it to me peacefully, I will return with many warriors and take it forcefully.”

Yaska Selith laughed so loudly at this the ground shook. He looked at Balori and said, “You may be quite large to these people that live at my feet, but to me you are tiny. What could you possibly do to me?”

Again the demon-dog laughed, this time howling in joy afterwards. He then said, “Dear elephant, consider joining my ranks so that you may tell me more jokes such as this and entertain me nightly.”

Balori filled with rage. He stood on his mystic cloud and yelled, “You dare mock me? I am Balori Shongoyo of the Elephants of Ife! And if you do not hand over that jewel I will be your destroyer!”

Yaska Selith stopped his laughing. He stared angrily at the elephant standing upon his cloud. He said, “Rid me of yourself.” At this he raised a clawed hand and swatted Balori from the sky, knocking him from his own cloud and sending him flying into the side of the Black Mountains.

This time Fei Li Mi joined Yaska Selith in laughter as Neboshazzar screeched victory and the followers of the demon-dog sent up a triumphant cheer.

Balori crashed hard against the stony surface of the mountains. He struggled to stand. Pain throbbed throughout his body. He snorted and the mystic cloud that hand been left suspended before Yaska Selith returned to him, flying into his trunk. He snorted again, pushing the cloud back out and he mounted it. Taking a long, last look at Yaska Selith and those upon the plain, he turned and flew as swiftly as he could up the mountains.

There, waiting in anticipation, were his fellows. They had seen Balori swatted from the sky and feared him harmed.

“Are you all right?” asked Negkendra as Balori returned to them.

Balori huffed angrily. “I suppose my pride is far more wounded than my body, Negkendra. Thank you for asking. In case you could not see, he denied me the Jewel of Zingtai.”

Akadia asked, “So he has it? Was that really it he held up?”

Balori nodded. “That was the jewel we seek.”

“What do we do now?” asked Macia. “We can’t possibly take them all on by ourselves.”

Balori finished stretching his muscles and brushing himself off and drinking deeply from one of his men’s flask. He said, “We may not have to. As I descended the mountains I saw to the south a kingdom with a castle. I can only imagine the demon has sent some of his men that way and may have control of it, but if not, I can only imagine those that live there do not appreciate their neighbor.”

Macia, Negkendra, Akadia and all of them nodded.

Akadia said, “We go there, then? To seek help?”

Balori nodded. “We go there to seek help.”

In the far distance, on the northern border of the plain, Zom Loa crossed Owl Bridge and entered the Plain of Adoration.



As the marmoset and the farmer approached the large doors to the Chamber of Despair, Momoki thought of something. He stopped and turned to the shadows. He did not know where exactly Radiant Gui was, but knew he would definitely be nearby, watching.

Joto Ba, now with a menacing sickle held firmly in his hand, turn and looked out into the beshadowed land with Momoki as the marmoset called out, “Radiant Gui, I’ve a question for you.”

Radiant Gui appeared, melting from shadows. His ghastly, demonic horse-form frightened Joto Ba and he raised his sickle and backed away first one step, then two.

Radiant Gui eyed the farmer, then looked to Momoki. “What s it?”

“Is there water within the Chamber of Despair?” asked Momoki.

The horse-demon gurgled laughter. “No! I think there’s not a drop of water in all the many layers of Hell. What does it matter?”

Said Momoki, “My friends, they will need water soon lest they die.”

Radiant Gui considered this. “Hmmm,” said he, “I’ve heard living things cannot live without this element. Bah! How weak they are!”

Momoki looked to the horse-demon, “Is there a way to bring water to them? If not, they will die.”


Momoki stiffened. “And should they die I will refuse this quest you send me on.”

Radiant Gui whinnied with fear and anger. He brought his face low to the ground to hover just over Momoki’s head. Sulphur and ash fell from his mouth and nose onto Momoki as he breathed.

Radiant Gui withdrew into the shadows, saying, “You try my patience, marmoset.”

Radiant Gui gone, Momoki knew not what to do. He turned toward the doors to his chamber and opened them. Joto Ba followed him in.

As they entered, a flurry of activity met them. Gogi ran across the courtyard towards his garden with a small tub Szu Ri had made by binding twigs together with her silk. Momoki followed after him and Joto Ba followed Momoki.

Gogi stopped at the side of his garden. Water bubbled forth from where he had been digging a well in hopes of finding water. He placed the tub in the water and filled it until he had great difficulty lifting it out again. He then saw Momoki and nearly screeched with excitement, “Momoki! Oh, Momoki, look! I’ve done it! I’ve found water! Look!”

The water started flooding all around the garden in chaotic ways.

“Oh!” said Gogi. “I have to irrigate or it’ll not stay so the plants can drink from it!”

Gogi adjusted his hat down on his head so it would not fall off as he worked. He began digging little channels around the garden to direct the flow of water around and through the garden.

“Would you like us to help?” asked Momoki.

Gogi nodded vigorously. “Would you? Thank you, Momoki!”

Momoki took the tip of his pipe and began making channels.

Joto Ba take the point of his sickle’s blade and did the same.

Momoki introduced them, “Gogi, this is Joto Ba. He was a farmer in his last life.”

“Oh,” Gogi twitched nervously. He feared his small garden would look patheric in the eyes of another, especially an authentic farmer. He said, “Pleased to meet you, Joto Ba. This garden, it’s, uh, w-well, it’s not much.”

Joto Ba smiled, though it did not show on his expressionless face. He said, “It is fine work.”

Gogi breathed a little easier. His chest swelled with pride. He nodded to Joto Ba and said, “Thank you.”

On they worked, Momoki and Joto Ba digging small channels and Gogi going along behind them, packing down the dirt and forming the paths for the water.

The sprouts drank deeply and filled out, happily growing.


Be sure to look for Act III next week!

Friday, September 12, 2008

"Warriors of the Midnight Sun" - Act I

Now begins the final tale of Momoki the Marmoset, Gogi the Grasshopper, Xiao-tep the Ankh-fish, Comet Fox, Bolri Shongoyo the Towering Elephant and all the characters of The Children of Gods universe.



“Warriors of the Midnight Sun”
© 2008 by Charles Shaver. All rights reserved.



THE FISHERMAN: Wherein Ebi the Fisherman Joins Momoki in Hell; Fei Li Mi Enters the Plain of Adoration; Balori Shongoyo and His Friends Reach the Black Mountains



Under the undying, unblinking eye of the Midnight Sun stood the enchanted Silver Forest. At its edge, moving through it crimson glow and charcoal shadows, walked Momoki the Marmoset. He came at last to rest upon a black rock protruding from the black ground where he often sat in meditation. Fumbled he with his pipe, staring at it, considering it. He had fought only once in his life before afterlife and the result was saving the life of his beloved Twila the Turtle. Yet that fight against Motharus the Kestrel-Headed ended in no deaths. Never before had he taken the life of another creature. Now he stared at his bloodstained pipe.

He had murdered the Gold Baboon of the Midnight Sun, a truly despicable creature indeed. He wondered if even the many Hells would be better off without such a creature. Yet Momoki’s belly welled with the murder and though Momoki was dead and therefore immune to illness, he felt quite ill. He felt now he truly deserved the role as Master of the Chamber of Despair.

It was at this moment, with Momoki contemplating life and death and murder upon the Black Rock of Meditation at the edge of the Silver Forest, Ebi the Fisherman came before him.

Where once Ebi had been a bright, vibrant living man now he was a misty black ghost, as was Momoki. His form wavered in shadow as he peered at the dark Land of the Midnight Sun. His eyes glowed red as Momoki’s, as the Midnight Sun itself, and encircling his waist, where once the demon-dog Yaska Selith had bitten him in half, was a bright red jagged streak. It, too, glowed as the Midnight Sun and on occasion let loose with a small droplet of crimson that rose on the air briefly before disappearing as though he were still bleeding and the blood defied gravity to fly up.

Ebi looked to Momoki.

Momoki stood, bowed and said, “Welcome, warrior, to the Land of the Midnight Sun. I am Momoki the Marmoset, Master of the Chamber of Despair and I will be your counsel and teacher. You are now dead and have been chosen to ride with me in your afterlife against a demon-dog, a false demon called Yaska Seltih, and end his reign of blight upon the world.”

Ebi nodded, saying, “I know him.” His voice was hollow and echoed briefly as he spoke.

“Do you?” asked Momoki.

Again Ebi nodded. “He was my Pup.”

Momoki thought on this before asking, “Know you how to fight?”

Ebi shook his head. “I was but a fisherman.”

Momoki considered this. He said, “I will train you in the ways of fighting.”

And so began the gathering of the Warriors of the Midnight Sun, so began the training of Ebi by Momoki.

Momoki chased Ebi through the Silver Forest wielding his pipe in a menacing fashion. He taught Ebi to block, guard, parry and evade as he had been taught by both the Amethyst and Silver Baboons. Ebi grew strong in mind, wise in the ways of fighting, but he had questions. He wondered, if he were already dead, why he would need to learn evasiveness unless he could die once again.

He asked, “Can I die once more?”

Momoki, sitting upon the Black Rock of Meditation as they rested from their training, said, “Yes, but only at the hands of a Gifted One or a god.”

Ebi nodded with understanding.

On and on went their training until, at last, Momoki felt he could teach Ebi nothing more. He said, “Now we must teach you to attack. Think, Ebi. Think of some thing that you used in your day-to-day life, something you know well and are familiar with, something you can use as a weapon.”

Ebi searched throughout his memory for a proper weapon. His first and strongest thoughts were of his nets he used for fishing, but doubted their value as a weapon. He was not sure what a proper weapon should be like, but he knew it had to be dangerous. He thought of the things that may have hurt him over the years of his life. again he thought of the nets and how his shoulders hurt after hauling them in all day. yet finally his mind wandered to one thing, the thing he constantly pricked his fingers with though he did not use it as often as his nets. He thought of his many fishing hooks.

In Ebi’s hand appeared a large hook with a barbed spike.

Momoki inspected the hook. It was far larger than he and appeared quite capable of menacing assaults.

Momoki nodded. “This will do nicely.”

Momoki, fearing he may kill Ebi as he had killed the Gold Baboon or Ebi killing him, thought to train Ebi instead against a many-armed silver tree. Ebi soon learned to use the spike to thrust, to arc the hook out widely in a deceptive missed attack only to pull it toward him at the last moment, spearing an enemy from behind. He became quite efficient with his new weapon.

Watching from the deep shadows of the land was Radiant Gui. As he witnessed Ebi’s progress and Momoki’s acceptance in his role, he smiled a toothy, drooling smile.



In a hilly countryside where grass rolled over the horizons there was a small farming village called Yuki. The people there had terra-formed the land into stepped farmland where they planted and grew fields of rice. They brought water from the nearby mountains into their fields with deeply dug trenches. They had a large windmill with which they used to spin a miller’s stone and grind rice into paste or powder. Everything here was green and blue and bright. Even the people wore blue and green work clothes with the occasional bit of purple. They dyed their own clothes with the inks of roots they grounded themselves. In every way the people of Yuki were self-sufficient. They even had a nearby town at the base of the hills that had grown along a trade route where they could go to sell any of their surplus rice and grains and dyes.

Each year the village grew a little with children. But once they added a new member to their numbers. He came crawling to them, wounded and broken and dying from thirst, hunger and exposure.

The village elder, a man called Dubai, recognized this newcomer immediately as a Gifted One. He told his people, “He has come to us from the gods, wounded and needing help. They have sent him to us to care for.”

The people agreed and they took in the Gifted One, though a few were frightened by his rat form. Rats, they knew, could eat away foodstuffs and therefore profits and supplies. These people would whisper that this newcomer was, perhaps, a curse, but they remained fairly silent and obeyed Dubai’s words of wisdom and felt they should wait until the rat had actually committed some affront upon them before demanding he be ousted.

The affront never came. In fact, he soon won over the hearts of everyone within the village.

The rat was given a bed within the home of Dubai and his granddaughter Elsa. His name was learned as Stavros and as soon as his back had healed enough where he could walk he asked to join them in their work in the rice paddies.

“It is our work,” said Dubai. “Do not concern yourself with it.”

Stavros, whose back had healed improperly so as to give him the slightest hunch as his chest thrusted forward, said, “But Dubai, you have all been so kind. I am in awe of your kindness. I have felt such kindness only once before in my life and I wish to show my gratitude. Helping you in the fields is the best way I can think of. If there is another way, then tell me. I will do it.”

Dubai felt the words of the rat. He said, “If it is what you wish, we will teach you to work in the paddies.”

Stavros’ back, arms and shoulders soon grew with the work. He enjoyed his days in warming sun. he even enjoyed the rainy nights when the Heavens opened their gates and flooded the hills. He felt so small and at the command of all the elements when it rained, yet he somehow felt a part of the land, as well. He was working the land, growing as the rice grew. He learned to love the people of Yuki village as he had once loved the Ruska Roma.

Stavros’ story became well known to the villagers. The children often asked him to retell his tales of traveling the world and fighting the Brothers Jackal, of the immensity of the demon-dog. They would clap and cheer as he began and ended each tale.

Elsa bought new cloth in the town and dyed them bright blue with streaks of purple and sewed them into a new outfit for Stavros. He gave up all his possessions, selling them and giving the money to the village to be spent on whatever supplies they needed. He kept only his earrings and his sword.

At times, usually late at night when the land was quiet and the people of the village were falling asleep, Stavros would walk into the fields and meditate upon his fallen Ruska Roma family. Inevitably he would begin practicing his fighting in katas of his own. Occasionally he would do so with his sword.

On one windy night, as the air seemed to howl with the agony of the dead, Stavros thought he could hear the voices of the fallen Ruska Roma calling out to him.

He took to the field with his sword. He decided then – as the winds howled about him, bending the grass and his fur – should he ever be given the chance, he would avenge his people. He took up his sword this night and practiced. He watched for a moment in the distance how the windmill whipped, spinning crazily in the wind. He thought how dangerous it would be to go near it. As he practiced with his sword, he thought to mimic the spinning windmill. He jumped, his body parallel to the ground as he twisted with his sword extended out, spinning as the blades of the windmill and brought the blade down upon a stone in the grassy field as he fell, splitting it in half.

He rose from the ground. As the world breathed heavily upon him, so too he breathed heavily back at the world. “I will find my way to you, demon,” he cursed. “And I will cut your jackals to pieces.”



Fei Li Mi chased every rumor that came to his ears. Many were those that knew the reason the stars had fallen from the nightly Heavens, enough for the catfish to know the tale was too well known to be a mere rumor. But the things he heard of the demon-dog Yaska Selith seemed wild and exaggerated. One thing, however, piqued his interest. He had heard from more than one person that treasures from all over the world were being sent to the Plain of Adoration, to Yaska Selith. Some of the treasure was being sent by the demon-dog’s own loyal followers. Others were being sent by those wishing the demon-dog to bless and protect them or do for them some favor. Amongst the treasures had been many jewels and gems. Thought Fei Li Mi considered the possibility of Yaska Selith having the Jewel of Zingtai – the very jewel he sought – he felt himself remiss should he not follow the rumors.

So came Fei Li Mi to the Plain of Adoration. There he witnessed what many others had. He saw the orgies, the use of opium, the rapes and fights and gambling. He feared not so much the people or their activities, but the zeal with which they took to them.

He was seen flying overhead and rather than fly off or hide, he felt it best to lower himself to the plain and present himself. And though he could easily see the large demon-dog, he was uncertain how to approach him. He instead presented himself to the group of people nearest to where he landed.

“I am Fei Li Mi,” said he. “I would like to speak with your demon.”

The people laughed. One man said, “Who doesn’t? Come, join us, we are about to play some games and roast some rabbits we hunted earlier. A Gifted One such as yourself would make our conversations livelier and it would be a great honor for us.”

Fei Li Mi accepted their offer and ate with them and played games. He learned much about Yaska Selith in this way. Moreso, he learned a lot of the people who gathered at the demon-dog’s feet were simple peasants seeking refuge from some thing or another or seeking nearness to Yaska Selith. Many appeared in awe of the demon, despite having lived upon the plain for some time.

After a time, Fei Li Mi had to admit, with the cordial approach the people took to him, he felt welcomed here. A few of the women even had children and they all sat and listened as he told them tales of the Elephant Crusade. The people enjoyed having Fei Li Mi to watch their children and he thought, “I came here to please my Empress and win the favor of her children, but if there be children here I can oversee and protect, what need have I to hassle myself with asking the demon-dog for the jewel, should he even have it? No, I will make this plain my new home.”

And so he did.



Balori’s company of men had grown as they traveled across the world. He knew a few were there only to be near him, which disgusted him. But he remained focused on reaching the Plain of Adoration. Should a fight truly be coming, he knew its nearness would chase off the cowards that followed him.

As they went, they came into town after town that knew of the Plain of Adoration. Person after person told them they drew nearer and nearer still. Great excitement filled Baloir, Macia, Negkendra and Akadia. A few of the others, the cowards that Balori despised, the men who were following merely to follow, asked, “What are we to do when we reach the plain?”

Balori said one word, “Fight.”

“Fight? A demon?”

Balori nodded.

The next day, as they rose from their night’s slumber and prepared to press on towards the plain, the men who were following to follow had already gone, slipping away in the night. This pleased Balori.

They pressed themselves hard that day. they did not stop much to eat. When one man had to relieve himself by the side of the road, the mass of them did not stop to wait for him. He would have to catch up later.

Those men and women that remained at his side sought to right things in the world. Many had been witness to Yaska Selith’s devilry as he moved across the world before settling upon the plain and they came for vengeance, for retribution, for justice. Many had no connection to Yaska Selith at all, they simply wanted to aide Balori in returning the nighttime Heavens to their former beauty. A few came with Balori seeking glory. With the parting of the few who followed merely to follow, all were bound together in their dedication.

They were all thin with the hard traveling. But with each meal that grew smaller so their dedication grew larger.

At last they came to western side of the Black Mountains. Their black and purple looming visage had driven them for many days. Balori raised his massive trunk and smelled the air. He said, “The demon is near. Should the directions we’ve been given be true, he lives upon the plain just the other side of these mountains.”

Negkendra craned his neck, as did all the men, and gazed upon the imposing mountains. “We’ll not make the top of the mountains before night,” said he. “It would be best if we stay here for the night and start up the first thing in the morning.”

“If only we could all fly as Balori,” said Akadia. “These mountains would not stand in our way.”

“If we could fly as Balori, none of our travels would have taken so long,” answered Macia.

Akadia nodded. He considered Balori a moment. He said, “Master Balori, we have held you back a long time, much more than you ever desired. We are here now, at the base of the Black Mountains. Go, go on without us. We will tackle the mountains at first light and we will join you when we can.”

Balori considered this. He looked up at the mountains. He wanted so desperately to fly over the mountains and confront the demon-dog, to find out if he truly possessed the Jewel of Zingtai. He looked at Akadia and said, “Perhaps I could, but I won’t.”

Many of the men rumbled. They urged Balori to go on without them, that they would catch up.

Balori shook his massive head, his ears swaying from side to side as he did so. “We have traveled this far together. I can wait one more day. And, you are here because never have I confronted a demon before. I know not what to expect. I can only assume a fight might follow. If there’s a chance of that, I’ll need you at my side. I may be a Gifted One, but I am but one pair of hands. I do not know if that is enough to conquer a demon. I will wait.”

Balori looked at them each in turn and added, “And many of you have good reason to be here. I cannot rob you of your chance to make things right. You have been with me throughout the journey, even when we were not the best of friends,” at this he looked at Negkendra. “But now we are as family. I cannot abandon you now.”

Though some of the men and women did not agree, saying that had they been in Balori’s place they would go on without the rest, they all saw the elephant’s wisdom and thanked him for the kind gesture.

Balori said, “Get some rest, lest these mountains conquer us tomorrow.”

They made camp, ate a large supper taking up most of the last of their provisions, toasted to themselves and drank deeply from flasks of wine and watched as Kalavata flew high overhead to blanket the world with a starless night. They each could feel the nearness of the end. They each could sense the demon-dog on the other side of the mountains. Not one of them slept very well.

The following day they made a small breakfast and let loose their horses before scaling the large Black Mountains. It took them all day and they paused only to eat once. In the end many of the men and women had scrapes and bruises, but none were severely hurt. As Kalavata crested the far horizon so Balori and the other crested the peak of the mountains.

As they rested upon a large ledge frosted with bit of snow, they eyed the plain far below and saw the amassed people there surrounding Yaska Selith.

“Their numbers are far greater than ours,” said Macia Thrace.

The others nodded.

Akadia spoke, “Balori, I’ve been thinking on matters. If we all descend the mountains at once and challenge this demon, I doubt any of us would survive. We number perhaps a few dozen, they number a few thousand.”

“I think you are correct,” said Balori.

“I think perhaps you should go on alone to discover the truth of the Jewel of Zingtai. I’m certain you could ask to see the demon and when you do you could ask him directly to give up the jewel. If he says he will, then our purpose is at an end. If he says he won’t give it up, at least then we will know he truly possesses it. If he says he knows nothing of it, then we know we’re not where we need to be. If we descend together we may be seen as an invasion force and attacked immediately. What good then will our trek have been? But if you go on alone, then our lives would not be in danger and we all could be spared.”

“You send Balori to his death!” Negkendra challenged.

Akadia shook his head, “That is not my intention. They are more likely to allow one of us to pass by without harm.”

“Why Balori then? Why not you?” asked Negkendra.

“Because he can fly and be there swiftly and easily.”

“You send him to his death!” Negkendra said forcefully, approaching Akadia as thought to attack him.

“No,” said Balori. “What Akadia suggests had merit. What good is there in all of us marching to our deaths? If I go forth alone, I can be as a scout. I do not wish to leave the company of men and women who have so ardently come this way not to obey me or follow my quest, but to follow each their own. This means much to all of us individually and as a whole, yet, as I said, Akadia’s words have merit.”

There were a few protests, but in the end most of the others agreed to Akadia’s wisdom.

Balori gathered up his three weapons and made sure they were placed well within his belt. He paused only a moment to look at the others. “I wish there was another way.”

One of the men, perhaps inappropriately, said, “Should anything happen, we will avenge your death.”

This drew a few sour looks to him, but all quietly agreed to his sentiment.

Balori breathed deep. He snorted out his mystic cloud and mounted it. He slowly descended the Black Mountains towards the Plain of Adoration.



Momoki and Ebi entered the Chamber of Despair together. They walked across the courtyard to the hut where he introduced the fisherman to Twila and Szu Ri who were quietly chatting. Ebi bowed to them and rested upon the floor near them. Momoki looked at the hut in whole. He noticed how Ebi seemed to take up so much room. He knew then why the hut had been made so large, he knew then the hut would house not only himself and Twila, but his warriors. He looked at all the remaining emptiness and wondered how many more would fill the hut completely.

He looked at Szu Ri and asked, “Where is friend Gogi?”

“He is in his garden,” replied Szu Ri.

Momoki nodded and turned toward the area of the courtyard where Gogi had made his garden.

As he approached, he heard Gogi mumbling nervously as he dug at a deep hole in the ground next to the garden. He then saw a few stems of plants had sprouted, but they were weak and thin.

“What’s the matter, Gogi?”

Gogi nearly jumped at the sound of Momoki’s voice. He had been so busily studying the garden he had not noticed Momoki’s return. He said, “Oh, Momoki… I-it’s my garden. It’s not growing very well. It’s not strong at all. There’s no water here and if I do not find some soon these plants will die. I-I cannot allow that to happen! Szu Ri and I need to eat. If we don’t have these plants, if I can’t dig a well and find some water, we may die!”

He looked pleadingly at Momoki. “I-I simply can’t fail! I can’t fail Szu Ri!”

Momoki nodded, wondering if he had done the right thing by bringing his friends to the Chamber of Despair.


Act II will be posted next week. Be sure to check back!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Quiet Little Wars"

I've been wanting to blog something as of late besides my usual serialized stories. I found this. I believe I've posted it before. Perhaps not?


"Quiet Little Wars"

I woke up this morning and tried to keep quiet to let Johannah sleep. Outside my door people were yelling at each other, not mad but madly, trying to figure out which truck to use to go retrieve which other truck and whether or not some paperwork had come in on still another truck. It was all so very stupid. It gave me a headache. I lay there in bed quietly clicking over the channels on the television, my ears straining to hear the level 8 out of fifty levels of volume.

Outside, as the clock showed eight-oh-one in the morning, a neighbor started up his riding lawn mower. Gas and BRRRRRMMMMMM floated in through the window.

Hunger hit. I got up and went to the kitchen and got a quick glass of milk. A quick glass of milk keeps me from saying “Mornin’” to anyone. I walked back to my bedroom, sat on the edge of the bed and drank the hunger away, my ears still straining to hear that level eight volume. Fresh cut grass now mixed with the gas coming in through the window. I coughed and coughed, tying to keep it in. I gulped the milk, took it to the kitchen, put water in the glass and headed down the hall for the bathroom. After pissing, I went back to sit on the edge of the bed and watched TV, still straining to hear level eight.

Television got boring quickly, so I lie back down and read some. I wasn’t really reading, I was passing the time and pretending to read. While my eyes flashed over the words on the printed page I was thinking other things. “I have that paperwork to fill out and send to the doctor. I have that paperwork to fill out and send to Sallie Mae. I have those manuscripts to stamp and send off. I wonder if the library is open today, I wish it was closer so I could walk there. I wonder what my bank account balance is. I’d like to play a war game right now. What happened to Where’s Waldo? Are they still publishing those damned things?”

Three pages and fourteen minutes later, I hadn’t a clue what I’d just read.

“I’m hungry,” I said aloud, though not loud.

I walked back to the kitchen and found the little dishtowel on the handle of the oven door completely disheveled. I hate that. It takes all of 3 seconds to properly put a dishtowel away. It’s not supposed to be stuffed or thrown on; it should hang nicely, squarely. I squared it off with the funny leaves and flowerpots looking out and brightening the kitchen with unseen smiles. A tag hung off the towel to one side. I hate that, too. I reached out and tore it off. Perfection.

I got another glass of milk and returned to sit on the edge of the bed. More yelling, more mowing. People seem to need to make noise to validate their existence. There is no validation. Just noise. Just life. Then death. In between there is only noise. My ears strained to hear that level eight. Golden Girls. I hate the show, yet I’m fascinated by the fantasy it offers, like any other fantasy, but packaged neatly, tightly, quickly into twenty-two minutes and followed more regularly than anything Tolkein or Mallory ever wrote. They weren’t masters of fantasy. Golden Girls is.

Commercials. Commercials remind me that even the sitcom writers aren’t masters of fantasy. Advertising in a flash-bang-pop. Buy this and you’ll be the hero. Sitcoms allow you to watch regular heroes. Commercials entice you to become one. False heroes, maybe. I guess that’s arguable. But heroes just the same. And isn’t King Arthur a fake, after all? Perhaps based in reality. Perhaps. But a fake nonetheless. An elaborated, exaggerated fantasy man. A hero. A commercial.

With every new commercial that snaps on my mind feels, tastes the attention it is given by my eyes. The same happens when the commercial break is over. Reruns. Reruns of reruns. Watching dead men and women talking in a life-like fantasyland. Miami, Chicago, L.A., Detroit, New York. Give it a real place and suddenly it’s all so real. False realism. Just lie to me.

Johannah wakes up and moans her morning “I hate mornings” moan. She’s hungry. I’m hungry. I can’t write. She’s hungry, too. I can leave the house without showering. She can’t. So I turn the television up to volume level twenty-two, trying to drown out the yelling and the mowing, and I lay on the bed watching reruns tell jokes timely for the late ‘80s. Her shower’s done. We leave.

Outside the sky is dark to the north. Winds blow from the same direction. There’s moisture in the air. I can smell that wet natural smell, I can feel it land on my skin and expand my flesh. Rehydration through osmosis.

An army of dandelions is slowly choking out the green of the grass. The neighbor is mowing down his lawn, spraying yellow and green into the air. It makes me cough and clog up.

The window on the back of the truck has been opened. I dunno who does it, but every day it’s open and if I leave it open the next day it’s open just a little more. I close it. In the cab of the truck, Johannah’s readjusting the rearview mirror. I get in and pop on the stereo.

There’s this little place about two blocks from us called Khio’s. It’s an old building that looks like a small barn and if you didn’t pay attention as you drove past I’m sure it would mix in with the landscape very well. But one day I noticed it and a half dozen cars parked out front. That’s when we realized it was a restaurant. At Khio’s we can get a huge meal for half the price that fast-food joints charge us for a coupla sandwiches. We eat in silence. Someone in the restaurant lights a cigarette. Smoking is still allowed in restaurants here. My coughing causes us to eat faster.

I wished I could be writing this morning. I wished I were dead. I wished cancer would come and consume that smoker like a ravenous patron devouring runny eggs. I wondered what was on TV.

We left. $11 plus a two-dollar tip, thirteen bucks total for more food than we can usually eat.

“I have some stuff to mail out,” she tells me.

“Shit,” I say. “I had manuscripts.” I should be sending out more things to more mags. I’ve only got three things out right now. I need money. We need money. I should buy some stamps and send out those manuscripts. Goddamn this world. What does a guy do when the world he lives in is made of liquid money? I can’t swim! I just want a rocking chair. I can’t even afford a goddamned rocking chair. A rocking chair would let me sit and enjoy life, relax a bit, maybe even take that daytime nap I’ve been trying to take for the last three days. But a man can’t even afford a cheap luxury if he doesn’t know how to swim. Like any of this really matters. None of this matters in the course of human history, but I don’t give a fuck about the course of human history. The way I figure it, every little thing out there is out to get you, out to fuck up what you’ve got. The people, the mowers, the politicians, the smokers, the dandelions, the grass, the reruns, the commercials, the whole damned world is out there and they’ve each quietly declared their own little wars on you. They’ve drawn their lines in the sand and the only thing you can do is ease the distractions.

“Wanna go home and get them?”

“Nah, I’ll do it later.”

We went to the post office. We went to the store.

“Hey, Gunner’s got me hungry for Pop Tarts.” Gunner’s a friend of mine in Cali. “Can I get some Pop Tarts?”

Johannah gives me a suspicious look. She knows I don’t eat sugar. I’m convinced all the corporations involved with food use the addictive qualities of the sweetness of sugar to fish hook people into buying all their foods. Why does juice need corn syrup?

“Sure,” she says. I grab some. The box says they taste like banana split sundaes. I’m not a big ice cream guy, but if you’re gonna eat sugar you might as well go for broke.

We head for home. I eat a single, lonely Pop Tart. I don’t really wanna eat its twin, but somehow I feel wrong, bad even, for eating just the one. But I had such a huge breakfast! I give in, damage my teeth some more and eat the second Pop Tart, washing it down with my third glass of milk for the day. From here on I’ll only drink water.

The Yellers are gone, as is their truck. I can only assume they’re in the truck yelling at each other on the way to get the other truck. The Mower was still mowing, but he was almost done. Now I’m sitting and writing all of this and feeling my teeth ache under the sticky film of sugar. I need a shower. And I need to brush my teeth. I wonder if Burt Reynolds ever went without brushing his teeth. Or any of the presidents. I guess Washington did.

I wonder if wrestling will be interesting tonight. It rarely is. Most of the time wrestling is just the same shit, different day. But a few times each year there’s that one thing, that one act or event that really blows your mind. History-making stuff. Maybe not in the overall course of human history, but in the history of the business. But you still watch it, three hundred sixty-five days a year. Wrestling is about entertainment, sure, but that’s a very minor part of it. In a more sweeping generalization, wrestling is about escapism. It’s my time to tell the whole world to go fuck itself and leave me alone. While I’m writing, it can be interrupted by the need to do laundry. While I’m doing laundry, it can be interrupted by a phone call. But don’t even think about calling me during wrestling unless, of course, you’re watching wrestling and wanna talk about wrestling. And that brings me to the second reason I watch wrestling: ritual. We all need our rituals to make us feel in control. Something to do, consistently, even mindlessly, at very specific intervals in the course of our lives, be it daily, weekly or semi-annually. Wrestling is, more than anything, about ritual and history. It provides a real-life language of numbers, numbers that you can track and control in your head and guess what’s going to happen and freak out excitedly when some new number is thrown into the formula. Bukowski had his horses, which he cared for more as a way to contact humanity and play with the numbers at the betting window. Hem had his bullfights, which is completely about ritual and doing things by the numbers. If the matador doesn’t do things by the numbers, he risks getting hurt. And then there’s that one freak occurrence when the matador missteps and POW gets GORED. I get the same from wrestling

I also get the same from war gaming. I’ve loved war-gaming since I was a kid. Chess, Go, Conflict, Risk, what have you. H.G. Wells liked war games, too. Currently I’m playing a turn-based strategy video game called Dai Senryaku VII. I enjoy turn-based more than real-time, though I like real-time, too. But war games are all about the management of numbers for fuel, for ammo, for movement, and deployment, for shape of attacks and planning. It’s all numbers. It brings a sense of control and exercises part of the brain that needs to flex under the logic of numbers. Numbers. Numbers. Numbers. Math truly is everywhere cuz part of the human brain is geared for such thinking. We made up numbers, so we look for them and use them and see them everywhere. I dunno if it’s because Hem and Buk and Wells and I and others are creative types and we need to balance things out with some less creative, more logical processes. That idea works for me. But who knows?

I like my drivel. It is comfortable, true, and the rituals give you a strange sense of belonging. I can’t swallow humanity most days, but I have to. If I want to eat, I gotta go to the market. If I want to go somewhere, even to get away from it all, I have to at least go to a gas station. Humanity is everywhere. And dealing with humanity most days is like getting fucked in the eye. Fuck humanity right back. Hey you! Asshole listening to his music at the gas station on EXTREMELY LOUD, go find a way to bend your dick around and shove it up your own ass!

Wrestling gives me a safe connection with humanity. While there is escapism to it all, there is also a good reflection of the real world in wrestling. I can watch it all in a comical way, clown-like and superhero like and galactic arch-nemesis-like. Like science fiction. Some have said science fiction lets us deal with real world issues and ideals from an objective point of view. I disagree. I don’t think it’s objective at all. Most science fiction is quite judgmental. But science fiction proposes an alternate reality to our own, but the alien nature of the whole mess makes it okay to look at things without feeling completely uncomfortable. True, some science fiction is disturbing, but it’s never as disturbing as reality. Never. The distance between us and the odd worlds of science fiction gives a false notion of viewing a separate universe and we can thus keep saying to ourselves, “It’s only a book.” Just like some people who watch horror flicks keep having to tell themselves, “It’s only a movie.” We can deal with reality via science fiction or horror or all the other ‘sub-genres’, which is why these sub-genres are never really fully en vogue, yet their popularity never truly diminishes either.

Wrestling, in a sense, does that for me. Everywhere around the world people are gathering in halls and backyards and stadiums and college campuses to watch a local or global promotion go crazy in the squared circle for a few hours. It feeds us. Millions and millions and legions of fans are we. That creates a certain brotherhood, or it can. I’m not into the idea of becoming a member of any brotherhood. I’m not your brother, asshole, so don’t come up to me at any event I may happen to be at and say hi like you're somebody to me. I may be friendly and nice, just to be cordial, but it’ll be meaningless and fake. I’ll be uncomfortable and suspicious and hateful mostly towards you. And if you’re truly an ass about it: I’ve no inhibitions on kicking your ass and making your girl hold my jacket while I do it. So stay the fuck away.

But watching wrestling on TV or following it online or reading about it in mags keeps me in touch with humanity. Sometimes with my own humanity. Ritual and repetition makes a person sane. That’s why we’re all drowning in our own mediocrity and complaining about lost loves or failed fortunes to make the mediocrity of daily life seem worthwhile, ambitious, and valid. We’d rather take the ritual than the chance.

So much of my life is chaotic, hateful, filled with spit and gushing with ugliness that’s far too out of my control that I’ve turned to wrestling for my sanity and my rituals and my begrudgingly admitted need for connection with humanity. I watch wrestling to spy on others and for the repetition.

I’ve changed this story from narrative to exposition, this thing of words becoming more a personal essay. I wouldn’t be surprised if I turn back to the narrative at some point. This should throw some of my readers off. You expect certain things, consciously and conditioned, from what you read. I honestly don’t owe you a fucken goddamned thing. I owe myself only the ritual of writing, for writing, too, keeps me from tasting blue steel and hot lead once again. Wow. Blue Steel and Hot Lead. Sounds like a good title for a story.

In any case, for my wordy wanderings I apologize. Not that I am truly sorry for the meanderings. What I write will go where it will and I defend the right of my mind and my words to do so. But you will need that apology anyways. So I give you an apology simply to keep you reading. Bitch afterwards. I’ll be sure to ignore it.

I sit on the edge of my bed rocking back and forth with restless boredom. The television is still on, quietly draining me of concentration. I think about playing a war game. Johannah’s getting ready for work, banging about the kitchen. She’s been called in. Somebody’s sick. She has to cover. More voices join in and the yelling picks up outside, some of them are kids on their way home from school. I should be writing, but I’m not.

I go into the kitchen. The towel on the stove is crooked again. I fix it. An ice cube has fallen onto the floor. I pick it up and throw it into the sink. My cat sits in the middle of the kitchen, getting under foot. I pick her up and take her into the bedroom, laying her on the bed. I pet her. Someone on television paraphrases Robert Frost. I have to recite the poem in my head in full before I can move on with my life. My stomach rumbles. I gotta take a shit, but I wanna see Johannah off to work. I leave the cat on the bed and return to the kitchen.

“Okay,” Johannah says, “I’m off to work.” She kisses my cheek. I tell her the routine “Have a good day, call me if you need nuthin’.” She leaves. The house is quiet. The world outside is roaring, raging. I need to write. I need to shit. I do both with a notebook balanced on my knee. The shits make drain me of water.

Out of the bathroom I sit on the edge of the bed again. My body rocks back and forth. I’m dehydrating. Television is so fucken boring. I decide a game’s the answer to my distraction needs. I’m bored at the opening screen. I snap it off. I snap the television off. I need water. I drink some from the kitchen tap. Then I go to bed and wait for Johannah and sleep to come join me. Please come join me. I need sleep. I need rest. I’m in my own bed and I want to go home.

The cat jumps off the bed and leaves the room.

Johannah won’t be home for hours. I won’t sleep until then. Then I can yawn and stretch and wander off to sleep for a few hours before the dawn and the yelling wakes me up again. But maybe tomorrow will be different.

Outside, voices yell and a neighbor starts his electric saw.