Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Delivery

Life has been hectic lately.  Basically, this is a quick and dirty story about a sword that has been in my head for a long time.  It also mentions the legend of Orion.  The legend isn't accurate, but I like to think it's a good one.


I never thought my hobby and job would come together so completely. Who would have thought working for a small package handling service and a passion for ancient weapons would come together in one fantastic event?

I work for a small company that handles packages that can't be trusted to the major corporations. It's a small market and our customers are few, but very loyal. The boss likes to call us “Logistics and transportation specialists.” Really, we are just delivery boys and girls for the rich and elite. It is not unusual for me to have ancient paintings, some fancy device for the kitchen nobody really needs, and a case of first edition novels in the van while I cruise down one interstate or another. There are some days I spend my entire shift waiting around the office/warehouse for something to transport. Since I get paid the same either way, it doesn't matter to me if I actually have to work or not.

When I'm not on the road, I spend my free time sifting through legends and old tales looking for descriptions of weapons. I have a sketchbook full of notes and drawings of swords, bows, staves, hammers, and anything else that could be wielded. I don't bother with average weapons carried by every-day soldiers. Just specific items featured in legends or used by legendary heroes. I have three different variations of the flute used by the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Excalibur takes up nearly the back half of the book due to the varying accounts of its description, some more reliable than others.

One legend, because it is so rarely told, is the one of the hunter, Orion. Many people know of the constellation of the Hunter. Almost nobody knows why he is there. In the ancient days, he was a hero that traveled from village to village. Orion defended them from monsters and bandits and showed the villagers how to hunt large prey for their meals. He would then leave the village with no reward or prize of any kind. While the details of his description and actions vary, one thing is constant between all the stories. His sword. Every legend from every village spoke of the same sword. Because of the way the blade “blossomed” at the tip and Orion's efficiency in ending combat with it, it was frequently called the Omega Rose.

I was called to the back warehouse to get a custom container and take it for a special delivery. The customer was paying extra to have the run made immediately instead of waiting for other items headed in the same direction. I walked into the warehouse and heard a very loud bang. Around a corner I see a new hire standing over a black case similar to a guitar case but longer laying on the ground. A narrow crack ran from one side of the case's top to the other. Because of the average value of the items we transport, any incident of damage to the outside of a package requires a call to the owner and an inspection of the contents for damages.

The customer had just left the office's parking lot so he was fine with turning around and coming back to inspect his package. He used a complicated key to unlock a retaining rod and opened the case. Nestled in custom cut padding was the finest and darkest blade I had ever seen. The metal was black with deeper black highlights weaving back and forth across the width. While the blade seemed to absorb all the light that struck it, the hilt and handle shined more than a spotlight. My eyes ran up and down the length of the blade a couple of times before my brain finally realized what I was seeing.

I glanced at the owner as he held the case open. My mouth was numb and dry as I tried to speak. “Is that... Could that really be...?”

Without looking away from his careful inspection of the sword, he replied. “Forged in a pit of Hell from a stone out of the heavens. Bane of every foe of the wielder. Not a weapon of mass destruction, but certainly a weapon massive death. Carried by Orion himself. It is indeed the Omega Rose.”

I blinked repeatedly as he spoke. A blade I had dreamed about numerous times was sitting in front of me. I was lightheaded and couldn't believe what was right there. “This has to be a replica. There's no way it could be the real thing.”

The owner only smiled. “If it's a replica, it's a very good one. I've had it my whole life. Had it weighed and the balance checked so I could make a practice sword that matched it. If I ever need to wield it again, I would be ready.”

I reached out towards the sword so I could prove to myself I wasn't imagining it. Before touching the smooth blade, I glanced at the owner and he simply nodded. The blade felt like nothing more than solid air. I slid my finger up and down the flat of the blade. I could feel the pressure of fingers on the metal, but there was no friction. I pulled my hand away and looked at my fingertips to make sure they were still real.

The owner slowly closed the case and replaced the retaining rod and lock. As everything clicked into place, I felt as though a bright part of my life was being shut away. “Everything looks fine. Honestly, the case is more to hide what the sword is than actually protect it. Anything that would damage that blade would probably leave massive piles of rubble behind anyway. Now, do I need to carry this to the truck or would you like to load it?”

“I....I'll take it for you. The destination should already be programmed into the truck's automatic GPS. Thank you for letting me carry this for you.” With that said, I grabbed the case by the handle and carried it to the loading door. Even though the blade of my dreams would be in a case a few feet behind me and not in my hands, this would still be the best three days of my life.

Are there any constellations you have wondered why they are the type of figures they are?

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Technomancy

In many areas, high technology and magic use seem to be mutually exclusive.  The two contrast each other so much, rarely are the featured together.  There are some exceptions of course.  The Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher is the first example to come to my mind.  However, this has magic as an underground ability that exists in the shadows of modern life.  In these books, technology fails to work around power magic.

What if this didn't have to be?  What if magic and technology could coexist?  Like any other tale of the modern world, this would include people trying to do wrong with their skills and abilities and others trying to find and stop the evildoers.

One of these days I will learn not to answer my phone when the caller ID tells me it is the local PD on the other end.  I have no problems with law enforcement and they don't have any problems with me.  It's the tremendous amount of work that always follows one of those calls and the torturous bureaucratic chain of hoops I have to leap through in order to get paid for that work.  I am grateful for the pay since my public service clients are just barely enough to cover my costs in a good month, but investigating and consulting for the Police is so much more involved than locating the occasional missing husband or lifting an ancient curse that may or may not have been placed on a household.

I get out of my own head as I get near the address Detective Anderson had given me.  It was impossible to pull up to the front door of the building through the array of Police cars parked up and down the block and the yellow Crime Scene tape strung across the sidewalk.  Instead, I park in an alley around the corner.  Getting out, I activate the alarm and wave my hand to activate the magical wards.  Like the alarm, the wards wouldn't stop anyone from stealing my car, but would notify me and any other magic user in the area if someone tried.  In that case, other little tricks and spells I had in place would help me track the thief and teach them a little lesson at the same time.  The additions I made weren't exactly factory approved and would void any warranty and insurance policies, but I fee; better with them in place.  With the car protected, I nod and turn towards the street and start walking to the officers guarding the yellow tape as though it is the most precious material in the world.

The officer sees me coming and makes sure I am aware he sees me.  When I get within a few steps, he tries to puff up but doesn't seem any more impressive.  He puts a hand out to stop me in my tracks.  "You will have to find a way around.  This is a crime scene and nobody is allowed to enter."

This guy must be new to the Force.  It doesn't take long for me to become known to any officer on the job for more than six months.  With the types of cases I get called for, none of them forget me after we have met.  I keep my hands behind my back and move my fingers in a familiar yet complicated sequence.  A mote of light nearly invisible in the bright sun of the day appears and floats behind me.  A quick mental command sends it quickly far above my head and over the officer in front of me.  Quicker than he could blink, the mote of light is behind him and in the building, seeking out the target I had sent it after.

I stop and stand before the officer with my hands behind my back.  I don't puff up like he did, but I know I can easily take care of myself if the need arises.  There is no need to look more impressive with the energies I have at my command.  "I won't be looking for another way around.  As a matter of fact, I will be walking past that tape and entering the building behind you in just a minute or two."

The officer is torn between confusion and confidence in his position.  He knows he shouldn't let anyone pass, but the authority in my words has him unsure about my identity as just a passing civilian.  Before his mind can settle itself, Detective Anderson comes up behind him and puts a hand on the officer's shoulder.  Despite its gruffness, his voice calmed the officer and his authority cleared up any confusion.  "Let her pass.  She is with me.  Also, learn her face, she will not be delayed any time she shows up at a crime scene."

The officer raises the crime scene tape above his head and gestures me through with a quick "Yes, sir."  I poorly hide my smile as I nod at him after ducking under the tape and walking towards the front door with the chubby detective.

Anderson shakes his head as we walk side by side.  "I keep telling you that you need to get yourself an official license.  Then we could avoid moments like this every time some rookie is on duty."

I no longer try to hide my smile and let it stretch across my face.  "We've done this enough times, you know I won't ever get a government-issued badge as PD Mage.  It would cause too many issues with my side projects.  I also don't like the idea of someone remotely watching every little spell I cast.  Besides, that rookie will remember me more now than if I had just flashed some fancy piece of metal."

Anderson's voice loses all of the authority it had when speaking to the officer.  "I know all of that.  I just want to avoid the need for you to use that damn little wisp thing.  It creeps me out every time it buzzes in and whispers your name in my ear.  Give me the shivers every single time."

I chuckle as another officer opens the doors in front of us and Detective Anderson and I enter a large lobby.  "It's a sprite, not a wisp.  You wouldn't want me to summon a wisp and send it in your direction, trust me."

Anderson doesn't appear to be relieved by my clarification.  "They are all creepy critters to me.  You can give me a detailed lesson later.  Right now, we need to discuss why you are here."

I look away from Anderson and take in the lobby around us.  My first impression was that we were in the front room of a classic theater.  It took me a moment to realize we were in a bank instead.  Velvet ropes on gold plated stands for herding customers to the counter in the middle of the space where tellers would normally be waiting.  A number of desks sit behind a short wall to one side.  A hallway extends to unknown recesses opposite the enclosed desks.  A single door sits in the wall behind the teller counter directly across from the front doors.  Two officers, one to each side, stand watching over the door.

"I'm guessing someone robbed the bank and you want me to help you figure out how."

"The how is fairly easy to figure out.  The bank's cameras caught the whole thing.  What we need your help with is the who."

"If the cameras caught everything, why do you even need my help at all."

"It's because of what the cameras saw that we need your help.  Just three figures walking through the lobby full of customers and past the open door to the vault.  There two of them stand and wait while the third one walks through the vault door."

"I'm still confused as to why you need me.  Cameras see the figures and a lobby full of people?  What is the mystery here?"

"On the cameras the figures are nothing more than white blurs.  Almost like walking blobs of static.  None of the customers or employees saw anyone at all.  None of them could give any kind of description because they couldn't see anyone at all."

"So your perps used an invisibility spell or artifact.  The people here would be unable to see them and the visual distortion would be projected to the camera system.  Only a practiced Viewer here at the time would be able to see them.  Well, what about when they opened the vault door?  Did they leave any fingerprints or DNA or anything?"

Anderson waves the officers away as he opens the door to the vault room.  "That's just it, the suspect didn't open the vault door.  He or she walked THROUGH it while it was still closed and opened it for their accomplices from the inside.  This despite a mild electrical current being run through it and layers of wards on each side."

You take a good look at the oversized round metal door and skim over the protective runes engraved on it.  "That does complicate things a bit.  I understand now why you called me."

What would you do if you could control both magic and technology?  Would you do good or evil?  Would you help people or keep your abilities to yourself?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Heat is On

It is hot.  Working in the heat and humidity has been draining me much more than usual.  I'm not using the usual summer weather as an excuse for being lazy and late with my post, but I have been exhausted lately.

With all of that in mind, here is a story I wrote with the prompt of, "A battle between some of your world's mages and their armies."

Flags flutter from the tops of tall poles. Tents line each side of a field. A field that was once covered in beautiful flowers. Now it is full of craters and stains. The grass is trampled and contains marks where bodies have been dragged away. As the sun rises over the camps, a single figure stands before the largest tent on each side.
The figures begin chanting in an ancient language. While their tones are similar, the words themselves are different. They gesture and move their arms in similar yet varying fashions. The chanted words begin to shape alter reality. Air shimmers and shifts. Wispy clouds overhead start building and becoming looming storms. The ground itself moves underfoot as tremendous powers are flexed and released.
The ground in one camp rises more and more. Small bumps become mounds. The mounds form new, unnatural shapes. Arms develop and muddy bases split into legs. The humanoid piles of solid and grass begin to line up in ranks between their camp and the field. Branches and twigs gather themselves into piles. The piles become laid out in skeletal shapes. Smaller pieces of wood form hands and fingers. They grip wooden bows that form themselves in the palms of the developing archers.
The magic being wielded on the other side has a different effect. Instead of rising up, here the ground splits open. Skeletal hands of true bone reach out of the chasms and grasp the ground above. With a grip as strong as Death itself, the multitude of hands grab the dirt and pull. Arms of bone begin to emerge from the holes. The arms are followed by torsos and heads as skeletal warriors of every type and size emerge ready to do battle. Some have swords strapped to their thin waists. Others have bows slung over their bare shoulder blades. A few are dragging studded clubs on the ground as they lurch towards battle.
Silence echoes across the land as the wizards each complete their summoning spells. Two unnatural armies face each other. The minions of each side advance towards the field. The commanding wizards stand and watch. Looks of concentration on their respective faces. Eyes darting from inhuman soldier to soldier. Slow advances become rushing charges as each army fills the field of battle.
Suddenly, the one sound that could bring the entire conflict to a halt booms across the entire realm.
"Sam, honey. It's time for dinner. Come inside and clean up."
A child stands up, multiple figurines and toys at their feet. "But Mom, I just started having fun."
"Dinner time is now. You need to clean up and wash your hands. If there is some light left, you can play more after you eat."


Now I will go back to a bit of a project I hope to have ready for my next post, maybe.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Other Point of View

My last blog post was a story about odd voices being heard in an abandoned hospital wing.  Today's post is the same story, but from a different point of view.  This time is the patient that is telling their side of the tale.


I have no idea what all has happened to me over the last few days. My doctor said the procedure would be a simple one. While I would have to stay in the hospital overnight, it shouldn't have been more than a day or two. I checked in almost a week ago and they still haven't given me a definite release date yet.

I have a grasp on most of the medical issues that have kept me from going home. They are all dictated clearly on my chart. An unexpected allergy to the anesthesia caused some complications during the surgery. It took me an extra day to recover from the anaphylactic shock before they could go to an alternate anesthesia and actually perform the surgery that I first needed. It took me longer than normal to completely wake up from the alternate anesthesia The doctor had actually told me this was a possibility with what they had experienced during the first attempt at my surgery. It was what happened while I was in and out of it during the day it took me to wake up that has me confused.

I only remember flashes and bits and pieces. I was on a gurney and being wheeled down a bright hallway. There were lots of people and noises. I can only guess that something major was happening. Next thing I know, I'm still on the gurney but in a darker part of the hospital. I'm being wheeled into a room with yellow walls instead of the white I've seen everywhere else. The attendant rolls my gurney into a space by the window and quickly leaves. I was too in and out of consciousness to realize I was now completely alone. At least I thought I was.

I couldn't tell you how much time passed while I was alone in that room. I just remember waking up to voices and nobody being there. Generally, it was only one person talking. It was difficult to make out his words, either from his soft voice or because the drugs in my system. I did think I heard the name Dr. Rizowski. I got the impression he was speaking to me, but I couldn't see him to be certain. Sometimes, I would hear more than one voice. Whole conversations passing back and forth over my sleeping body. I understood none of it.

Finally, I was starting to have more waking moments than not. The voices were still there. I looked around the room and saw nobody was there. I looked over the walls for a television or radio, there wasn't one at all. The only other thing I could think of was a loud TV or radio in another room. An orderly eventually came into the room and apologized for me being left alone for so long. Apparently, there had been a major accident involving a cattle truck and a passenger train. The hospital staff had been swamped with injured people and a couple of officers that were hurt by panicked cows. What happened next extended my stay in the hospital for a few days under observation.

The orderly repeatedly apologized for me being left in an abandoned wing of the hospital. It was little more than a mumble, but I told him I had heard voices in that wing. The orderly only shook his head. He said the entire wing had been unused since the hospital expanded. The previous guy had been in a rush to help with the people hurt in the train and had left me somewhere he felt would be out of the way. It had taken the majority of the day for someone to realize I wasn't where I was supposed to be and start looking for me. I mentioned that Dr. Rizowski had visited with me. The orderly suddenly stopped and asked me to repeat the name. I did and he was silent the rest of the trip to my new room.

I was watching some pointless show in my new room when someone from the psychological department came to visit me. The orderly had mentioned what I had said to her and she wanted to check on my mental faculties before signing my release. She informed me that there was no Dr. Rizowski currently working in the hospital. The only doctor with a name like that had been killed by a patient's disgruntled family member years ago. The hospital kept me three extra days to ensure my reactions to the anesthesia hadn't done any permanent damage to my brain. I quickly realized I didn't want to tell them about all of the other voices in that room so they would let me go home sooner.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Healers

A friend of mine had a recent visit to a hospital for a quick surgical operation.  After her recovery, she mentioned a drug induced dream she had during her stay.  Today's blog post was inspired by her spooky tale.


I first walked through the doors of this hospital so long ago. The years have passed in a single breath. I spend so much time here, it seems like I never really leave. Patients are rolled in and rolled out. More patients have come and gone, most of them successfully, than I care to count. So many patients use this hospital that they were able to afford a major expansion.

New wings of the building with fancy new machines and operating rooms with the equipment to allow doctors to perform all the advanced new techniques. The new rooms and fancy hallways meant the older wings would be used less and less. Eventually, the hospital bigwigs stopped sending patients down these halls and putting them in these rooms. Janitorial would only send someone to clean the floors as a hazing ritual for new hires. Maintenance would park inoperable gurneys and other pieces of equipment in the vacant halls while they waited for parts or an order for disposal. I was the only one that still regularly walked these hallways and entered these rooms.

I guess I shouldn't say that patients were never put in these unused rooms. Sometimes an intern would mislabel some transfer orders for a comatose patient or a doctor would want to temporarily “relocate” a patient that was healthy but still being difficult. Then they would be put in a room and I would watch over them. I would discuss their condition with them even though they generally were in no condition to hear me. Eventually, the intern's mistake would be uncovered or the doctor's nerves would have settled and someone would come to collect the patient I had carefully watched over. They would be would be returned to the normal, active, upstanding, shiny new areas of the hospital.

Even though it was rare for patients to be placed in the rooms I watched over, I was not alone. Many former patients would greet me in the halls. We would discuss many topics of the day. The weather, the local scholastic and professional sports teams, the latest entertainment releases. Conversations with these friendly souls did wonders to diminish the omnipresent boredom and silence when there were no patients for me to visit during my rounds. When a particularly difficult case would come under my watch, I would sometimes ask one of these former patients to visit and speak with the patient while I continued with my rounds. I will never get a chance to see follow-up reports or read dismissal charts. Because of this, I can't be certain if my efforts have any actual impact or not, but I believe strongly enough that it does good that I will keep on doing it as long as the hospital keeps accepting patients.

****** ****** *******

“Sir, I know you asked me not to report this any more, but it's happening again. We've had patients saying they have heard voices while in the older wings of the hospital.”

An older doctor sighs heavily. His impatience and exhaustion with the topic obvious. “Jensen, we will go over this one more time. The original wing of this hospital is unused and only rarely entered. Any patients that say they hear voices there are experiencing drug induced auditory hallucinations. We've sent out a number of memos requesting that patients no longer be placed in those rooms. If we are still getting reports of voices being heard in that wing, it seems those memos have gone unheeded. It seems we must draft a new one immediately and make sure every one pays attention. We must not let rumors grow that this is a haunted hospital.”

“But sir, these patient stateme.......”

“This is not a haunted hospital! There is no ghost of a doctor that died from a stroke while on his rounds. While patients have died in the long history of this facility, their spirits do not roam the unused halls. The patients that reported these voices were experiencing a side effect of the drugs that had been administered to them. This is the last time we will speak of this. If you mention it again, that will be the last words you utter as an employee of this hospital.”

Have you ever had an odd dream during an illness or while on one medication or another?

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

All Alone

One common thread through all of humanity is the occasional desire to be alone.  Even the heartiest of party animals desires a moment now and then to collect their thoughts.  For some people, this desire is much more powerful.  They avoid society at large except when absolutely necessary.  In this instance, the desire to be alone seems to become extremely dominant.

I've always felt a little lonely.  Even when in a group of people, I was still by myself.  Out at the club, I could be found in a quiet corner sipping on the one or two drinks I would order all night long.  If I attended an "intimate" party at a friend's apartment, most of my time would be spent looking out the nearest window or conversing with the resident cat.  At the few concerts I could be convinced to go to, everyone else would be standing up and singing their throats raw while I would be quietly sitting in my seat checking my social media feeds.  Honestly, most people didn't even notice my presence or absence in these situations.  I go more to avoid any awkward questions than out of any actual desire to party, dance at a club, or sing along with a band.

This weekend I took a chance to be truly alone with myself for a change.  I packed up some supplies, requested a week off from work, and headed up into the mountains for some camping.  Nobody for miles around.  No cell phone signal to interrupt my thoughts with calls or alerts.  No traffic rushing by outside my window.  Just me and my thoughts.  It was ideal until I woke up with a view different than the one I had fallen asleep with.

Plains roll out before me instead of the mountains.  Small flowers have replaced the old-growth forest.  The blue sky seems the same, just a different shade of blue than I'm used to.  A few puffy clouds drift near the horizons, not close or large enough for me to imagine any interesting forms out of their wispy shapes.

It takes me a minute to realize the complete lack of noise.  No chirping birds.  No insects buzzing by.  No animals growling as they rustle through the underbrush.  Even the wind seems to be particularly silent in the trees.

I have the feeling that I am so alone that even the Earth itself is ignoring me.  For once in my life, I am truly comfortable.  If only there was some way to tell exactly where I am and how I got here in the first place.  I'm less concerned with being able to get home than I am with getting back here to decompress later.

If you had one place to be completely by yourself, how often would you go there and how long would you stay?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

More to come

It seems like I have had a number of projects all hitting me at once.  Finishing editing on a book and sending it to the publisher, working on ideas for longer Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style stories, family adventures, life in general, and many other things.  

One project required quite a bit of research and study.  Now I'm doing a preliminary writing of a story for a comic book.  The tricky part of it all will be the art.  Anyone that's seen my digital graphics knows I have little to no artistic talents.  Once I am done, I will be handing off the work to another to bring my ideas to print.  To aid them, I hope, I have began doing some rough layouts.  This is the idea I have for the first page.

Once I get things more polished and in process, I will let you know.  In the meantime, here are some of the stories from the group I'm working with.