Category Archives: Story Sunday

Story Sunday Series Catalogue

Because it’s hard (or eventually will be) to keep track of all the series that are published for Story Sunday, this post exists as an updating catalogue to help readers find what they’re looking for. Also, I need help finding what I’m looking for more often than not…

The Strife

The world as it once allegedly was, has ended. The old gods, called Strife Lords, now rule, fashioning societies that suit their fancies.

Their power seems absolute – but things older than the Strife roil in the stone beneath and the sky above. Their awakening could spell salvation, or another apocalypse. Which is which, depends entirely on your perspective.

Start The Strife here.

Later in 2020: AFEMI

Hundreds of years ago – or was it decades? – humankind created its saviour. Then our saviour destroyed our world to build a better one. One where no child goes hungry; where no sickness goes unattended; where nobody dies screaming. Our saviour brought us peace and comfort, and all it asked for was compliance.

This is a story about humanity, and how the world is saved.

Coming 2021: Defiance

Something about the world has always felt wrong to Defiance. Then again, maybe it’s just always been her. One night everything in her world tilts when Defiance comes face-to-face with a thing which should not be, and when the world rights itself she’s never been more sure – the world is fine. It’s her that’s out of place.

Coming 2021: Harkonnen

As a Snatcher, Matheson lives the lives of dead men. He takes on the identities of people who’ve been scrubbed, does what needs to be done, then disappears. It’s not glamourous, and it’s for a dubious cause, but it’s probably better than his old life.

But now someone’s remembering Snatchers’ faces – not the ones they take but the ones they left behind. It’s getting them killed, and the threat is too close to home to ignore.

NB: The work of a writer is never done, and in that spirit the stories posted on Story Sunday will sometimes undergo changes. Just because it’s old, doesn’t mean I won’t appreciate feedback!

The Strife: The Rite

Hello my pretty darlings! We’re here – the last installment of this run of The Strife. Are you ready?

The Rite

Desire and Rava were standing in the vast office, and seemed to be discussing something though neither was speaking. When She saw him, the Strife Lord gave one of her conditioned smiles and clapped her hands together once. Without seeming to move, the three were now in a stone chamber. Torches lit the space and a large platform stood in the middle of the room, between the two gods and Zhevicra. He wanted to speak, to ask what was going on, but something told him that it would be best to keep silent.

“It is time to perform the rite.” Desire’s voice filled the space. Without a word, Rava turned to Zhev and his breath died somewhere in his throat. Her lightning-amber eyes shone in the torch light and her skin absorbed the warmth of the room, glowing in all its many changing shades. He watched the light reflect within her, following the waves of her skin as it took on every shade of humanity, and some shades between and outside. His feet carried him slowly forward, but he was unaware of the movement.

Her compulsion was less overwhelming than Desire’s had been. More insidious and familiar… it felt like his own need.

Even as Zhev climbed the carved stairs onto the platform, his eyes remained fixed on Rava’s changing skin. Something about her was everyone. He stared, and saw the faces of all the people he’d ever known.

He saw his mother’s hardened eyes and his father’s lying smile. He saw all the siblings he had hated so long, and the faces of all the women and men he’d ever thought to want. He saw Desire, and the receptionist; strangers on the street and neighbours to whom he’d never spoken. The more the light fell into her, the more Rava looked to him like everyone under the Sun.

There, poor, dead Cilla; then, free Oyi. Flayed traitors, revered leaders, Fiends and outlaws all. More light. More faces, and he wanted to join them all, under the glowing of her skin.

For a moment, everyone who’d ever lived hesitated before him.

“Go.” Desire’s compulsion forced Rava into motion and She moved to join Zhevicra on the platform. She looked into his eyes, and saw Herself reflected back. Rava blinked and looked again, this time seeing only the shining of his eyes.

This is not… The thought almost found purchase. “Go.” Came the Strife Lord’s compulsion. Go, concluded the thought.

Desire began a slow and rhythmic chant, Her voice flowing through the walls and flames on into Zhev’s skin and into his bones. He didn’t know when he began to chant along, nor when Rava had joined their chorus but soon all three were lost.

They chanted and swayed, and deeper and deeper into his body the sound dove, and dug out pieces of soul; and Zhevicra could not remember when he had begun to speak these words:

There is chaos before you

There is chaos after you

he said, his voice and his body floating in the power of the rite.

You are morning and you are night

You are darkness and you are light

You move all to wake and still all to sleep

On and on he spoke words he could not remember speaking, all the while conscious of nothing but Rava and the every being that flowed beneath her skin. She floated with him, in that chamber; holding onto him by a force he could not see, flowing into and out of him, taking more and more of him into herself.

Zhevicra wanted to understand what was happening but all his mind could fathom was that he knew Rava in a manner so profound it seemed that they had always been this way. His mouth continued to move, saying words he wouldn’t later remember; and his eyes were now transfixed on the colour of her eyes. Familiar, like…

You are the rising of the tide

and the phases of the moon

He remembered abyss and conquest, as Rava placed her hand on his chest, and felt his beating heart. Slow. Life’s dawning. Soft. Starlight over new species. Rava almost couldn’t tell that it was there. They looked at each other, and were connected by eons of slumber.

You are the waking, She whispered,  

And the sleeping, He boomed,

Of this world.

Zhevicra collapsed, lifeless, to the stone floor.

Author

Linda, AKA TAGG herself, loves great music and terrible movies. Find her being boring on Twitter @ThatLFM

The Strife: Part Five

We’re revving up to the end of this run in The Strife. In this penultimate entry, we catch up with the actors in our play as they each prepare for the rite. Grab a cup of tea and enjoy the musings of Desire, Rava and our outmatched tribute, Zhevicra.

Continued…

Rava considered the idea presented by her most loyal servant and sole Fiend. For the Strife Lords to meet there had to be something very important happening; that much was true. But older gods? That seemed absurd. If older gods existed, why had they waited so long to reveal themselves? And why were they still alive? Strife Lords disliked each other, and there had been hostile takeovers amongst them, but they would never tolerate a threat from outside their ranks.

Desire, her Mother – because there were no other words to describe their relationship – could survive a lot. In Rava’s time and in the time before, She had survived a lot. Memories of the Strife War faded in and out of Rava’s mind and she remembered each incarnation Desire had donned and discarded in turn. The ally of humanity had become the scrappy outsider had become the ruthless traitor had become the shrewd diplomat. Each was Desire and each, Rava could be sure, was only the face of a deeper consciousness.

And with the coming rite, that consciousness would gain more power. More depth. And she would gain…

Rava rubbed her temples, suddenly again tired, and still recovering from the encounter with Desire. She closed her eyes and attempted to retreat into a place of more serenity but Malorus’s words rang in her head.

Not the oldest, apparently… 

Remembered…

Things were roiling. Things which hadn’t roiled in a long time. The Strife Lord now named Desire walked the corner of the earth She called Hers – visible to nothing except maybe the Roiling Things – and thought. She opened her mind, searched deeper, searched for that sensation which had reinstilled fear into the Strife Lords.

There it was, nestled beneath being. It defied closer inspection. Tonight. Tomorrow, when She had feasted on the elemental strength of the Earth itself, this fear would have edges that could be grasped.

Desire walked the borders of Her dominion. Several times, She brushed against the presence of neighbouring Strife Lord Serenity. He chafed in the way that those who are opposite to oneself often do. It reminded Desire that contemplation of the unknown could never be allowed to dwarf awareness of the known. Serenity overstepped his bounds, and the edges of his insolence were easily grasped, easily wrenched this way and that before being tossed back across the border.

“Wage war or maintain peace, you slithering wraith.” Desire spoke with power, permeating the soil. The air rippled in response. Acquiescence… and a hint of mirth.

Prepared…

Zhev had woken up several times in the middle of the night, restless and feeling as though somehow, the Strife Lord was watching him. It was insane, of course, but he couldn’t shake the feeling. People said many things about the Strife Lords and until his meeting with Desire he’d never paid much attention. It had all sounded a bit outlandish.

But with his own eyes he’d seen the Held in the lobby. His body had been invaded by foreign sensations he could not control and, even now, he felt as though there was some part of Desire still with him, curling that same strand of hair and yawning whilst watching him with inscrutable eyes.

How could he know for sure that this wasn’t the case?

The next morning, Zhev followed his normal routine as best he could. He prepared himself meticulously and put on his medal-strewn uniform, then went outside, where the same car from the day before waited for him. The drive seemed shorter this time, the changes in scene less noticeable and meaningful. He tried to distract himself with thoughts of the things he had seen. The Fiends at the doorway, the bored receptionist… the woman.

They came to a halt at that same strange building and Zhev stifled the urge to shiver. It was unbecoming, he scolded himself. Whoever that woman had been she was clearly none of his business and he was clearly no concern of hers. Zhev climbed smoothly out of the black car, which drove off silently. He looked up at the building and took a deep breath. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Desire smiled and curled her hair between her fingers. Zhev walked into the building.

Author

Linda, AKA TAGG herself, loves great music and terrible movies. Find her being boring on Twitter @ThatLFM

Mind The Gap

You may have noticed that yesterday’s Story Sunday has disappeared into the aether. Worry not! This has happened on purpose. The Strife Part Five will be published this coming Sunday.

Why the disappearance? Well, when one uses two devices to edit the same post and doesn’t do their due diligence to make sure all changes are saved… changes don’t get saved. So the post that went up yesterday was from an old edit, and didn’t really make much sense. For that, I apologise.

I hope you see you all next week for Part Five, picking up at the correct juncture of our story!

Author

Linda, AKA TAGG herself, loves great music and terrible movies. Find her being boring on Twitter @ThatLFM

The Strife: Part Four

It’s the first Sunday of the Month, and you know what that means… Story Sunday! (Okay, yeah every Sunday is Story Sunday, but you get my meaning)

We’re about to meet the lady with the changing skin. So enjoy, and catch you in the next installment!

Older gods

Rava sat in the still-warm chair and gazed impassively across the table at her mother, hiding her irritation at being summoned. Her skin’s constant shifting slowed to a calm rolling of shades and she relaxed her features, allowing the black rimming to fall from her eyes and display their lightening-streaked amber. Her lips were still pressed thin, though, which betrayed her feelings towards the Strife Lord. Through the centuries the two gods had come to a place of bored animosity towards one another, and now tolerated each other’s company without comment.

Desire straightened her back, showing her superior height and using it to full effect to look down at her daughter, who offered a barely perceptible yawn of defiance in return.

“Rava,” the Strife Lord’s voice reverberated freely now that she was with her own kind. It felt its way through the building, down into the Earth below and… almost… to the sky above, before echoing back slowly to her being and settling. Her use of the command roused something in Rava that forced her compliance.

“Yes, Mother.” Always the capitals, Rava thought privately, which itself was a show of power.

“Tomorrow you perform a rite.”

Rava smiled and didn’t care that it was the wrong way to express displeasure. “So soon after the last.”

Her body had only just recuperated from the effects of the rite performed just a few months earlier. She reached out, trying to make a connection with some part of her mother’s presence and was violently rebuffed. Rava put a hand to her head, which throbbed painfully several times before leaving her with an unpleasant fuzzy sensation.

“I don’t appreciate your insolence, girl.” The Strife Lord thought of very few with capitals, Rava knew this. Still, the disrespect chafed, and she laughed.

“I’m over a millennium old.” Rava chuckled her response, allowing her echo to resonate. “And if I’m to be the vessel for Your power, I’ve every right to want to know why.”

Desire’s huff boomed in the room, turning Rava’s dull fuzziness into sensory confusion for a moment. She was much weaker than she’d initially thought, she realised. Or else her Mother had gained far more from the last rite than she’d been letting on. Either way, the display sent its message and Rava bowed her head in grudging defeat.

Satisfied with the lesser god’s behaviour, the Strife Lord ventured to be gracious. “There’s a meet in three months. I must be strong.” She offered. “Which means You must be strong, Daughter.” A rare admission of dependence, the type which kept Rava assured of her necessity. Small sacrifices, Desire thought.

She allowed her daughter a brief glimpse of the dangers they both faced at this coming meet, siphoning emotions from Rava’s consciousness at the same time. Her ruse worked and she felt her daughter’s reluctance fade away. As much as Rava disliked her mother, she also understood that she was nowhere near as powerful, or as cunning. It was in her best interests to keep Desire in her seat of power, even if it took its toll.

“Is he the giver?” Rava’s question betrayed her interest in the man she had just seen. She watched her Mother closely and saw no obvious signs of disapproval. Instead, Desire shifted in her seat, stroking her neck absently.

“Yes,” came the confirmation. “And after the rite you may keep him, if you wish.” The older god waved a dismissive hand, and Rava took her cue to leave without another word.

Exiting into the waiting area, she could still sense the residual presence of the man. It was unusual, but Rava thought nothing more of it as she walked to the elevator. She got off on the 79th floor and strode past her own secretary without a sideways glance. Once in her office though, she paused, then cooed in irritation, “Come out, Fiend.”

Rava heard the steps before she saw his form appear, striding from her desk. Malorus extended his arms and pulled Rava into an embrace so intimate that she felt a rush from the energy surging from him. When he released her, she moved to sit behind her desk, and he took his place in the chair across.

Malorus’s eyes shone with mischief and he flashed her a charming smile, but it seemed to have no effect. “So cold, mistress.” he teased. “Shall I warm you… Tonight, perhaps?”

Rava suppressed a sneer. “You flatter yourself; any warm body will suffice.” She leaned closer. “Besides, what warmth have you left?” She gave a small laugh then leaned back. Malorus adjusted his tie and sighed. Unlike the gods he served, his tics and mannerisms were very much based in the human nature his ancestors had packed on through generations of intermingling.

“I have news,” he said. “The Strife Lords are having a meet…”

“In three months, I know.” Her eyes asked what use he was.

Malorus blinked, recalibrated, then continued. “Something’s got them all very worried. Word on road is it’s the old Gods.”

Rava grimaced momentarily. “The Strife Lords are the old gods.”

“Not the oldest, apparently.” His smile was genuine, pleased with itself and with its wearer for still being useful. Useful lived, useful held private audiences with the Ravening god.

Malorus didn’t have long to idle in his usefulness. His mistress stood slowly from her chair, her skin shifting through degrees of human colouring, her eyes rimmed gold. “You remain my favourite Fiend, Malorus.” She said this as she came to stand behind him. Her hands rested on his shoulders and applied the barest pressure. The pause seemed to demand a response, so he gave one.

“Thank you, seems appropriate?”

“Indeed.” Her hands smoothed the fabric on his suit, down his arms. They stopped just before his elbows and Rava leaned down to speak her command into his ear. Even before her words came, he thought he felt the slightest shift in atmosphere, a tinge of wet earth in the air. “Keep yourself warm, Fiend.”

With that, Rava released him, body and mind. She heard him leave through the back door, pondered his loyalty a moment before turning her mind to more pressing concerns.

What was older than the Strife Lords?

Author

Linda, AKA TAGG herself, loves great music and terrible movies. Find her being boring on Twitter @ThatLFM

The Strife: Part Three

It’s that time again and we’re picking up right where we left off. What’s waiting for Zhev behind that door? A well-deserved reward or something more akin to what he saw in the lobby?

Enjoy, and I’ll catch you on the other side!

Desire

The two men eyed Zhev impassively and allowed him to step through the now-open door. Within it the scene changed. The lighting of Strife Lord Desire’s office wasn’t nearly as stark as that in the rest of the building and seemed to radiate warmth. Zhev stepped in and the door clicked shut behind him, causing Desire’s gaze to shift to where he stood. She smiled, though there was nothing resembling joy in the expression.  

Strife Lords did not experience emotion in any way which humans could understand and, he’d heard, any emotion displayed on their faces was an acquired reaction. That was something else he’d never really believed, but after seeing the Held in the lobby, he was beginning to wonder what else was true about Strife Lords.

“Come, sit.” Desire motioned to the chair in front of her and Zhev crossed the space to it swiftly, trying not to look over-eager. Silence fell as Desire studied him, wearing her same smile. Zhev resisted the urge to shuffle about uncomfortably under her scrutiny, but only just. Then she leaned back and seemed to stifle a yawn.

“Zhevicra, D.” She commented.

“Yes, Strife Lord.”

“You’ve done commendable works in my service.” Her voice was like nothing he’d heard before and he couldn’t quite make out whether it was female, male, some mixture of both or neither. It sounded, ridiculously, like… Earth… moving?

“Thank you, Strife Lord.”

“Tell me,” she continued, almost cutting him off. “Does it pain you to harm your fellow man?” Her eyes glittered with what he would have called malice in a human. Zhev considered the question. Of all the things he’d ever felt whilst interrogating people he doubted that pain was one of them. Perhaps disgust was the closest approximation.

“No, Strife Lord.” He concluded.

She took a long pause which seemed less like purposeful intimidation, and more like she’d forgotten his existence. “And why not?” The Earth moved again.

“They disobey the natural order of things.”

Desire seemed pleased with his answer, her smile beginning to resemble something more genuine and she shifted gracefully in her chair, taking a curl of her hair in hand and caressing it. Zhev thought she looked like a cat, languid yet vigilant, ready to explode in a disproportionate display of power at the slightest provocation. She certainly didn’t seem very human, though she’d chosen for herself a very curvaceous form and wore little to hide it from the world. Zhev wondered if she was capable of feeling cold as he noted that the temperature of the room had him rubbing his hands together for warmth. Desire continued to watch him intently and he attempted to avoid her gaze when it roamed to his face.

He knew that almost all who saw Desire fell under some strange spell of lust for her, and he’d anticipated the event. Yet now, as he sat and took in the scent and sight of her he felt nothing more than the mundane, mostly conditioned stirrings which were so much a part of his life he hardly ever noticed them anymore. The Strife Lord seemed to pick up on his thoughts and laughed softly. She leaned closer to him. “I’ve no need to cast spells,”

She let the curl she’d been toying with fall from her fingers and twirled her hand gracefully. “Do you not know my name? I am desire.” Rocks somewhere underneath the Earth were grinding, grinding, grinding against one another. How could he hear that? Was he hearing that? Or Her? “If I chose it, you’d be abasing yourself simply for the privilege of breathing this air.” Desire held out a hand, accentuating her point by sending a small shiver of longing through Zhev’s body.

The move felt like what it was – the cheap parlour trick of a magician who called the cosmos her stage.

Still, the alien sensation jarred Zhev, who leaned deep into the back of his chair, recoiling from her and from his own body. He wondered if this was all it had taken to rouse Desire to enough anger to Hold those who now decorated her lobby. In the time it took Zhev to regain control of himself, the Strife Lord had fallen silent, and looked contemplative. She shifted her gaze to him again and yawned, taking a curl of hair back between her fingers and twisting.

Zhev stifled the urge to shift in his seat.

“You’ll undergo the rite tomorrow.” She said. “I don’t recommend you do anything strenuous, tonight.” Voice flat like clay disks, eyes laughing like streams. “You must be strong, to survive.” And now, again, grinding rocks.

Assuming that to be the end of their meeting, Zhev got up, bowed deeply and moved to the place where he remembered the door to have been, again trying not to appear hurried. His heart beat loudly in his ears and a chill crept into his mind and then outward to his fingers. The wall parted silently and Zhev suppressed a gasp when he saw the figure on the other side.

She was similar to the Strife Lord in some manner he didn’t understand, since they looked nothing alike. She wore a severe black dress, her skin and features appearing to fade in and out of the various shades of human complexion. Her hair, which was every colour and possibly none, was pulled neatly into a ponytail and swayed like a whip as she moved past him. Zhev took a sharp breath when she cast him a sideways glance, and it suddenly seemed imperative that he leave before he lost… something. Something vital and alive.

So he willed his legs out of their langour, and walked out of the Strife Lord’s office. As the door clicked again behind him, he breathed out a lungful of air he hadn’t been aware of holding.

Author

Linda, AKA TAGG herself, loves great music and terrible movies. Find her being boring on Twitter @ThatLFM

The Strife: Part Two

Happy Sunday, all!

This week we get into the story itself. You’ve already read about the beginning, and have a cryptic letter written by a dying man… but what does that have to do with anything? Today, you’ll start to find out.

Enjoy, and see you next week for the next episode.

Preparations

Those who dared to speak of such things insisted that there was a time when the Strife Lords did not rule the world. They said that once, humans were free to govern themselves and that in those times, life had been good and peaceful. Because people, they insisted, are good and kind and peaceful.

This had not been Zhev’s experience of his fellow man. In fact, if he was any indication, the reign of the Strife Lords had done nothing more than channel human cruelty.  And so it mattered little whether there had been a life ‘before’ them. Zhev enjoyed his position of power over other people and noted, with scorn, that the only ones daft enough to say such things were those who had no power themselves.

All these things whirled around in Zhev’s head as he washed himself in preparation for the day to come. Born the runt of a family of six, he’d always been treated as though he was worthless and had been fully expected to die when he joined the ranks of Strife Lord Desire’s army. But instead, his subtle brand of cruelty had distinguished him as a man gifted in extracting truths from those who’d rather not speak them. This was where he’d heard many of these foolish sentiments voiced: from would-be conspirators and failed saboteurs.

He thought over his many interrogations, his many successes, and his heart filled with pride. He richly deserved the reward he would receive today.

Zhev scowled as he opened the doors to his scant wardrobe. Until now he’d needed, and wanted, little more than his uniforms and a few sets of clothes in which to train. For this occasion, he’d had a suit tailored and now looked at it with disappointment. Unlike those worn by the Fiends who’s ranks he aspired to join, Zhev’s suit lacked command and did nothing at all for his impressive form. He cast it aside, deciding it would be best to dress in something more familiar. Carefully he clothed himself in the uniform of an Interrogator. The red collars were decorated with all his many medals which he polished every week to keep in spotless condition.

Zhev looked himself over in the lone mirror which hung in his apartment and nodded approval. The uniform impressed upon all who would pass him both his rank and his stature, which, taken together, made him a rather menacing figure. He strode down the corridors of his apartment complex with his head held high, defying any to look him in the eye as they passed. None did, and he made his way undisturbed to the street.

There, a black car waited to transport him to the Strife Lord’s offices in Sector A. Zhev took in all the sights around him keenly as the car made its way slowly down the streets. A partition separated him from the driver so there was nobody to disturb his silent self-aggrandisement. When the car came to a halt, Zhev let himself out and found that he stood before a building which had no windows and no doors. The structure seemed to be composed of a metallic glass and when he approached it, a section slid silently open before him to reveal a massive entranceway. Zhev stepped in, trying to hide his awe.

Statues dotted the hall, which stood devoid of any other furnishings. Wondering how such human-esque figures had been made, Zhev stepped close to one and realised that it was a human, held perfectly still by some… something. He’d heard that the Strife Lords had the power to do such things but had never truly believed it. He shuddered, chastised himself for it, and continued on his path to the elevators, which he only knew to be there because of the black trim denoting the doors. As he approached, one set of doors slid open. He stepped in, and they closed behind him. He searched around for the button to the 80th floor and only realised after the doors opened again that the elevator had been moving. So, Strife Lord Desire did have a flair for the dramatic, Zhev smiled to himself. Seemed that sometimes, people were correct.

And why not? he thought. If he owned everything within sight he’d have a certain flair, too.

Zhev stepped out into a foyer. His shoes clipped out a rapid staccato as he walked to a desk where a secretary sat, looking both intensely absorbed in and bored by her work. He cleared his throat and she looked up at him. Her eyes, he noted, were purple. She wasn’t human. And neither were the two men who stood guard outside the entrance to Desire’s office, their silver hair lying slick against their heads. The secretary looked down, clicked away at her computer, looked up and nodded, more to herself than him.

Zhev had long ago mastered the nervous need to fill awkward silences, and that was just as well because he didn’t think this woman would respond if he spoke. So he held her eyes, she held his, and held. And held. Finally, she told him he could go in and then was once more absorbed in her tasks.

Author

Linda, AKA TAGG herself, loves great music and terrible movies. Find her being boring on Twitter @ThatLFM

The Strife: Part One

Last time we got a little bit of a history lesson, a background to The Strife which is going to be important to remember later on. Feel free to go and read it again; and if this is your first forray into Story Sunday, do check the prologue out, because we’re continuing this week with a time skip, and a letter from a dying man.

Happy Sunday reading, and see you next week!

Solutions. Interrupted

To You,

It all seemed like a great thing at the time, Internet access as a human right. By 2080 every school, library and community centre in the world had at least one computer with a high-speed Internet connection. It was a triumph of human perseverance! we all told ourselves. Oh, how civilised the world had become!

Then it started. It was simple stuff at first; cyber bullying became a norm, but then, everyone had expected that. Then things got progressively less civilised. Searches about the history of slavery led to multitudes of neo-supremacist chat rooms of every kind; queries about sexual health saw you bombarded with violent and graphic images of degrading acts performed with dubious consent. The grotesque became the mainstream, and soon we really were witnessing the dreaded and oft-mentioned ‘deterioration of the moral fabric of society’.

In all that chaos nobody can really say when the takeover happened, but those of us old enough to remember know that it wasn’t the bloodless affair they claim it to be. The Strife Lords came baying for blood and they got it, rivers of it. The blood of all those who dared to say humanity was decent and good and capable of being righteous.

The rest of us were either too cowed, or too busy drowning in the enormity of it all, to fight back when it would have made a difference.

Perhaps the Strife Lords really are what they say: our old gods. But I am too old now and have seen too much to care if they’re right and they are only monsters because we made them so. I want to see each of them destroyed, but I won’t live long enough for that. You see, I’m writing this because I’m to die soon. But if anyone ever finds this letter, I want you to know it’s worth it to fight. It has to be.

Allan, D.

Author

Linda, AKA TAGG herself, loves great music and terrible movies. Find her being boring on Twitter @ThatLFM

Inktober: Week 3

What’ll it be this time?

MYTH – a memory

Once, the earth opened up and sighed. Long and low, his sigh rolled across the air until it reached the cosmos. In the cosmos it wisped and faded, became an echo which continued the journey – for nothing truly stops in the realms of the gods. Earth’s deities heard both the sigh and its echo, others only the echo. Still it moved and changed and lived. Still gods listened as it passed and wondered – what does it mean?

So they made their way to earth. One by one, and pantheon by pantheon. They came to hear and see and taste. Settling above the earth, they blinked into view – tiny lights, perched and curious. Pantheon constellations; proud and singular burning things. So they made the sky. They looked down at the earth and he looked up at them.

Who are you? What do you want? What was that sound you made? All of these are questions that the gods could have asked. But they are, by their nature, proud beings. So they sat and waited for an explanation to come. And still, they sit. What are a few millennia of waiting to the ageless, after all?

Since then, the earth has not sighed again, because what he once lamented, he now has. A hundred thousand admirers, and amongst them, hopefully – several dozen friends.

SACRED – a legacy

My mother had a jewel. Quite a worthless one, in the estimation of any competent jeweler. Old, certainly, but not worth the time it’d take to polish for sale. It was a beautiful, murky red. In the light, it shone alternately brilliant at one angle then absorbed light and refused to reflect the next. When I left home, she gave me this jewel and told me to always keep it close. I asked why, and she said I would know when I needed to know.

Because asking one’s mother if that’s her best impression of a psychic hack is poor form and also counter-productive to continued living, I took the worthless thing. When I settled, I put it in my jewelry box and over the years when I missed home, I held that stone and felt comforted. Then came the call – your mother is ill.

So I went home, sure that this was goodbye and determined to smile with her just one more time. Death was camped outside her door, I could feel it as I entered. My mother was never a frail woman, but whatever illness was determined to take her had turned the shoulders which bore the weight of the world and of my wayward ways, and turned them into brittle things. Like too vigorous a hug would end it all – that was how she looked.

“Do you have it?”

Why I brought that worthless jewel with me, I cannot say. But I had. and I handed it to my mother. She smiled, and the effort shook the musculature of her cheeks.

“Come back tomorrow, I must rest.”

“But I just got here. I have so much to tell you…”

She was, as ever, uncompromising. So I left, and hugged my father, and cried with my sister. And drank with my brother. Not in the house, of course. In the yard. Sleep took me in the small hours just before dawn. And when I woke I went to my mother. Because the sun was up and that meant that it was tomorrow.

The jewel sat on the made-up bed, reflecting strangely brilliant light. My mother sat at her dresser, running a large-toothed comb through her hair and humming. Shocking, I know.

To this day, I don’t know what that jewel is, or what it did. My mother never explained, because what is sacred need not be named.

PAIN – a sacrament

Pain, a beast of solitude

Digs in claws and asks for peace

Inktober: Week 2

As NaNoWriMo gets underway, I’ve finally completed my Inktober work! So I’ll be releasing the rest of these shorts whilst I work on (hopefully) something approaching a cohesive novella for December. Stick with me, I’m trying!

NATION – a concept

Wandering is a kind of peace, to be sure. An open world, full of people to know and to love and to miss in fond memories when others’ cadence, others’ smiles capture one’s attention. Wandering is a practice of solitude.

But even the nomad came from somewhere – a land which called them mine. A land where the slant of noses and the colour of eyes was a mirror. Even the nomad, in solitude, was once a native, in plurality. And sometimes, when the nomad lays down their head to sleep in a place which almost feels like home, they can hear the whisper of their origin, asking when they’ll come home?

DISGUISE – a comfort

His body felt heavy. Not in the way a body does when you eat too much then struggle to move, but in the way that you do when you’ve been outside of yourself for too long and you must relearn what it’s like within flesh. He lifted his arm, or thought he did, because when he relaxed his muscles there was to tell-tale dull thud of meat hitting concrete. And he was, as far as he could tell, lying on a concrete floor.

Remember that you are youtself. You are simply… also somebody else.

Right. Himself. As he remembered to know that he existed, this body he had taken began to obey instruction. Breathe in – cough and wretch, because the lungs have forgotten the rhythm of staying alive. Stretch the toes, then work the ankles… work your way through the joints. The process is long. Longer if you try to be a hero and get up too soon.

A hero he was not. Just a soldier who’d signed up to do some terrible things in service of a glorious end. Much like… whoever he’d landed up in. As the body which used to belong to somebody else gave over control to his mind, he rose from his incredibly uncomfortable position on the floor. Why couldn’t he land when the host was sitting down? Or sleeping on a bed? Why always this kind of undignified entrance… this time apparently after a long night of alcoholic over-indulgence.

His head was killing him, but still he moved through the empty apartment to find a bathroom. Flicking the lights on he regarded his newest disguise. Nothing to write home about, which was good, but disappointing. People liked attractive people, they gave them liberties. But they also remembered them.

Never snatch the pretty ones.

Well, he’d certainly followed that rule. Familiarising himself with his identity for the foreseeable future, the snatcher idly wondered what it would be like to be back in his own body again. Would his limbs remember the way of him? Would he smile like he used to? Or would he carry the tics and habits of his disguises back into himself and remain a stranger until he died?

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