RE: 5 Big Reasons Employers Should Hire Gamers (and other Awesome Points)

Hey all, happy Thursday. [For those that notice, this is a re-post. I’m caught up working on some pretty exciting stuff I hope to have news about soon AND I liked this lil’ list. So, in case you missed it, check it out. 🙂 ]

No fancy intro. Here goes. Get ready for a loosely-structured, mostly ranting sort-of-essay.

The Five Big Reasons Employers Should Hire Gamers (and other Awesome Points)

  1. Problem-Solving Nature
    Boiled down to its basics, employers want someone who can problem-solve; and, at its barest, that’s all games really offer (and fun doing it, duh). Being a gamer means understanding the problem you’re presented with and all its parameters – or even sometimes working with incomplete information and making the most of that. This is going to be a hilariously extreme example, but I once heard a nugget of wisdom that went something like this: “You can learn how to perform open-heart surgery in two weeks, but surgeons go to school for years to learn how to handle all the things that can go wrong.” Does…does that make sense, what I’m trying to say? When starting a new job, you’re trained how to perform a task or serve a particular function – and that’s robotic. But having the baseline to foresee, anticipate, and correct aberrations where they arise (ie problem-solving skills), is just as necessary. Whether that’s exploring a ghostly mansion, outmaneuvering enemy troops on an alien planet, or doing your day job, absolutely every angle involves observing an obstacle and calculating a way of overcoming it – which is the heart of gaming in a nutshell.
  2. Knack for Optimization
    Employers want optimization. Whether that means someone who can manage their time really, really efficiently, or someone who can enter a situation with fresh eyes and suggest an improvement others haven’t seen. How does gaming relate to this? Have you ever heard of “Power Gaming” or “Min-Maxing?”
    The entire point for some gamers is to take what they have, view the systems they’re told to operate within, and get the absolute, objectively best result that they can. That can mean working with the bare minimum to greatest effect (like a lvl 1 Pyromancer speed run of Dark Souls) or obtaining the objectively best sword/gun/armor/meta deck in the business (like in just about any JRPG that’s ever existed).
    You may have even heard some gamers in your own circle talk relentlessly about trying to “break the game” (lookin’ at you, Bryce). For the uninitiated, while that may sound like a bad thing or something harmful, what it translates to is “trying to become so overwhelmingly good at a particular thing that you reach as close to 100% efficiency as is humanly (or, in my cousin’s case, inhumanly) possible. This usually, in gaming terms, refers to a character’s Strength stat or skill in Stealth being so goddamned high that they can use that and that alone to achieve anything; but it can absolutely also refer to the way your work space is organized, your priorities are stacked for the day, the way your orders are processed, or the roles those in your team play out.
  3. Familiarity with Flow State
    Sometimes the word “gamer” conjures an image of an either lackadasical kid in a beanbag chair with a glazed expression or sometimes a zealous young woman with a headset tuned into a fast-paced and loud FPS (“first person shooter”, for the laymen) like DOOM. When imagined this way, a Suit-n’-Tie might wonder, “What good could that person be for what I need?” To them, I would offer two words: flow state.
    Also known as “being in the zone,” “zoned in,” or “getting tunnel-vision,” operating in flow state is a particular state of mind I’m sure we’ve all experienced at some point or another in our lives. In it, you’re hyper aware, extraordinarily sharp and focused, make moves with dedicated efficiency, and even experience time differently.
    While it’s common enough with fast-paced video games, it’s not like it’s exclusive to that medium. I suck at it, but apparently it’s a common occurrence among chess players – being four, five steps ahead of your opponent (baker’s dozen if you’re playing against me), carrying contingencies, routes, and back-up plans in your noggin. Same thing goes for playing card games of all varieties. So of course it applies to the work place just as easily, and that makes for an incredibly handy state of mind to be well-practiced in, as many gamers are.
  4. “I just need this done.”
    Not all jobs are fun. In fact, if you listen to complaints around the watering hole or to your friends after they’re shift lets out, it’s not uncommon for people to complain about their jobs being boring or simple. I’m not disparaging shit, by the way, but be it flipping burgers, counting inventory, inspecting the same incoming products all day, or janitorial duties (all venerable trades), there’s yet another gaming mindset that ensures a dedicated performance…
    Have you ever heard of “grinding”…?
    Whether it’s defeating 500 of the same enemy type in a given region, saving the same generic peasant from the same generic wolves 100 times to become a legend, or collecting random bits and baubles of bullshit, it’s been a stable pillar of video games few would dispute. It’s pretty damn common in big RPG’s, World of Warcraft probably being the most notorious. “I need ten goat horns!” cries the farmer. “Come, bring me twenty bundles of molleybarrow weed!” shouts the alchemist. “Ah, the sword is yours, if you simply bring me thirty northern white rabbit anuses,” barters the eccentric merchant.
    The point simply being: menial, repetitive tasks done efficiently is just as within a gamer’s wheelhouse as everything else discussed so far.
  5. Crossover Skills
    This one is probably the least apparent, but the most important, and that’s the surprising infrastructure of crossover skills that video games can help develop. Best explained by example, I found that in my last job, XCOM 2 had weirdly prepared me rather well for what my job entailed. In brief, I was responsible for keeping a room stocked with necessary materials for the manufacturing process of the facility – making sure not to run out of particular substances, but also not to overstock as we didn’t have the space and that would result in a jam (essentially).
    For those not familiar, the XCOM games are centered around managing a para-military base tasked with fending off an extraterrestrial menace. This includes the well-being, training, equipment of a roster of soldiers, the layout of the base’s facilities, power consumption, queue of projects, so on and so forth, all while battling a computer-controlled alien force that wants to kill you and everything you stand for.
    It sounds a little funny, but the skills of resource and inventory management, logistics analysis, anticipation of needs, risk balancing, and orchestrating teammate synergy were all surprisingly appropriate skills developed by a video game and applied in a real world occupation.

And there you have it, a loosely-structured, mostly-ranting list of 5 Big-Ass Reasons for Employers to Hire Gamers. But one more point before we go and I do the whole “See ya Thursday!” thing: the ‘games as art’ argument.
It doesn’t really hold a place in the list of reasons games apply to work place efficiency, but it holds a place in my heart, as it should all of yours. Once upon a time, video games might have been all shoot-’em-up’s, Pong, and simple sports simulators, but nowadays the industry is transforming more and more into a place for pieces of interactive fiction with a driving focus and emphasis on the art of storytelling.
We still call them “games,” and they are as many include a failure state (Game Over screens and such), but to see works like Horizon Zero Dawn, The Last Guardian, Detroit: Become Human, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, or the Last of Us and not see the creative beauty, energy, and genius that goes into those creations, then YOU CAN GO FU-
….

Sorry, that was going to be more aggressive that we really need here.
In a more measured sense, if we can take the traditional, romantic sentimentality we hold for curling up with a book on a rainy day and getting lost in the world between the pages and realize that other mediums hold the same capacity for imagination, empathy, and engagement…well, shit, I think the world would be better for it. Imagination’s part of the human experience, and one of the most beautiful privileges we enjoy as people. Why would you let a simple stigma close that door?

Anyway, yeah. Ciao for now, catch ya Tuesday.

5 Big Reasons Employers Should Hire Gamers (and other Awesome Points)

Hey all, happy Tuesday.

No fancy intro. Here goes. Get ready for a loosely-structured, mostly ranting sort-of-essay.

The Five Big Reasons Employers Should Hire Gamers (and other Awesome Points)

  1. Problem-Solving Nature
    Boiled down to its basics, employers want someone who can problem-solve; and, at its barest, that’s all games really offer (and fun doing it, duh). Being a gamer means understanding the problem you’re presented with and all its parameters – or even sometimes working with incomplete information and making the most of that. This is going to be a hilariously extreme example, but I once heard a nugget of wisdom that went something like this: “You can learn how to perform open-heart surgery in two weeks, but surgeons go to school for years to learn how to handle all the things that can go wrong.” Does…does that make sense, what I’m trying to say? When starting a new job, you’re trained how to perform a task or serve a particular function – and that’s robotic. But having the baseline to foresee, anticipate, and correct aberrations where they arise (ie problem-solving skills), is just as necessary. Whether that’s exploring a ghostly mansion, outmaneuvering enemy troops on an alien planet, or doing your day job, absolutely every angle involves observing an obstacle and calculating a way of overcoming it – which is the heart of gaming in a nutshell.
  2. Knack for Optimization
    Employers want optimization. Whether that means someone who can manage their time really, really efficiently, or someone who can enter a situation with fresh eyes and suggest an improvement others haven’t seen. How does gaming relate to this? Have you ever heard of “Power Gaming” or “Min-Maxing?”
    The entire point for some gamers is to take what they have, view the systems they’re told to operate within, and get the absolute, objectively best result that they can. That can mean working with the bare minimum to greatest effect (like a lvl 1 Pyromancer speed run of Dark Souls) or obtaining the objectively best sword/gun/armor/meta deck in the business (like in just about any JRPG that’s ever existed).
    You may have even heard some gamers in your own circle talk relentlessly about trying to “break the game” (lookin’ at you, Bryce). For the uninitiated, while that may sound like a bad thing or something harmful, what it translates to is “trying to become so overwhelmingly good at a particular thing that you reach as close to 100% efficiency as is humanly (or, in my cousin’s case, inhumanly) possible. This usually, in gaming terms, refers to a character’s Strength stat or skill in Stealth being so goddamned high that they can use that and that alone to achieve anything; but it can absolutely also refer to the way your work space is organized, your priorities are stacked for the day, the way your orders are processed, or the roles those in your team play out.
  3. Familiarity with Flow State
    Sometimes the word “gamer” conjures an image of an either lackadasical kid in a beanbag chair with a glazed expression or sometimes a zealous young woman with a headset tuned into a fast-paced and loud FPS (“first person shooter”, for the laymen) like DOOM. When imagined this way, a Suit-n’-Tie might wonder, “What good could that person be for what I need?” To them, I would offer two words: flow state.
    Also known as “being in the zone,” “zoned in,” or “getting tunnel-vision,” operating in flow state is a particular state of mind I’m sure we’ve all experienced at some point or another in our lives. In it, you’re hyper aware, extraordinarily sharp and focused, make moves with dedicated efficiency, and even experience time differently.
    While it’s common enough with fast-paced video games, it’s not like it’s exclusive to that medium. I suck at it, but apparently it’s a common occurrence among chess players – being four, five steps ahead of your opponent (baker’s dozen if you’re playing against me), carrying contingencies, routes, and back-up plans in your noggin. Same thing goes for playing card games of all varieties. So of course it applies to the work place just as easily, and that makes for an incredibly handy state of mind to be well-practiced in, as many gamers are.
  4. “I just need this done.”
    Not all jobs are fun. In fact, if you listen to complaints around the watering hole or to your friends after they’re shift lets out, it’s not uncommon for people to complain about their jobs being boring or simple. I’m not disparaging shit, by the way, but be it flipping burgers, counting inventory, inspecting the same incoming products all day, or janitorial duties (all venerable trades), there’s yet another gaming mindset that ensures a dedicated performance…
    Have you ever heard of “grinding”…?
    Whether it’s defeating 500 of the same enemy type in a given region, saving the same generic peasant from the same generic wolves 100 times to become a legend, or collecting random bits and baubles of bullshit, it’s been a stable pillar of video games few would dispute. It’s pretty damn common in big RPG’s, World of Warcraft probably being the most notorious. “I need ten goat horns!” cries the farmer. “Come, bring me twenty bundles of molleybarrow weed!” shouts the alchemist. “Ah, the sword is yours, if you simply bring me thirty northern white rabbit anuses,” barters the eccentric merchant.
    The point simply being: menial, repetitive tasks done efficiently is just as within a gamer’s wheelhouse as everything else discussed so far.
  5. Crossover Skills
    This one is probably the least apparent, but the most important, and that’s the surprising infrastructure of crossover skills that video games can help develop. Best explained by example, I found that in my last job, XCOM 2 had weirdly prepared me rather well for what my job entailed. In brief, I was responsible for keeping a room stocked with necessary materials for the manufacturing process of the facility – making sure not to run out of particular substances, but also not to overstock as we didn’t have the space and that would result in a jam (essentially).
    For those not familiar, the XCOM games are centered around managing a para-military base tasked with fending off an extraterrestrial menace. This includes the well-being, training, equipment of a roster of soldiers, the layout of the base’s facilities, power consumption, queue of projects, so on and so forth, all while battling a computer-controlled alien force that wants to kill you and everything you stand for.
    It sounds a little funny, but the skills of resource and inventory management, logistics analysis, anticipation of needs, risk balancing, and orchestrating teammate synergy were all surprisingly appropriate skills developed by a video game and applied in a real world occupation.

And there you have it, a loosely-structured, mostly-ranting list of 5 Big-Ass Reasons for Employers to Hire Gamers. But one more point before we go and I do the whole “See ya Thursday!” thing: the ‘games as art’ argument.
It doesn’t really hold a place in the list of reasons games apply to work place efficiency, but it holds a place in my heart, as it should all of yours. Once upon a time, video games might have been all shoot-’em-up’s, Pong, and simple sports simulators, but nowadays the industry is transforming more and more into a place for pieces of interactive fiction with a driving focus and emphasis on the art of storytelling.
We still call them “games,” and they are as many include a failure state (Game Over screens and such), but to see works like Horizon Zero Dawn, The Last Guardian, Detroit: Become Human, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, or the Last of Us and not see the creative beauty, energy, and genius that goes into those creations, then YOU CAN GO FUCK YOURSE-
….

Sorry, that was going to be more aggressive that we really need here.
In a more measured sense, if we can take the traditional, romantic sentimentality we hold for curling up with a book on a rainy day and getting lost in the world between the pages and realize that other mediums hold the same capacity for imagination, empathy, and engagement…well, shit, I think the world would be better for it. Imagination’s part of the human experience, and one of the most beautiful privileges we enjoy as people. Why would you let a simple stigma close that door?

Anyway, yeah. Ciao for now, catch ya Thursday.

Prompt Challenge: A Gift of Time

Happy Thursday, everybody – hope the week’s been treating you right.

We’ll just get right to it and not waste your time today, mostly because I don’t have anything funny to say- eh, that’s not true, actually. Recently, I watched a kid pee all over the front of his mom’s car just outside a busy cafe window, and besides the little dude’s equally little brother, I was the only witness. So…that was…it was pretty funny (I just… it feels weird mentioning that I watched a kid pee).

MOVING ON NOW.

The prompt for today is another one from the splendiferous Mr. Bacchus again and is (more or less verbatim) as follows: “You’re approached by a stranger on the street. He walks up to you briskly, hands you a package, and departs just as quickly. You open it to see an old fashioned pocket watch. The moment you touch it… [Must include magic.]”

You want magical shit? Let’s get to some magical shit.

You know how these go, but if you’re just joining us, the gist is I have thirty minutes to scrap together something we can all look at and say, “Huh, funny.” I set a timer and it goes off when it goes off. If I finish in time, great; if not, I either eat some pumpkins and add time or it ends abruptly and hilariously unsatisfying. So let’s get to it.

Starting time in 3…

2…

[Note: Hey everybody, Future Evan here. Post is all done and I just did a brief re-read before publishing it and want to say, to add to the experience, try reading the following story in your grandfather’s voice. Okay, peace out. Enjoy.]

1…

Old and Gray

I don’t know that why, of all the details, the thing I remember first about the day after I met you were the clouds. They were those ones, big and fluffy, but look almost like water stains on a backdrop. The edges are just a little too hard, and the light hits them like…well, just differently than you’d expect them to look. The best part also was that they weren’t dark. There wasn’t the threat of rain. They just felt there to be pleasant.

I was walking down Phelps road, on my way to Central Park Library. I think I was going to return a cookbook I’d checked out, something with old, Polish recipes – not important. But do you remember the side of town the library was on? It was a block over from the tracks and the train station. I always liked that because while most people complained about the train, I liked hearing it. It made the town’s usual quiet feel a bit busier, a bit more lively.

Anyway, I was just watching the clouds and listening to the train when that guy bumped into me, remember? He was dressed in an old-timey trench coat and hat, like he’d just stepped out of a 1920’s noir film. It was doubly weird, because we were the only two people on that sidewalk, so it wasn’t like it was a bustling crowd. We could have both been distracted, but something about the shove felt deliberate, I mean, other than the parcel he put in my hand.

It was like something out of those old C.I.A.-era spy movies where two agents make a pass, except I didn’t know I was one of the agents. I turned around to explain to the guy that I didn’t want to be involved in any of his shenanigans, but when I turned around he was gone. Just about immediately, I forgot all about returning that Polish cookbook.

I took a left on Lewis and went to the park, sat on a bench, and stared at the box in front of me. It wasn’t ticking. When I shook it, I could feel the packing fluff inside, and whatever it was wasn’t very heavy. All I knew is that I didn’t want to end up on a news story. Ultimately, curiosity (same stuff that killed The Cat, I know) got the better of me and I opened the box. Inside was a silver pocket watch on a thin chain.

Not what I expected, and still no ticking.

I clicked the little latch and opened it to the face of the watch. The hands weren’t moving and it looked like it was set to about two forty-five. I checked my own watch just to be sure and saw the time was about six o’clock. I looked for a little dial or key hole to wind it, but it was solid all around, save for the lid’s clasp. That’s when I noticed the engraving on the inside of the cover:

“Guide thine path hence forth,
so hands are held in the north.”

At first, I was cripplingly confused. “Hands held in the north?” Was I supposed to go somewhere, or was this a code of some kind? Was I supposed to wait six hours until the watch counted midday or midnight? Or wind it to be that way? But it wasn’t working and there was no way to wind it. And the time was off anyway. I had a ton of questions and no answers…

Until I started walking.

I started walking just to mull over this mysterious puzzle. I had nothing better to do that day – and come to think of it, I think I forgot the cookbook on the park bench. Oops. I started walking north on Copper just to amuse myself and looked at the watch.

Nothing.

After a few minutes of this, I knew the only thing further in that direction before the highway out to Coalton was a farm supply store. So I looped back down Main, and after a few minutes, I noticed something: the hands on the watch had moved. Both had moved up a little closer.

I really can’t say what the heck it was, but I started walking faster. I followed Main until the hands stopped, and soon they started getting farther apart. I turned down Spruce and they began closing in again. It was acting like a compass, or a metal detector, except I had no idea what I was supposed to be detecting. All I knew was that I wanted to know where this led.

I followed the signals from the hands of the watch, having them frustratingly grow near and then part several times. But eventually…ah well, you know this part.

I was standing at the fountain in Juliard and so were you. I’d spent all afternoon walking, so the sun was setting against the day’s strange clouds and I’m sure I looked a mess, but you were beautiful. You were in that red and white sundress, had that ribbon you always liked to wear, and you were just finished making a wish off a penny you flipped in the water. When you saw me, you smiled and said, “Hey, stranger,” since we’d met the day before at your shop.

You’ve called me crazy a thousand times for this, but I really did have that pocket watch. I put it in my pocket for just a second to shake your hand, and when I reached for it again, it was gone.

But I don’t care if you ever believed me, about the watch, about the mysterious man in the coat, or my goose chase all over town. Because whether you believed in the watch or not, we still had a lifetime together. We didn’t just hold hands in the north, because we went to so many places, but what really mattered was who I was with – even when we were old and gray.

I never got to give you flowers, because of course my wife had to be a florist and you don’t approach Midas with a gift of gold. But now, here on the family plot, I finally can.

I love you, honey, and I miss you already.

END

The Take: Well…you know what? Yeah, we went over time, but I don’t really care this time. Official time came in at 46 minutes, 16 over challenge-time, so I nommed down on some pumpkins (“Cheater-cheater, pumpkin-” you get it) and kept going. I would have called it out mid-post like that one time, but while that had been funny, it didn’t feel as right to interrupt this one. It wasn’t planned to take such a sentimental turn, but, well, that’s how these things go. Originally, when the stuff with the train started, I figured I might make the magical element have something to do with making it explode or fly, but ultimately – as you can tell – took it in a more subtle direction.

Anyway, hope you liked it and enjoyed the journey. If you thought this was cool, check out some of the others here, here, or here, and I’ll catch you guys again Tuesday.

Ciao.

Prompt Challenge #2 – Lost in the Woods

Okay, and we’re back.

Sup everybody. Happy Tuesday to you. It’s been a busy-ass week.

But let’s skip the formalities. The last time we did this it went over pretty well, so we might as well get up to it again.

This time, the prompt (graciously given by the noble Mr. Bacchus) is as follows:

“An investigative journalist goes to a forest where people have been disappearing, and one night they’re awoken by someone breaking into their tent.”

Pfft, spoilers, right? (#kidding)

But just like last time, we’re going to set a timer for thirty minutes and just start pounding keys until it’s either done or those precious little seconds have all dripped away.

“Yaaaaas! But Evan,” I hear you cry, “how will we know you’re actually timed??”

Easy, I’m a believer in the Honor System (and you…well…you just can’t).

Anyway!

3…

2…

1…

Lost in Hoia-Baciu

Justin adjusted his camera strap. He held the straps on his backpack as he took a deep breath and filled his lungs with the fresh, mountain air. It had taken him three flights, a bus, a boat, and a rented car, but he’d finally made it.

Hoia-Baciu, nestled in the arms of Transylvania, Romania, it was known as the world’s most haunted forest was the common villain pointed to for missing persons, alien sightings, paranormal experiences, and supernatural occurrences. There was no shortage of stories ranging from the bizarre and eerie, to the ookie and strange. Urban legends even told of one where a young girl went missing and reappeared seven years later without having aged and with no recollection of her absence.

Justin hiked down the hill to the treeline. He’d been warned by his editor, the locals, and even his parents to get a story some other way, but he was set on this one. He wanted to get a lens on what all the hubbub was about. Though, for his money, he expected to spend the night, find a few tire tracks, some tags, or some other evidence of government presence, then bounce with a catchy headline. All that crap about aliens and ghosts was just…well, too easy. He stood at the edge of the dense forest and checked the time: 11:23 am.

Plenty of daylight to march to the center, set up camp, and get a good boundary before dark. So he did, and on the way saw the sights that made the woods so famous. There was a portion where the trees were strangely curved, like upside-down question marks, and arranged in neat rows. Justin always figured they might have been planted like that by someone who died a long time ago, and when the next people came around and couldn’t meet him, people cried “Aliens!”

He found a spot to set up camp and began unrolling his tent. The stories about strange lights, feelings of unease, and illusory people would probably be easier to judge once it got dark. As it was, he felt great. No lights weirder than the sun poking through the trees, no uneasiness besides a bit of an irritated colon (but that was probably the stew from earlier), and the only imaginary people were just the figments of his boss and Hot Susan from the office he normally kept around. He spent the rest of the day’s light checking his equipment and playing his harmonica.

Once dark had fallen, he ranged a bit with his flashlight. About two hours of looking for Slender Man and an alien light show, he was met with nothing, not even the quiet fart of a white-tail deer. He made his way back to his tent with a strange mix of deep-seated relief and the confidence of a debunker. He crawled into his tent, zipped up his sleeping bag, and prepared for sleep. Then he noticed something. He sat up in his sleeping bag and strained his ears.

He couldn’t hear anything.

Nothing at all, save for his own quiet breathing and small movements. There was no wind through the trees, no small brushing of leaves, or distant animal calls. The close walls of his tent suddenly felt incredibly claustrophobic.

It’s okay, he told himself. You’re out here by yourself and you’re jet-lagged. Bound to feel a little weird, but you’re by yourself – no one’s out here with you.

As he breathed a small sigh of relief, his heart leapt out of his chest.

A sound. He heard a sound.

It was distant, tough to make out. It sounded like leaves crunching. Then the sound drew closer, and Justin realized there was a rhythm to it. It sounded like footsteps- no, it sounded like someone was running.

Someone was running towards him. In that moment, the anxiety returned to the thought that was once so calming, but with a chilling new addition: No one can help you either.

He reached for his flashlight with one hand and the tent door with the other. He fumbled with the zipper as the footsteps approached faster and faster. As he hissed the zipper open, there was a splay of leaves that covered him. A figure, a person, tackled him back into his tent.

“Ah!” Justin screamed. “Get the fuck off me!”

His assailant just screamed in response, but not normally. It sounded like a loud moan, like they were screaming without parting their lips. In the fumbled light of the tent, with the flashlight flailing about in the melee, Justin scrambled and wound up on top of them. He beat his fists against the intruder until, in the chaos, the flashlight illuminated their face.

He would never forget the feeling of that moment, the regret of seeing what he saw.

The intruder was a young man with fair skin and brown hair, though it was matted with dirt and…was that blood? This observation paled in notice that they had only one eye. The rest of the man’s face was fused together, like a wax statue that had been melted and blended. The single eye was panicked and frightened, but upon being seen, seemed suddenly to turn angry and hostile.

[TIMER BUZZES]

(…nope. No, we’re gonna keep going. Adding ten minutes and restarting in 3…2…1..)

The intruder’s hands gripped Justin by the wrists. Whoever they were…whatever it was, was inhumanly strong. They wrestled Justin over and began to hit him again and again alongside his head. Justin kicked frantically and finally freed himself. He burst from the tent and ran blindly out into the dark.

He ran, breathless and without a guide of any sort. Twice he was knocked over by the trunk of a tree in the invisibly dark wood. Each time, he clawed his way to his feet. The forest that had once been so silent was now alive with sounds of all kinds: clicks, burbles, distant caws, but above all of them, the pursuing moan of the one-eyed intruder.

Then, he began to see lights. A twinkling procession of pale green lights revealed themselves between the dark forms of tree trunks. He used this as a heading as he ran with all his breath, all the time hearing the pained moans behind him. A wayward root sticking up from the ground caught his foot and Justin flew forward, landing on his face and chest. Sharp stones in the dirt lacerated his cheek and got in his eyes. He rubbed his eyes fiercely to clear them and got his left open.

With his depth-perception compromised and breathing made difficult from his bloody nose

[TIMER BUZZES]
(No! Fuck, spent some of that editing. We’re close. Five more minutes! Starting…now!)

With his depth-perception compromised and breathing made difficult from his bloody nose, he felt like a wounded deer being stalked by a wolf. Nonetheless, he made his way to the floating green lights. Behind him, he heard the furious moans of the monster in pursuit.

He burst from the trees onto a small, dirt path. The green lights lit the way like road flares. He followed these, sprinting with all his remaining strength.

The path curved, and near the end he saw something. Was that…a tent?

There were other campers here! He’d have help! Maybe they had a phone since he’d left his behind. Maybe they had weapons.

He gritted his teeth and ran. Just as he got to the tent, its door flew open and he slipped. Justin fell headlong into the stranger’s tent and the two scrambled into a twisting mess. They were hitting him and he tried to scream, but he found he couldn’t open his mouth.

Finally, a flashlight was rolled over and clicked on. He froze by what he saw.

[TIMER]
(No! Two minutes!)

Justin looked up with his one good eye and found he was looking at himself from earlier that night. He screamed, but all that sounded was a moan. This wasn’t happening. His doppleganger screamed back. There was a fight. Justin was kicked, and his doppleganger ran off into the woods. Stunned, the disfigured journalist sat there, but soon heard the rhythmic running footsteps come up from behind him and primal fear pulled him to his feet.

He ran back out into the dark of Hoia-Baciu.

END

The Take: Okay, technically the timer rang halfway into the word “dark” of that last line, but c’mon. Anyway, hey! We did it (mostly)! Even though we cheated just a little bit, this one was cool. I liked the prompt and as soon as I read it from him, I knew I was going to base it in Hoia-Baciu. Speaking of, if you’ve never read it before, it’s pronounced like ‘Hoya-Botchu,’ and least, I’m pretty sure. If you prove me wrong somehow, that’s okay. But yeah, I put you through a lot of set-up to get there, but that was mostly just me ‘blurrrrb’ing until I pieced together what was going to happen. I knew early on I wanted the twist to be “He runs into himself out there” but what to do with it once we’d gotten there was the trick.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed it this time around, catch you guys n’ gals Thursday!

Ciao!

Almost- WAIT!! If this little appetizer whet your palate for something creepy, pop on over to the NIGHTLIGHT podcast and check out my episode with them, “The Scars of Eliza Gray” because I think that would be pretty cool. If that works, then consider also sticking around the catch and interview between me and the podcast’s creator, Tonia Thompson (and tell ‘er Evan sent ya!).

‘Kay, bye!

A Gift for Cer’lliarah

Happy Thursday, all..

Let’s do things a little bit backwards today and have our dessert first.

The Take: This one, like a couple of others, came together in about an hour and without any sort of grand idea that inspired it. A scene came to mind and next thing I knew I was obsessively pounding keys until it was done – kind of like the drug hazes or super-focused power montages in movies.
One of my favorite parts about this one is that it was the first time ever in a story that I described someone’s nipples. (Funny story about that, too. I wrote it in the cafeteria of the local junior college and when I got to the part about describing nudity, I checked over my shoulder probably twice, sheepishly feeling like I was somehow getting away with something.)
Anyway, I hope it paints as crisp and glittering a picture in your mind as it arrived in mine.
[Oh! And fun fact: the gift presented in this story wound up inspiring the namesake of the story I’m probably THE most proud of to-date, one I’m currently shipping around to different publishers. You’ll know if/when it gets picked up because that’s probably all this blog will be about the week that it does.]

A Gift for Cer’lliarah

Dorian drew the curtain of moss aside and stepped into the grotto. It was a cavernous space with dark stone walls that glittered like the night sky. Softly lapping waves of a ghostly tide gently foamed at his boots and a beam of moonlight hung over a small central island from which a song chimed harmoniously with its own echo. The words were sweet, indiscernible but melodious, and filled the young duke-to-be with a tingling sense of ecstasy. He was nervously straightening his jerkin and pulling it flat when he saw her step out from a silver pond between two pines.

Cer’lliarah, the water nymph. It was said that she had only ever taken three mortal men, and all three had become kings. Many had tried to curry her favor, but none other than the kings had returned. Besides a gown of transparent water silk, she was completely nude. She was petite in frame, but had long, slender legs and dark hair that flowed down to dimples on her lower back. Her body was completely bare and smooth with fair skin and shapely breasts with perfect, light pink nipples. She blinked at him coquettishly from her island with large nutmeg eyes and beckoned him to her before gracefully retreating from view.

Dorian greedily delved into his pocket and fumbled out a gleaming topaz on a silver chain. Lowering to his knees, he dipped the precious stone into the lapping waves. The jewel glowed brightly a moment and dissolved into the water. A rumble sounded in the grotto and a land bridge slowly foamed out of the waters before him. It had taken scores of ships and fine soldiers to bring him a leviathan’s tear, the only offering Cer’lliarah would accept, but their families had been compensated fairly from the treasury and it would be worth it once the nymph confirmed his destiny as king. His uncle had made a terrible tyrant for Kandar and Dorian’s father was determined to remove his brother from the throne. This would be as close to a bloodless coup as he was liable to get, and he’d entrusted the honor to his son.

Dorian crossed the path trying to maintain a nobility to his stride, but he slipped almost every other jittery step. He had never taken a woman before, so the thought of bedding the legendary nymph made him horribly anxious. That anxiety melted away, however, when he stepped into the island’s small, central glade and saw her laying in wait on a bed of flowers and heather. She rose and began wordlessly removing Dorian’s clothes. As she did, he searched for her eyes, but they were lowered, brushing their sight over his emerging nakedness. When she did look up and meet his eyes, the nerves swiftly returned. They were more beautiful, more enchanting beyond anything in his dreams, and held an ageless, gentle innocence that made him forget the world’s evils, time, even his own body.

He was so taken with their deep golden color he didn’t feel the pain in his back.

The young noble placed his hands on her hips and felt his way to her bosom, quaking in anticipation as her hands did the same. She felt his arms, draped them over his shoulders, and let her hands dance on his chest. They finally fell on the pendant he wore, an emerald from his mother, and she kissed him on the cheek as she undid the clasp. He opened his mouth to protest, but a noticeable pain in the back of his neck caught the words in his throat. He realized he couldn’t move. She met his eyes again and this time Dorian saw himself in their reflection.

He watched his cheeks and jawline become sharpened and defined, his neck and shoulders lost their adolescent chubbiness and grew muscled, and a thick, regal beard adorned his face. His eyes hardened with the wisdom and sacrifices of a just ruler and a great jeweled crown formed on his head. He saw he was the full vision of the ruler he might have become.

Cer’lliarah clasped the pendant around her own neck and took Dorian’s hands from her breasts and crossed them over his own shoulders. The unseen tendrils that had woven their way into his torso now stitched across his limbs and fastened them to his trembling body. She played with the emerald and lay back down on her bed of flowers and heather. He choked on his pleas, but she only smiled up at him with her large, nutmeg eyes as the tendrils lifted him to the ceiling of the grotto. While he couldn’t turn his head, his eyes wildly searched the grotto’s walls and he saw all around him the calcified remains of those who had also come before to entreat the nymph’s favor.

And had also failed.

FIN

PS – I have NEEEEEEWS! Another story of mine, “The Scars of Eliza Gray”, is currently in the works to be featured on the NIGHT LIGHT horror podcast in a few weeks. So stayed tuned, ’cause I’ll be posting updates as I get them and blasting it out there once it’s up! Also keep an eye out and an ear open for the episode where we discuss and give our takes on Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and “Us”! Yaaaaay!

Interpreting Dreams: “The Spoon” and “Grad Night”

Happy Tuesday, everybody!

I started this whole thing off as a way to share stories, tales and parts of me, so today we’re going to lean into that last part.

Now I get that normally dreams kind of follow the same rule of thumb as family photos: “If I’m not in them or nobody’s naked, I don’t really care.” I hear you, but would also counter that like the stomach being the direct route to a man’s heart (ho-ho-ho! supposedly), dreams are a great way to get an honest, raw CAT scan of how a person thinks. So the catch here is that I’ve gotten these interpreted (not professionally – if that’s even a thing that happens).

Also, lastly, I want to note that my bar for “weird dreams” is pretty high. My major cross to bear is that the woman I live with and share my home and heart with has painfully mundane dreams with very few exceptions:

Mandy: “I had the weirdest dream last night.”

Naive Me: “Oh? Sweet, lay it on me. What happened?”

Mandy: “I was in the kitchen, it was the middle of the day, and you weren’t home…”

Naive Me: “Great, then?”

Mandy: “I was packing up some leftovers and used the tupperware and was like, ‘Whoa.’”

Naive Me: “’Whoa’ what?”

Mandy: “Hon, we have glassware, not tupperware.”

Naive Me: “…”

Mandy: “Weird, right?”

Naive Me: “NO!”

Oh, and I should mention here that if you’re squeamish around talking about genitals in a civilized, grown-up, adult manner…I’ll see you Thursday.

Anyway, let’s get to it. First up:

The Spoon

I open my eyes and I have a bird’s eye view of a soccer stadium. I don’t really follow soccer (or futball, to my international brethren), so I don’t know how big stadiums get, but it was gigantic. Step-aside-Thunderdome-Papa’s-here kind of gigantic. And I say a “bird’s eye” view, but I’m not a bird. In fact, in the dream, I don’t have a body period. It’s just like watching a movie play out from that sourceless perspective.

Anyway, thing is, for how enormous this stadium is: it’s completely empty. Not abandoned, just plain empty. No one on the field, no one in the stands, nada. As I fly closer, my vision zooms in and I see there is someone in the stands. A single person high up in the stadium’s seating. My vision gets closer and I realize I know the person in the stands.

It’s LeBron James.

What’s he doing, you might ask. Well’p, he’s sitting there, calmly eating a Yoplait yogurt.

The only two things that make this weird are the last two elements that complete the picture.

One, he’s using a spoon to eat his Yoplait, not the folded foil cover like a normal person. And not just any regular plastic spoon. He’s using a piece of silverware, like brought from home. I don’t know why, but it struck me as fundamentally abnormal.

Two, a feeling dawned on me about that out-of-place utensil. To this day I can’t place my finger on how this identification or relationship formed, but I am certain of it. I realized, intuitively, unambiguously, and indubitably…I was the spoon.

It was like an out-of-body experience, but instead of a human being, I was a spoon watching itself be used to feed Lebron James Yoplait yogurt in an empty soccer stadium. And it wasn’t a sexual thing at all (as far as the psychologists I haven’t talked to would probably tell me), I was just a spoon helping a famous athlete enjoy his yogurt.

Say what you will, but I remember feeling very safe there in that moment being a spoon.

The Take pt 1: So, I think this should be obvious, but everybody I’ve told this dream to has offered in trade the oh-so-insightful divination that “I’m weird and/or probably gay.” (Don’t think so, but who knows? It’s a spectrum and LeBron’s admittedly a peak human specimen, objectively. At the time of this posting, jury’s out.) I might make fun of that interpretation, but truth is I don’t really know what to take from it. I was a spoon that felt safe in the gigantic hands of a famous black man that used me to eat yogurt. Hell, maybe it’s a metaphor for my future? Or a sign of father issues? Maybe I- actually, no. I’m spit-balling and that was supposed to be your job, not mine.

Next clip!

Grad Night

I’m standing on a pedestal with a spotlight hanging over me. It’s empty blackness all around. Just me, the pedestal, and the cone of light. Out of the dark, maybe thirty feet away, comes walking a woman in maybe around her mid-thirties. She stops about ten feet from me, looks me up and down, makes that “impressed Obama” face and gives me a thumb’s up, before walking away off into the dark.

I’m confused at first, but then I look down and realize I’m naked. Nude. Sportin’ my birthday suit. Buck-ass nek’ked.

Soon another soccer mom steps out of the dark, followed by another, and soon another after her. An infinite conga line of cougars (not say mid-30’s qualifies, I’m saying there was an age range, okay?) extends out to the distant horizon. One by one, they approach in an orderly line, compliment me on my penis [EDIT: I must have written a dozen different words before finally settling on the basic term of anatomy (“peen”, “wang”, “cockadoodle”, “mah dick”, etc) – just so you know] and then walk off into the void.

It was never anything specific, they would just walk up, say something like, “God, just, good for you young man” and then leave. So I did whatever a self-respecting Beta-male would do and absorbed the moment and savored it the way I should: with hands on my hips and a grin with an awkward raised eyebrow sidekick.

A moment later, everything began to spin and blend together. The next I knew, I was “waking up” – the way you do in dreams, but you’re still in it, Inception-style – at my uncle’s house in my cousin’s bunk bed. I had the top bunk – rad – and was just rubbing my eyes as the bedroom door opened. In walks my uncle carrying a covered silver tray, the fancy kind you see in movies about super rich folks. I’m thinking, “Sweet, breakfast in bed” and sit up nice and tall.

He walks over, wordlessly places the tray on my lap, pulls off the lid, and can you guess what was on the tray?

Was it bacon and eggs?

Waffles with a cube of butter?

Oatmeal with raisins like I’m a freshly retired city worker?

…nope.

It was cocaine. Five neat, straight lines of cocaine.

My uncle looks at me, mutely pumps his eyebrows like he’s a proud cat presenting a dead bird, and proceeds to do a line straight of my lap. He does that classic coke movie “Woohoo!” as I wake up for real.

The Take pt. 2: So, like the Spoon Dream, there was nothing erotic about this one. I get that it’s about being naked in front of an endless line of ladies, but genuinely: it wasn’t actually sexual in the slightest. This one’s called “Grad Night” because for my high school’s graduation party, among the many kickass stations they had set up, one was a dream interpreting station some poor mothers decided to volunteer for (bless their hearts). At this point, I’m seventeen and this dream is a few months old, so anybody who’s heard it is dragging me to that tent. I sit down and reluctantly given them a PG version of events which, as you could imagine – like watching a censored-for-television Tarantino movie – kind of left a lot out of it and left them confused. So, round two, I told them everything as you’ve just now read and this is what they (Oh! Bear in mind they had to act like they were psychics and receiving the interpretation like a vision!) had to say:

“Hmm, well. Yeah. What I’m getting from this is that you have a great…mmm, gift deep within you that you’ll share with a lot of people. Probably women, predominantly. You have a healthy sense of esteem and…[EDIT: I’m sure they were going to say an ego problem, but left that part out] Well, any way, the part about your uncle…hmm, I’m feeling…you’ll soon be offered something dangerous by someone close to you. Make your decisions wisely.”

A lot of the stuff about the “gift deep within” was actually kind of extra funny because at the time I was graduating, I was planning on going into Emergency Response and EMT training (wound up not being right for me), so I thought it might be kind of applicable. When she added the “predominantly women” part, it got screwy. By their divination then, I might be entering psychology, some sort of activism role, or porn (TBD on all three – we’ll see where life takes me).

Anyway, hope you enjoyed, and if you have any alternate meanings you saw poking out from between the lines, feel free to share.

Catch you Thursday, everyone.

PS – I have NEEEEEEWS! Another story of mine, “The Scars of Eliza Gray”, is currently in the works to be featured on the NIGHT LIGHT horror podcast in a few weeks. So stayed tuned, ’cause I’ll be posting updates as I get them and blasting it out there once it’s up! Also keep an eye out and an ear open for the episode where we discuss and give our takes on Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and “Us”! Yaaaaay!

Anecdote from a Gentleman

Happy Thursday, everybody.

Did you know that people with a sensitive enough sense of smell can actually detect storms because of the change in atmosphere and creation of ozone? Apparently it wasn’t just a Kyle XY thing.

Anyway, um…today…okay, I’m just going to say it: Skip over this one.

If you’re a regular follower of these, I’m sorry; if you’re just passing through and happened across it, look the other way. I went digging a little bit for today’s post and came across this gem.

I’m…I’m not proud of it. Just know that about five years ago, I popped this little gem out of my noggin’ and was overly proud of myself.

Okay, enough gabbing. Just…-sigh-

Anecdote from a Gentleman

“Have I ever been at odds with the law? Well yes, there was a time, once. I had been caught, red-handed mind you, surpassing the established limit on vehicle speed for that particular stretch of the road. You must understand, however, that I was not without my reasons. If you’ve the time, I would be glad to recount the tale, as it was quite an experience; one, I should challenge, that does not take place every day. Mind you, it is not without certain graphic nature. You’re sure? Splendid! It went as thus…

“’Yes sir,’ I greeted the uniformed officer as he approached my window and inquired as to whether or not I was aware of my offense. ‘Yes, I realize I was speeding and I fully deserve and accept the ticket you are prepared to write, as doing so is part of your duty. If I may ask you to, as a servant of the public and of the common good, postpone its scripting and simply follow me to my home, a short three miles from here, where I may use the restroom; the need of which is the primary reason for my haste.’

“To this point, the officer had not said a word since his opening question and had simply allowed me to explain myself. He preserved this condition by quietly giving me a look that on its own granted that I continue onto voicing my reasoning. ‘For if you must know,’ I began genially, ‘ I currently need to shit like a wildebeest. There is a pain in my colon at this moment so severe I can feel it in the pit of my stomach. I’ve never before engaged in intercourse with another man before, sir, but if I may only illustrate my point by telling you that I feel as if I’m being penetrated as a virgin, and every slight bump and imperfection in the road is yet another thrust for which I am unprepared.’

“The lawman graciously accepted my appeal and from there escorted me to my home where I put some water on for tea before excusing myself for my task. My trousers were around my ankles whilst I was still a solid ten feet from the restroom’s threshold, forcing me to hop the rest of the way. Not to worry, for I crossed that distance in a few short, albeit tortuous, bounds. My bottom touched the seat to the sound of a chorus of angels’ resounding hallelujah. The smell was at once both atrocious and the sweetest scent of relief ever to grace my senses.

“’How do I know it was the voice of angels’, you ask? An astute question to be sure, one I undoubtedly would have been remiss not to ask myself. You see, it was the precision of the song with the almost crippling light-headedness and dizziness that took place at the time of my hearing it. I believe, as a respectable, God-fearing man, that an experience such as that is reserved alone for direct communion with the heavenly host.

“With the completion of my ordeal, I reentered my home’s living space to the kettle’s whistle and found my lawman friend had departed. In his place there was the written citation which had brought us together. Curiously, I noticed that on its backside something was written, which made me smile. It read: ‘I didn’t believe you at first, but I’ve heard things in war that shocked me less. Any day you can take a shit like that is a good day. Just watch your speed and stay safe. -Jeff’”

FIN

The Take: I mean, what I WILL say for it is that it was a nice opportunity to work out a thought experiment (but that’s really goddamn generous). I’ve only ever gotten one speeding ticket, and in the moment I didn’t want to try anything like this on account of being sort of nervous and not actually an idiot, but I HAVE always wondered – if sold just right – if a move like this could get you out of a ticket. If you’ve done it, successfully or otherwise, God, please let me know. If not, well…try it sometime?

Anyway, after that, I’ll see you guy Tuesday.

Ciao!

Today’s FableFact source: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/storm-scents-smell-rain/

RE: Gabriel Firefoot, the Dancing Flame (and his Buddy)

(Disclaimer, this is a re-post from Tuesday. Again, busy-ass week.)

Did you know that Lego used to bury its used molds in the concrete foundations of buildings to keep them from being reused? Think about that the next time you get paranoid uploading to the Cloud – Lego already one-up’d you.

Happy (Thursday), everybody!

I’m out of cheeky one-liners, so I’m just going to hop right to it.

May I present:

Gabriel Firefoot, the Dancing Flame

Gabriel Firefoot, having been abandoned by his friends in a tavern on the northern edge of the Rift, sat on a wooden bench with a sullen heart in his chest and an ale in his hand. He continued to let the ale quell the headache that pounded away at his temples as a sympathetic bubbling noise came from the ceramic vase at his side.

“I know, Flynnt,” he began, speaking seemingly to the air. “We allow ourselves a single night of gallivanting to properly explore the town, and they up and fucking leave us. Bastards’ll probably get eaten by giants.”

More bubbly syllables arose in response from the container.

“No I don’t actually mean it. Of course I hope they make it back in one piece. They could have said something before taking off is all. The way I figure it, we have plenty of gold left over from our way up here to live pretty comfortable for about a month. They should be back before then, right?”

The cork lid on the vase gave a small, happy jump in reply.

As the weeks progressed, Gabriel frittered away his small adventuring fortune on drink and social displays in the taverns, trinkets and oddities in the shops, and warm baths and women for his luxuries. Though, as his coin purse began to feel light, with his previous adventuring party still not returned to town and no other suitable traveling types coming through, he felt the looming threat of poverty at his heels. Not wishing to return to the days of stealing scraps of bread as a guttersnipe, he turned to the talent that had served him in that time: he performed.

He and his molten familiar Flynnt took to dazzling passersby with the arts of dance, acrobatics, and wonderful displays of fire. Through these talents, his reputation, and social antics, Gabriel managed to make a way for himself and Flynnt. While the two didn’t enjoy quite the same levels of luxury as before, they managed a comfortable residence at the Rift Keep. After some time, his content attitude began to fade and the fire-dancer longed again for the feel of the road beneath his feet.

Perhaps a fortnight after these feelings took root, a fantastic spectacle came to town: Dr. Grumbar’s Terrific Traveling Troop. The nomadic carnival made its stake in the town’s caravan park, and Gabriel would have been perturbed at the subtracted business if Dr. Grumbar himself, a finely dressed, portly dwarf with a magnanimous red beard, hadn’t discovered him while the showman was about town during the carnival’s setup.

“Well look at you!” bellowed the dwarf. “Yer all flames n’ heels n’ wonder ain’t ye? You lookin’ fer work, laddie?”

Gabriel gladly accepted the dwarf’s handsome offer and began his life anew as a dancing acrobat and fire-breather extraordinaire for the traveling circus. After the company had finished its time in the Rift Keep, they set their course south back into Fenris proper. And so Gabriel and Flynnt traveled, performing in such places ranging from Song to Stettin, Freehaven to the Iron Citadel itself. The company found themselves in Neven as the dry season had come around to its peak.

“Hot as a forge’s arsehole up here it is!” Grumbar jested as he addressed the circus. “That, combined with all those horrid critters these poor folk got’a deal with, they need entertainment! Let’s give ’em a show!”

Gabriel and Flynnt had just finished with their routine, making their way to the performers’ tented section of the grounds. Gabriel congratulated himself and his familiar, and Flynnt would bubble back jovial responses to the praise. He had just lied down and was about to uncork Flynnt’s carrier when the bell at their tent door sounded a ring to let them know a visitor had come. He welcomed the fan in, yet withdrew some at the sight that drew back the canvas flap.

A hunched, hooded figure took several hobbling steps into the tent before speaking, though Gabriel already felt an empathetic tension emanate from the vase to his side.

“You and your…creature…were spectacular tonight,” spoke the hood, with a raspy voice and in an accent that Gabriel could not quite place.

“Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the show,” Gabriel offered tenuously. He tried to see the man’s face but the darkness of the hood made it difficult. With a thought, he made the lanterns in the tent burn more brightly.

The hooded man shrank slightly at the added light and turned away some. “Might I, perhaps, meet your creature?” he ventured.

“I’d need to know your name first, sir.” The hooded figure only withdrew further and offered no answer. Gabriel pressed. “Did Grumbar let you back here? It’s normally for performers only.”

“The creature…” repeated the hood. Gabriel felt fear emanate more and more strongly from Flynnt the longer this man remained in the room.

“I think you should go…” Gabriel began, the last words more slipping from his lips than properly spoken. His eyes drifted over the hooded man’s shoulder to the tent flap, gently parted by a nighttime gust, and Gabriel saw the prone, motionless bodies of two guardsmen.

The figure must have read Gabriel’s reaction, for it then wasted no time in making a lunge for the vase that housed Flynnt. Gabriel matched the man’s move, parried him aside, and, with a grapple, threw him over a wooden dresser. As he lifted himself from the ground, the cloak and its hood caught on the dresser’s handle and were pulled away, revealing not a man but a twisted creature. Its limbs were gnarled and covered with violet mange and it wore a mask of black iron through which haunting yellow eyes peered ravenously at Gabriel and Flynnt. Its hands were clawed and it raked the wooden dresser in anger as it prepared for another lunge.

The fire-dancer was quick, scooping up Flynnt in his vase and made to roll under a back tent flap to escape, though too late as the masked creature was upon him, grappling him by the sling that held Flnnt. Gabriel delivered a powerful kick to its midsection, sending the creature toppling over a wardrobe chest. The rope strained and soon tore under the stress of the struggle, sending the hardened ceramic container and its cork stopper tumbling across the room in different directions. Flynnt, desperate to make an escape from the monster, hurriedly spilled out of his vase and sped for his protector, Gabriel.

The masked horror steadied itself and made a grab for Flynnt once more. Gabriel, in a defensive rage, summoned a blaze of fire in both palms and gripped the iron mask tight, pouring all of his essence into the act, screaming with the strain, intent on cooking the beast’s head to ashes inside the cauldron that was its mask. It loosed a gut-wrenching scream at the pain and as it did so Gabriel’s mind was assaulted with all manner of strange symbols and visions. He saw the very earth cracking apart with an orange glow, forests repeatedly burned to ash and regrew in a manner of seconds, and runic notes in a language he recognized but couldn’t understand felt to brand themselves in his mind before all went dark.

Gabriel came to consciousness a short time later to the sound of panic and chaos. He roused his senses, collected the vase with its stopper, and mentally called out to Flynnt. The familiar responded to him with a frightened bubbling sound from under the bed. Gabriel sighed a quick breath of thanks to the powers that be and ushered him into the vase. While the creature that attacked them was nowhere to be seen, Gabriel saw clear drag marks in the dirt leaving the tent in a hurry as well as the creature’s mask, some seared flesh lining the interior. The fire-dancer collected the mask, Flynnt with his carrier, and a small manner of essentials in a satchel and left the tent to investigate the flurry of chaotic sounds that surrounded their tent.

Stepping outside, Gabriel was met with a disastrous sight: the carnival gone up in flames. Circus folk and patrons all bustled about, either in a fleeing panic or efforts to combat the blaze. His head surged with pulses of pain, briefly revisited by the visions brought by the wicked creature’s screams, though in them he saw a building that housed a great tree, split in twain. He recognized it as the great tree in the main tavern by the town’s central plaza, though only this time, he saw the tree’s veins and the life that flowed through them. He felt beckoned and, though desperately weakened by his encounter, mustered what he could to traverse the chaotic crowds between himself and the tree.

He was jostled, shoved, and thrown by the fleeing crowds. As best he could, Gabriel made use of the alleyways so as to avoid the thickest of the flooding mobs. His magic exhausted, Flynnt would shield him from the flames when they would otherwise prove dangerous. Eventually, the two made it to the building which housed the broken tree. Patrons of the establishment and workers all ran about with buckets, drawing from the well to battle the ensuing blaze. Pushing past them all to the front door, he shoved it open and took the final shuffling steps to the base of its trunk.

As he and Flynnt approached the tree amid the chaotic flames, Gabriel felt his focus becoming clearer – the tree before him the center of this focus, gaining an aura that grew stronger the closer he came. The strange runes and glyphs from his encounter with the creature again surged to mind, and as he lay his hand on the trunk’s face, he felt them become an explosion. Symbols and patterns flew about his own mind and that of Flynnt’s: Fire, Earth, Mind, Nature – these ideas and their deeper meanings that transcended language and seared themselves into the fabric of his being. Soon he had both hands on its trunk and the feeling that followed was one singular to that moment in Gabriel’s life.

He felt as a part of the relic on which he laid his hands. The energy that flowed through the tree was like blood through his veins and he felt entrenched in the earth as if its roots were his own. He could see through his touch that the object before him stood not alone, but part of the forest that surrounded Neven and beyond. Though not in voice, this connection begged him use his talents to put down the blaze that threatened it and he soon felt flushed with new energy – a mana force more fluid and pure than he’d experience in his lifetime. With it, his breath came easier, filled his chest more fully, blood flowed with vigor, and the world about him grew ever more vibrant. He gasped and wondered how he would ever dream to describe this moment in the future. He then collected himself and focused.

Outside, as peasants and performers all ran and hurried about, the blazes began to subside. All stopped and began to stare as the fires that once raged and threatened the town now slowly diminished until they were no more.

Gabriel opened his eyes and looked about the inn to see for himself that the flames were extinguished. As his lips broke a smile, dizziness took him. He fell to his knees and soon slumped to the floor entirely. The last sight before the black was the visage of an elderly elven woman coming to stand over him.

Gabriel slowly awoke to find himself on a soft bed of heather under a brilliant starry sky. Looking about him, he soon noticed the bed he lied upon was in an attic of some kind and that the starlight which lit the space came through a hole in the roof. The charring around the edges and the strangely powerful smell informed him that it was a building no doubt involved in the fire, perhaps only now a few hours later. His eyes continued to graze about the room and soon came to land on a mirror resting in the corner.

In the reflection, he observed many things: the edges of his performer’s outfit were singed in areas, he had been bandaged to presumably cover burns he had no memory of getting, but most curious of all, his eyes, normally a rich brown, burned brightly green – though they were noticeably fading as he watched. As they dimmed, so too did the light of the stars, the burnt smell that hung in the air, and other sensations, all to their regular, mortal strength.

Mentally, Gabriel called out to Flynnt and, for the first time in his life with the molten familiar, a voice came in response instead of the empathetic vibration to which he’d become accustomed. It was childlike and spoke to the very center of his mind.

“Hey! I’m in the kitchen with the lady.”

“You…you..” Gabriel mentally stammered, “you can talk now?”

“Always have been,” Flynnt responded with a happy thought. “I think now you can just hear me. At least, that’s what the lady says.”

“What lady?”

“The elf that runs the place. Here, just come downstairs when you’re ready. I think she has some stuff she wants to talk to us about.”

“Wait, first, why do you sound so much like a kid?”

“Do I?”

“Yeah, like you’re five or six.”

“That’s funny. I guess that’s just how you imagined I’d sound. You sound like, well, you. I’ve heard you talk, so I guess that’s not so crazy.”

“Guess not.” Gabriel paused for a minute while he considered the situation.

“Don’t worry too much about it, I say. We saved the town! Come downstairs and talk to the lady.”

“Yeah, be right there.”

Gabriel came down the flight of stairs very slowly, each hobbling step made the aches in his body pulse to such a degree it made him wish he’d never left his heather bed. His hand on the rail to guide him, he made his way down the spiral wooden stair set and found Flynnt, taking a vageuly humanoid form, lounging in a large ceramic bowl the way one does in a bath too small for their size. Next to him was the elderly elven tavern keeper, sprinkling him with salt out of a smaller bowl a few pinches at a time, which sizzled and sparked to nothing on contact. Gabriel could hear Flynnt’s voice in his mind softly giggling.

“If you’re gonna cook him,” Gabriel announced, addressing the woman, “I’d use some turmeric root and black Scythian salt.”

“Mmhm,” returned the elf. “I’d prefer black Castellean peppercorn. He’s a spicy little fucker, this one.” And at once, Gabriel knew he and the elf would get along famously.

“It tickles!” laughed Flynnt.

Gabriel slowly walked over to the table where the two sat. The room was well lit. Sconces on pillars about the main room gave the space an inviting glow and the fire in the hearth offered it warmth. As his eyes lingered on the flame dancing over the logs, he was reminded of the incident. It came to him in painful flashes: the cackling flames, the screams, the creature…the creature. He pushed the heel of his hand into his eye as if fighting off a migraine.

“Take a seat, hero.”

“Yeah, Flynnt mentioned the town was alright. How much is left?”

“A fair bit, actually,” said the elf, producing a pipe from the folds of her apron with a bit of pipe tobacco. She fitted her pipe, packed down the tobacco and leaned over to the lounging elemental. “Be a dear and give us a light, would you?” Flynnt produced an appendage roughly resembling an arm with a digit roughly resembling a thumb which soon turned to flame. “Ah, you’re a doll. It all went down,” she said now turning back to Gabriel, “about as quickly as it started. There are few like to lose their house and a great many burned, but none that I know of who’ve died.”

“Thank you, before I forget. Thank you for bandaging me and taking care of Flynnt here.”

“Ah, keep it,” she said with a dismissive wave of the hand. “Wasn’t gonna let you die here on my floor and leave your critter here to wither away. You’re the hero of the town and all, even if you’re also the one that started it.” She gazed at him through the haze of the pipe.

“I…” he tried. “I what?”

“Please. This town sees it’s share of nightmares – ghouls, alghouls, ghasts, other undead horrors – but blazes that start out of nowhere? Why, that might take a circus with a magical firedancer in the middle of the dry season to start…oh, wait.”

“Well, when you put it like that it seems rather hard to deny.”

“I thought so. And don’t worry or start up with excuses, your critter here’s already told me the details of what happened.”

Flynnt bobbed up and down affirmatively.

“In any case,” the elderly tavern keeper continued, “you do owe some responsibility for the act of destruction, however unintentional.”

“I would love to, and I mean that wholeheartedly, I don’t exactly make a fortune working as a dancer though, dear.”

“You can piss on your money,” said the old woman with a scoff. “What we need to do is throw some reins on that new found power of yours.”

Gabriel prepared a witty retort by instinct, but holstered it in recognition of his experience with the split tree. “Well then, where do we start?”

“Where else?” She smiled a wry smile at the young firedancer and took deeply of her pipe before parting her lips to vent a great stream of smoke. Through the thick haze, her voice spoke: “At the beginning, ya dippy shit.”

The next several months consisted of long hours in waist-deep snows, lessons in concentration and connection to the surrounding earth, as well as many thousands of hits with Elsa’s favorite switch. Tempered by this crucible, Gabriel’s complaints sharply quit and he was introduced to a principle which had never found its way into his natural habit before: discipline. When she felt he was ready, she bade him take a knee before her one eve.

“If I’m going to be honest with you, I wasn’t entirely certain you’d make it through the winter.”

“I certainly aim to please.”

“It was the bet, wasn’t it?”

“I will have to eat once I leave.”

The old elf softly laughed. She anointed his head with oil from a smoke-eye olive and coated him with the fragrance of frost mirriam. “Rise, Gahliel.”

The former firedancer and circus performer rose, now Gahliel. He wore close-fitting robes of a light sunset orange, tailored for him by his elven mentor, though without sleeves as per the student’s request. With Flynnt’s jar strapped about his back and his meager satchel on his side, he stood ready for a word from his teacher.

“I suppose this calls for some form of ceremony,” groaned Elsa. “Firstly, I had this made in case you happened to make it this far.” She slowly turned and reached behind the rows of bottles that made up the bar and pulled out an elegantly carved walking staff of an smooth gray ironwood, which he accepted. “Secondly, a question. Do you have everything with you?”

“Everything what?”
“Everything you need.”

Gahliel gave a skeptical squint. “I suppose I do.”

“Mmm, then if I can just say it’s been an experience. You and that spicy little fucker do some good out there.” She retrieved from her robes a small cloth bundle and undid the folds to reveal an angled blue stone the size of an egg. The young man gave a tired sigh at the sight of the little cobalt nugget. “Getting rid of me, eh?” he thought.

“Well, it’s been real, Els.” With that, he reached out and touched the stone. In a blinding blue flash, the last sight Gahliel carried with him into the abyss that followed was the affectionate smile of the elderly elven tavern keeper of Neven.

FIN

The Take: Gahliel was always fun because of the penchant for cracking wise (like we saw with Revan), but what really made his endearing was his connection with Flynnt. I know he’s just a bubbling cork most of the time, but Gabriel’s protective attachment to him as well as having him finally emerge as a childish entity that giggles at being salted always felt like a real nice ribbon on top.

Also, little known fact, Gabriel eventually went on to get impregnated by a dragon. D&D gets weird.

Anyway, ta-ta until Thursday!

Interested in more? Like knee-slappers and chin-scratchers? Check out my first published work in the Third Flatiron’s “Hidden Histories” anthology here (and tell ’em Evan sent ya!): 
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PRN5ZQ1

Today’s FableFact source: https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2009/02/building-on-a-dynasty/

Gabriel Firefoot, the Dancing Flame (and his Buddy)

Did you know that Lego used to bury its used molds in the concrete foundations of buildings to keep them from being reused? Think about that the next time you get paranoid uploading to the Cloud – Lego already one-up’d you.

Happy Thursday, everybody!

I’m out of cheeky one-liners, so I’m just going to hop right to it.

May I present:

Gabriel Firefoot, the Dancing Flame

Gabriel Firefoot, having been abandoned by his friends in a tavern on the northern edge of the Rift, sat on a wooden bench with a sullen heart in his chest and an ale in his hand. He continued to let the ale quell the headache that pounded away at his temples as a sympathetic bubbling noise came from the ceramic vase at his side.

“I know, Flynnt,” he began, speaking seemingly to the air. “We allow ourselves a single night of gallivanting to properly explore the town, and they up and fucking leave us. Bastards’ll probably get eaten by giants.”

More bubbly syllables arose in response from the container.

“No I don’t actually mean it. Of course I hope they make it back in one piece. They could have said something before taking off is all. The way I figure it, we have plenty of gold left over from our way up here to live pretty comfortable for about a month. They should be back before then, right?”

The cork lid on the vase gave a small, happy jump in reply.

As the weeks progressed, Gabriel frittered away his small adventuring fortune on drink and social displays in the taverns, trinkets and oddities in the shops, and warm baths and women for his luxuries. Though, as his coin purse began to feel light, with his previous adventuring party still not returned to town and no other suitable traveling types coming through, he felt the looming threat of poverty at his heels. Not wishing to return to the days of stealing scraps of bread as a guttersnipe, he turned to the talent that had served him in that time: he performed.

He and his molten familiar Flynnt took to dazzling passersby with the arts of dance, acrobatics, and wonderful displays of fire. Through these talents, his reputation, and social antics, Gabriel managed to make a way for himself and Flynnt. While the two didn’t enjoy quite the same levels of luxury as before, they managed a comfortable residence at the Rift Keep. After some time, his content attitude began to fade and the fire-dancer longed again for the feel of the road beneath his feet.

Perhaps a fortnight after these feelings took root, a fantastic spectacle came to town: Dr. Grumbar’s Terrific Traveling Troop. The nomadic carnival made its stake in the town’s caravan park, and Gabriel would have been perturbed at the subtracted business if Dr. Grumbar himself, a finely dressed, portly dwarf with a magnanimous red beard, hadn’t discovered him while the showman was about town during the carnival’s setup.

“Well look at you!” bellowed the dwarf. “Yer all flames n’ heels n’ wonder ain’t ye? You lookin’ fer work, laddie?”

Gabriel gladly accepted the dwarf’s handsome offer and began his life anew as a dancing acrobat and fire-breather extraordinaire for the traveling circus. After the company had finished its time in the Rift Keep, they set their course south back into Fenris proper. And so Gabriel and Flynnt traveled, performing in such places ranging from Song to Stettin, Freehaven to the Iron Citadel itself. The company found themselves in Neven as the dry season had come around to its peak.

“Hot as a forge’s arsehole up here it is!” Grumbar jested as he addressed the circus. “That, combined with all those horrid critters these poor folk got’a deal with, they need entertainment! Let’s give ’em a show!”

Gabriel and Flynnt had just finished with their routine, making their way to the performers’ tented section of the grounds. Gabriel congratulated himself and his familiar, and Flynnt would bubble back jovial responses to the praise. He had just lied down and was about to uncork Flynnt’s carrier when the bell at their tent door sounded a ring to let them know a visitor had come. He welcomed the fan in, yet withdrew some at the sight that drew back the canvas flap.

A hunched, hooded figure took several hobbling steps into the tent before speaking, though Gabriel already felt an empathetic tension emanate from the vase to his side.

“You and your…creature…were spectacular tonight,” spoke the hood, with a raspy voice and in an accent that Gabriel could not quite place.

“Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the show,” Gabriel offered tenuously. He tried to see the man’s face but the darkness of the hood made it difficult. With a thought, he made the lanterns in the tent burn more brightly.

The hooded man shrank slightly at the added light and turned away some. “Might I, perhaps, meet your creature?” he ventured.

“I’d need to know your name first, sir.” The hooded figure only withdrew further and offered no answer. Gabriel pressed. “Did Grumbar let you back here? It’s normally for performers only.”

“The creature…” repeated the hood. Gabriel felt fear emanate more and more strongly from Flynnt the longer this man remained in the room.

“I think you should go…” Gabriel began, the last words more slipping from his lips than properly spoken. His eyes drifted over the hooded man’s shoulder to the tent flap, gently parted by a nighttime gust, and Gabriel saw the prone, motionless bodies of two guardsmen.

The figure must have read Gabriel’s reaction, for it then wasted no time in making a lunge for the vase that housed Flynnt. Gabriel matched the man’s move, parried him aside, and, with a grapple, threw him over a wooden dresser. As he lifted himself from the ground, the cloak and its hood caught on the dresser’s handle and were pulled away, revealing not a man but a twisted creature. Its limbs were gnarled and covered with violet mange and it wore a mask of black iron through which haunting yellow eyes peered ravenously at Gabriel and Flynnt. Its hands were clawed and it raked the wooden dresser in anger as it prepared for another lunge.

The fire-dancer was quick, scooping up Flynnt in his vase and made to roll under a back tent flap to escape, though too late as the masked creature was upon him, grappling him by the sling that held Flnnt. Gabriel delivered a powerful kick to its midsection, sending the creature toppling over a wardrobe chest. The rope strained and soon tore under the stress of the struggle, sending the hardened ceramic container and its cork stopper tumbling across the room in different directions. Flynnt, desperate to make an escape from the monster, hurriedly spilled out of his vase and sped for his protector, Gabriel.

The masked horror steadied itself and made a grab for Flynnt once more. Gabriel, in a defensive rage, summoned a blaze of fire in both palms and gripped the iron mask tight, pouring all of his essence into the act, screaming with the strain, intent on cooking the beast’s head to ashes inside the cauldron that was its mask. It loosed a gut-wrenching scream at the pain and as it did so Gabriel’s mind was assaulted with all manner of strange symbols and visions. He saw the very earth cracking apart with an orange glow, forests repeatedly burned to ash and regrew in a manner of seconds, and runic notes in a language he recognized but couldn’t understand felt to brand themselves in his mind before all went dark.

Gabriel came to consciousness a short time later to the sound of panic and chaos. He roused his senses, collected the vase with its stopper, and mentally called out to Flynnt. The familiar responded to him with a frightened bubbling sound from under the bed. Gabriel sighed a quick breath of thanks to the powers that be and ushered him into the vase. While the creature that attacked them was nowhere to be seen, Gabriel saw clear drag marks in the dirt leaving the tent in a hurry as well as the creature’s mask, some seared flesh lining the interior. The fire-dancer collected the mask, Flynnt with his carrier, and a small manner of essentials in a satchel and left the tent to investigate the flurry of chaotic sounds that surrounded their tent.

Stepping outside, Gabriel was met with a disastrous sight: the carnival gone up in flames. Circus folk and patrons all bustled about, either in a fleeing panic or efforts to combat the blaze. His head surged with pulses of pain, briefly revisited by the visions brought by the wicked creature’s screams, though in them he saw a building that housed a great tree, split in twain. He recognized it as the great tree in the main tavern by the town’s central plaza, though only this time, he saw the tree’s veins and the life that flowed through them. He felt beckoned and, though desperately weakened by his encounter, mustered what he could to traverse the chaotic crowds between himself and the tree.

He was jostled, shoved, and thrown by the fleeing crowds. As best he could, Gabriel made use of the alleyways so as to avoid the thickest of the flooding mobs. His magic exhausted, Flynnt would shield him from the flames when they would otherwise prove dangerous. Eventually, the two made it to the building which housed the broken tree. Patrons of the establishment and workers all ran about with buckets, drawing from the well to battle the ensuing blaze. Pushing past them all to the front door, he shoved it open and took the final shuffling steps to the base of its trunk.

As he and Flynnt approached the tree amid the chaotic flames, Gabriel felt his focus becoming clearer – the tree before him the center of this focus, gaining an aura that grew stronger the closer he came. The strange runes and glyphs from his encounter with the creature again surged to mind, and as he lay his hand on the trunk’s face, he felt them become an explosion. Symbols and patterns flew about his own mind and that of Flynnt’s: Fire, Earth, Mind, Nature – these ideas and their deeper meanings that transcended language and seared themselves into the fabric of his being. Soon he had both hands on its trunk and the feeling that followed was one singular to that moment in Gabriel’s life.

He felt as a part of the relic on which he laid his hands. The energy that flowed through the tree was like blood through his veins and he felt entrenched in the earth as if its roots were his own. He could see through his touch that the object before him stood not alone, but part of the forest that surrounded Neven and beyond. Though not in voice, this connection begged him use his talents to put down the blaze that threatened it and he soon felt flushed with new energy – a mana force more fluid and pure than he’d experience in his lifetime. With it, his breath came easier, filled his chest more fully, blood flowed with vigor, and the world about him grew ever more vibrant. He gasped and wondered how he would ever dream to describe this moment in the future. He then collected himself and focused.

Outside, as peasants and performers all ran and hurried about, the blazes began to subside. All stopped and began to stare as the fires that once raged and threatened the town now slowly diminished until they were no more.

Gabriel opened his eyes and looked about the inn to see for himself that the flames were extinguished. As his lips broke a smile, dizziness took him. He fell to his knees and soon slumped to the floor entirely. The last sight before the black was the visage of an elderly elven woman coming to stand over him.

Gabriel slowly awoke to find himself on a soft bed of heather under a brilliant starry sky. Looking about him, he soon noticed the bed he lied upon was in an attic of some kind and that the starlight which lit the space came through a hole in the roof. The charring around the edges and the strangely powerful smell informed him that it was a building no doubt involved in the fire, perhaps only now a few hours later. His eyes continued to graze about the room and soon came to land on a mirror resting in the corner.

In the reflection, he observed many things: the edges of his performer’s outfit were singed in areas, he had been bandaged to presumably cover burns he had no memory of getting, but most curious of all, his eyes, normally a rich brown, burned brightly green – though they were noticeably fading as he watched. As they dimmed, so too did the light of the stars, the burnt smell that hung in the air, and other sensations, all to their regular, mortal strength.

Mentally, Gabriel called out to Flynnt and, for the first time in his life with the molten familiar, a voice came in response instead of the empathetic vibration to which he’d become accustomed. It was childlike and spoke to the very center of his mind.

“Hey! I’m in the kitchen with the lady.”

“You…you..” Gabriel mentally stammered, “you can talk now?”

“Always have been,” Flynnt responded with a happy thought. “I think now you can just hear me. At least, that’s what the lady says.”

“What lady?”

“The elf that runs the place. Here, just come downstairs when you’re ready. I think she has some stuff she wants to talk to us about.”

“Wait, first, why do you sound so much like a kid?”

“Do I?”

“Yeah, like you’re five or six.”

“That’s funny. I guess that’s just how you imagined I’d sound. You sound like, well, you. I’ve heard you talk, so I guess that’s not so crazy.”

“Guess not.” Gabriel paused for a minute while he considered the situation.

“Don’t worry too much about it, I say. We saved the town! Come downstairs and talk to the lady.”

“Yeah, be right there.”

Gabriel came down the flight of stairs very slowly, each hobbling step made the aches in his body pulse to such a degree it made him wish he’d never left his heather bed. His hand on the rail to guide him, he made his way down the spiral wooden stair set and found Flynnt, taking a vageuly humanoid form, lounging in a large ceramic bowl the way one does in a bath too small for their size. Next to him was the elderly elven tavern keeper, sprinkling him with salt out of a smaller bowl a few pinches at a time, which sizzled and sparked to nothing on contact. Gabriel could hear Flynnt’s voice in his mind softly giggling.

“If you’re gonna cook him,” Gabriel announced, addressing the woman, “I’d use some turmeric root and black Scythian salt.”

“Mmhm,” returned the elf. “I’d prefer black Castellean peppercorn. He’s a spicy little fucker, this one.” And at once, Gabriel knew he and the elf would get along famously.

“It tickles!” laughed Flynnt.

Gabriel slowly walked over to the table where the two sat. The room was well lit. Sconces on pillars about the main room gave the space an inviting glow and the fire in the hearth offered it warmth. As his eyes lingered on the flame dancing over the logs, he was reminded of the incident. It came to him in painful flashes: the cackling flames, the screams, the creature…the creature. He pushed the heel of his hand into his eye as if fighting off a migraine.

“Take a seat, hero.”

“Yeah, Flynnt mentioned the town was alright. How much is left?”

“A fair bit, actually,” said the elf, producing a pipe from the folds of her apron with a bit of pipe tobacco. She fitted her pipe, packed down the tobacco and leaned over to the lounging elemental. “Be a dear and give us a light, would you?” Flynnt produced an appendage roughly resembling an arm with a digit roughly resembling a thumb which soon turned to flame. “Ah, you’re a doll. It all went down,” she said now turning back to Gabriel, “about as quickly as it started. There are few like to lose their house and a great many burned, but none that I know of who’ve died.”

“Thank you, before I forget. Thank you for bandaging me and taking care of Flynnt here.”

“Ah, keep it,” she said with a dismissive wave of the hand. “Wasn’t gonna let you die here on my floor and leave your critter here to wither away. You’re the hero of the town and all, even if you’re also the one that started it.” She gazed at him through the haze of the pipe.

“I…” he tried. “I what?”

“Please. This town sees it’s share of nightmares – ghouls, alghouls, ghasts, other undead horrors – but blazes that start out of nowhere? Why, that might take a circus with a magical firedancer in the middle of the dry season to start…oh, wait.”

“Well, when you put it like that it seems rather hard to deny.”

“I thought so. And don’t worry or start up with excuses, your critter here’s already told me the details of what happened.”

Flynnt bobbed up and down affirmatively.

“In any case,” the elderly tavern keeper continued, “you do owe some responsibility for the act of destruction, however unintentional.”

“I would love to, and I mean that wholeheartedly, I don’t exactly make a fortune working as a dancer though, dear.”

“You can piss on your money,” said the old woman with a scoff. “What we need to do is throw some reins on that new found power of yours.”

Gabriel prepared a witty retort by instinct, but holstered it in recognition of his experience with the split tree. “Well then, where do we start?”

“Where else?” She smiled a wry smile at the young firedancer and took deeply of her pipe before parting her lips to vent a great stream of smoke. Through the thick haze, her voice spoke: “At the beginning, ya dippy shit.”

The next several months consisted of long hours in waist-deep snows, lessons in concentration and connection to the surrounding earth, as well as many thousands of hits with Elsa’s favorite switch. Tempered by this crucible, Gabriel’s complaints sharply quit and he was introduced to a principle which had never found its way into his natural habit before: discipline. When she felt he was ready, she bade him take a knee before her one eve.

“If I’m going to be honest with you, I wasn’t entirely certain you’d make it through the winter.”

“I certainly aim to please.”

“It was the bet, wasn’t it?”

“I will have to eat once I leave.”

The old elf softly laughed. She anointed his head with oil from a smoke-eye olive and coated him with the fragrance of frost mirriam. “Rise, Gahliel.”

The former firedancer and circus performer rose, now Gahliel. He wore close-fitting robes of a light sunset orange, tailored for him by his elven mentor, though without sleeves as per the student’s request. With Flynnt’s jar strapped about his back and his meager satchel on his side, he stood ready for a word from his teacher.

“I suppose this calls for some form of ceremony,” groaned Elsa. “Firstly, I had this made in case you happened to make it this far.” She slowly turned and reached behind the rows of bottles that made up the bar and pulled out an elegantly carved walking staff of an smooth gray ironwood, which he accepted. “Secondly, a question. Do you have everything with you?”

“Everything what?”
“Everything you need.”

Gahliel gave a skeptical squint. “I suppose I do.”

“Mmm, then if I can just say it’s been an experience. You and that spicy little fucker do some good out there.” She retrieved from her robes a small cloth bundle and undid the folds to reveal an angled blue stone the size of an egg. The young man gave a tired sigh at the sight of the little cobalt nugget. “Getting rid of me, eh?” he thought.

“Well, it’s been real, Els.” With that, he reached out and touched the stone. In a blinding blue flash, the last sight Gahliel carried with him into the abyss that followed was the affectionate smile of the elderly elven tavern keeper of Neven.

FIN

The Take: Gahliel was always fun because of the penchant for cracking wise (like we saw with Revan), but what really made his endearing was his connection with Flynnt. I know he’s just a bubbling cork most of the time, but Gabriel’s protective attachment to him as well as having him finally emerge as a childish entity that giggles at being salted always felt like a real nice ribbon on top.

Also, little known fact, Gabriel eventually went on to get impregnated by a dragon. D&D gets weird.

Anyway, ta-ta until Thursday!

Interested in more? Like knee-slappers and chin-scratchers? Check out my first published work in the Third Flatiron’s “Hidden Histories” anthology here (and tell ’em Evan sent ya!): 
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PRN5ZQ1

Today’s FableFact source: https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2009/02/building-on-a-dynasty/

RE: The Leap of Faith Principle

(Full disclosure, been a busy week, so today’s is a re-post from Tuesday.)

Did you know that giant tarantulas will often keep frogs as pets? Apparently they’ll keep them safe from predators and in return the frogs eat insects that would threaten the spider’s eggs before they hatch.
I guess that means Aragog probably chose a toad for his Hogwarts pet, huh?

Happy Tuesday, everybody!

I don’t know where you live, but in the areas around my neighborhood, people put up these signs in their front lawns a lot. They’re black signs with white lettering and they all sport famous historical or motivational quotes. One of my favorites is by poet and activist Maya Angelou, which says:

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
-Maya Angelou

I guess in that way, her quote has a lot in common with Papa Kratos (check out the last post for the reference). It’s terrific because it, like Kratos, doesn’t expect perfection, doesn’t even expect success. It just expects that you’ll apply yourself the best that you can – The. Best. You don’t need to apologize for failure or coming up short, you can keep your apologies and save yourself the time and words. Instead, observe what’s happened, the effects of your efforts, and fold that experience into your next try.

Because of a lot of life events recently (short version: helping my mother renovate her house, retire, and move), I’m still feeling pretty sensitive to motivational sentiments. So that’s what today’s post is. Like some others, this one came together a while ago in probably a single afternoon on the back of a napkin one day at work. We’ll get into more in The Take.

Without furter adieu, I present:

Lindsey’s Dream

I was standing on a cliff by the ocean. There was a rocky precipice about twelve feet out and there was a small crowd of people standing on it. They all looked happy, fulfilled, and whole. I looked down at the space between our places and saw bodies. They were lifeless, broken, bobbing with the ebb and flow of the waves against the rocks. They were the people who had jumped and didn’t make it. I looked behind me and saw an ocean of people. They stood dressed in rags like me, cold, shaking with anxiety and fear. They were the people who never jumped because they had also seen the waves.

I wanted to jump because I wanted to be where the happy people were, but was afraid because I didn’t want to fall. I looked down at the waves again and, this time, saw something I hadn’t noticed before. It was a hand, then another, then another. They were people who had survived the fall and were climbing back up. So I stood and I watched. Not every climber finished, many fell, but one made it and stood next to me.

“What will you do now?” I asked him.

Breathless, he answered simply: “Rest and jump again.”

And he did. He was old and gaunt, he saw there was reason to be afraid, but he jumped. The man fell short, but he clung to the side of the rocky precipice. Eventually, he pulled himself onto it and was folded in among his new peers. I decided to name him ‘Murphy’.

That was when I jumped too. I had seen others jump with a timid step and that lack of conviction made them slip. I jumped with strong legs and a clear mind, but still I fell. The waves were hard, shocking with the cold, and threw me with overwhelming strength. I saw the lifeless forms around me and felt the seduction of giving into the waves. But I remembered the man’s conviction. It was that conviction that drove him to jump, fall, and yet never drown. I looked to the cliffs. The rock up to the precipice was impossible – sheer, flat, and held an imposing slant. The climb I witnessed the old man make was jagged and sharp, but doable. It started with grabbing the first hold.

So it was that I jumped, fell, climbed, and would jump again. Now those sad faces were watching me. Some were silent, others bid me cease my efforts and join them by their heatless fires. I shuffled off their hindering grasps and made another leap. I had learned. I knew how to run, where to step and where not, and which rocks to spring from. I reached my hand out as I had so many times before, but this time found purchase on the precipice. I allowed myself a smile at a few of the successful who took notice, but the rock I held broke and I fell.

This was the first time I’d felt so frozen by the waves in my many leaps from the bluff. I had done everything correctly. I had made my leaps, I had learned from my falls, I had persevered the pain, the cold, the rock. Yet this time it was the rock that had let me go. It was not my fault, but I still fell. So I began to sink, and as the deep blue grew darker the seduction of the bidding cold returned. I felt my feet touch the inviting, slick, uneven bottom and the light began to close in around my vision of the precipice I had been so near.

I would have let the water take me to join the other fallen if I hadn’t seen it. There, from the bottom of the waters at the base of the cliffs, I saw handholds hidden in the flat stone column of the precipice. They were folded, narrow slits in the stone like gills on a fish, only to be seen from an angle the bottom of the water provided. So, I pushed off the bottom, ascended toward the light, and took a filling breath after I broke the surface. The air tasted of old salt, but I had a love for it. I swam to the base of the column and placed my hands upon it. It was flawlessly smooth, like the surface of polished marble, and it was warm.

I soon found the small pockets hidden in the stone, scarcely wide enough for my fingers, and began to climb. It was terribly demanding, but not unlike what I’d endured in my efforts anyway. I climbed, with aching muscles, burning lungs, and quivering joints, but I climbed. I made it to the edge of the precipice I’d leapt for so many times and pulled myself onto it.

“I knew you would make it,” came a familiar voice. I turned and saw Murphy standing there. I smiled in return, looked about my new peers, and was confused. “What’s the matter?” he asked.

“They’re the same,” I said.

I inspected the community atop the precipice. Everyone stood dressed in rags, and while there were those who wore a contented smile like Murphy did, many others frowned or shook with their own cold. I walked between them, wondering what could bring them displeasure when we had made it. I wondered this until I came to the other edge of the precipice and saw.

I looked around me and saw many with discontented faces. I looked down and saw still bodies, bobbing with the ebb and flow of the waves. I looked up and saw another precipice with a small crowd waiting on the other side, all with happy, wholesome faces.

“Will you stay?” Murphy asked, who had followed me.

I looked at him, then back to the precipice. I smiled at him, placed my steps carefully, and I jumped.

FIN

The Take: “Lindsey” is really kind of an arbitrary name for the perspective in this. Ultimately, what it comes down to is the picture of the various aspects of a leap of faith. I think it originates from an old military turn-o’-phrase, but: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” Back in September of 2018, I left a comfortable manufacturing job to write full-time and put myself on a sabbatical. About two weeks after my last day, my mom got sick, and since then, it’s been a lot of hospital visits, phone calls with insurance, realtors, etc etc.
It was a leap of faith and that turned from coffee-house-bohemia right to dumptruck-of-life-events very quickly, but that’s what a leap of faith is. I think that’s what I’ve come away from this having absorbed, mostly because of this: I’m still here.
I’m still here, my mom has seen better circumstances but I think she’s happy, her house is coming along, I love my family and friends probably now more than ever, and writing has been a lot of wheel-spinning, but it’s gathered bits of traction here and there (check out Hidden Histories by ThirdFlatiron Publishing now and keep an eye out for my episode with the NIGHT LIGHT podcast coming soon! *plug plug nudge nudge*).
It began as a leap of faith, has NOT gone according to plan, but that’s alright. And I guess just try to bear that in mind the next time you’re faced with a choice that comes with a jump (or if you’re in one now). People treat it like a coin toss with Success/Failure being like Life/Death and I just don’t think that’s true. Especially because even though this jump’s come up Tails, a lot of good has come from it and I can always jump again.

Anyway, that’s enough lecturing. I’ll catch you guys Thursday!

Ciao.

Today’s Fable Fact source: https://roaring.earth/tarantulas-and-frogs-are-friends-with-benefits/