Writing project, April 2019

This month’s word is voice, meaning “the sound or sounds uttered through the mouth of living creatures, especially of human beings in speaking, shouting, singing, etc.”.

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I have an amazing voice. Everyone says so.

Sorry, I know that’s not what you asked. How did I first realise my talent, wasn’t it? I’m not sure I’d really call it a talent! It’s just a feature of me. I think, though, it was when I started going to school. I always thought that everyone reacted to children’s voices the way my family did to mine. I mean, you do, don’t you, when you’re little? You think everyone’s family is the same as yours. I thought everyone gathered around to listen adoringly to their children.

When I went to school, I suppose. I noticed that the teachers responded differently to the other children. And after a few weeks someone contacted the authorities and I was taken away from my family.

For my own good, they told me. They said it would be safer. Although they never made it clear who for.

After that, it was testing, testing and more testing. And then they decided to train me as a diplomat. Well, you know how that turned out! Accusations of undue influence, a UN resolution passed banning the use of people with “special abilities” in diplomatic positions, and of course, the Search.

Yes, I wish the Search had found someone else, anyone else, who was like me. It’s lonely being the only one. It’s lonely being me. I can’t even date, because I can’t turn it off. Why do you think I have this speech-to-text setup? Why do you think you’re in a separate room?

Because nobody trusts me, that’s why. Nobody wants to hear me speak any more. Because they’re afraid – you’re afraid – that I’m the monster. And I’m not useful any more, either, so why not lock me away? Can’t trust people like me, even if there are no other people like me. Can’t let me go, don’t want to kill me, just in case.

In case of what? That’s obvious, isn’t it? Never throw away a potential asset, right?

I don’t want to talk to you any more.

What do I want? I want to be normal. I want… I want to be able to have a conversation where the other person disagrees with me. I want to have a conversation where the other person can disagree with me.

You can’t give me that. Nobody can. So please go. And tell them I won’t give any more interviews. I’m tired, I’m done with this. I don’t want to be here any more.

Just leave me alone. It’s the only thing you can do for me now.

© bardofupton 2019

Inkwarriors, part 3 (Fiction)

Meril sighed, putting her chalk down and staring glumly at the glyphs she had attempted to draw.

“I swear I actually get worse the more I practice,” she muttered.

She grabbed a cloth and quickly erased her writing. Even though it was just chalk, and not ink, the habit of destroying any work that was unintended for permanence was ingrained. Also, she didn’t want anyone to see what a bad job she’d done. She knew what the glyphs should look like, but somewhere between her brain and her fingers that knowledge seemed to get lost.

“Precisely why I should do something else with my life,” she said aloud.

“Like befriend that wizard?” Paro inquired quietly from the doorway.

“No, I was thinking of a job,” Meril explained.

“Didn’t you read that book I gave you?”

“Yes, but I’m a terrible inkwarrior. My glyphs are misshapen, so they don’t work. What’s the point of keeping me?”

“You know our secrets, though.”

“I wouldn’t betray you!”

“What if this wizard you’re pining after asked you to?”

“I… I wouldn’t.”

“Easy to say, Meril. But not so easy for us to believe. And we can’t have wizards knowing our secrets.” Paro sighed. “And it’s not just up to us. Even if the guild would let you go, the priests would not.” He patted Meril’s shoulder. “You’re not the first to want something different, Meril, but that’s not the world we live in. You need to make the best of it.”

Meril sighed again. “I know,” she said sadly. “I know.”

“Keep studying,” Paro told her as he left the room.

Meril nodded, but stared out the window instead. Maybe her wizard would walk by. It was around the time they normally did.

She’d first noticed them a year ago, rushing past in the bright pink robes of a wizard’s apprentice. The robes were meant to make them stand out, and they did. It was the pink that had attracted Meril’s attention that first day, as she was staring aimlessly out of the window. And then they had dropped an item, some kind of glass container, and it had broken. She’d seen the look of horror on their face, and felt a pang of sympathy. She too had destroyed important objects, and paid the price in increased chores and angry scolding.

The wizard had looked around furtively, not seeing Meril at the high, narrow window, and had muttered a quick spell. The shards of glass crawled back together, and Meril felt a strange thrill at seeing something forbidden. She knew that if she’d had that power, she’d have used it for the same purpose. She also knew that she should report the use of magic, so that the inkwarriors’ guild could check for cracks in the real, but she had no intention of doing so. It would be a secret between her and the wizard.

After that, she’d looked out for them every day, and gradually come to feel that she knew them. Loving them was a simple step from there. She had still not actually met them or learned their name, but she was determined to make that happen. Somehow.

© bardofupton 2018

Inkwarriors, part 2 (Fiction)

Meril stared at the book. It was extremely thin, more of a pamphlet, really. She hesitated, then flipped it open. At least it was a change from studying.

Elise was the child of a soldier and a weaver, and would therefore have the choice of either career. Her father hoped she’d choose to be a weaver like him, and stay close to home in safety. Her mother had no opinion on that or any other matter, having died in battle when Elise was only four years old.

“At least she got a choice,” Meril muttered sulkily. Inkwarriors always married within their community.

Despite her father’s best efforts, however, Elise had no interest in weaving. Even as a very young child, her only interest was making people laugh. And she was good at it. Her original repertoire was silly jokes that were mainly funny due to her age and the way in which she told them, but as she got older she developed into a true comic.

At this point, her father realised that they had a problem. Somehow Elise was convinced that she was going to be an entertainer. He spent many days and nights trying to convince her that she could be either a weaver or a soldier, but never a performer. Elise refused to budge. She pointed out that she had neither aptitude nor interest in either career, and that she was a talented comedian and it would be a waste of her skills to take up any other calling.

“Besides, it’s a bit late now, isn’t it?” Elise argued. “I’m too old to start learning those skills.”

Her father sighed. “It’s my fault. I should have insisted you choose one or the other years ago, I know, but you were so happy. And you’re all I’ve got since your mother died. I just wanted you to be happy. But now I just want you to live.”

Elise laughed. “Who’ll know?”

“Everyone,” her father said. “Soon you’ll have to register your choice and start working.”

“Why can’t I just register as an entertainer?”

“Because they’ll kill you!” Her father stopped, took a deep breath and tried to speak more calmly. “It’s forbidden.”

“But when they see how good I am,” Elise began.

“Nobody will see how good you are if you’re dead!”

Elise rolled her eyes and laughed. “When was the last time that happened? It’s just a threat they make to keep us in line.”

“It’s not a threat, Elise.”

“Have you ever seen it happen?”

“No, but…”

“Exactly! I’m going to do what I want, and I don’t care if they disapprove.”

“But…”

Elise ran off, confident that her father was being overprotective once again. Her father was equally confident that he was not, but could think of no action he could take. Even if he had known who to bribe, he had no money, and he doubted anyone important could be bribed with the poorly-woven blankets that were his main output. He decided to focus his energy on convincing Elise to change her mind.

He failed.

When the census takers came to the village for the triennial registration, he begged Elise to lie and say she was a weaver. Elise refused, laughing off his protests.

“As if they’ll care,” she said. “They just want something to put on their forms.”

And off she went to the town hall.

Her father followed her, waiting outside the town hall while she registered, for registration was considered a private affair, even though it was a foregone conclusion in virtually all cases. He waited for a long time. All the other young people had gone in, registered and left, but there was no sign of Elise. At last, when night was starting to fall, he gathered his courage and entered the hall.

An official was seated at a table, writing. Servants were tidying the room, and a couple of large men who were clearly bodyguards lurked at the side of the hall.

“I’m looking for my daughter, Elise,” he told the official.

“She’s gone.”

“Gone?”

Meril sighed. “So she’s dead, right?”

“Executed,” the official replied.

“But… But…. Didn’t you let her explain?”

“You know the law. So did she, even if she thought she could flout it. Why waste time with a trial when she’s clearly guilty?”

Elise’s father stared at him.

“Where’s her body?”

The official gestured, and a servant brought a small box over and handed it to Elise’s father.

“What’s this?”

“Your daughter.”

Elise’s father opened the box. It was full of ash.

“Due to the nature of her crime,” the official continued, “she cannot be buried on holy ground.”

“What did you do to her?” Elise’s father screamed.

The bodyguards grabbed him and began to drag him from the room. The official stared coldly at him.

“I merely carried out the sentence prescribed by law. It was your responsibility to teach your daughter the law and ensure she followed it.”

Elise’s father sobbed as he was removed from the hall. He knew the official was right, that he had failed his child, that the true crime was his.

Meril rolled her eyes. “Oh please! What blatant propaganda. Like anyone would be convinced by that.”

She tossed the pamphlet on the desk, and picked up her slate and chalk. Maybe she should at least practice her glyphs.

© bardofupton 2018

Writing project, November 2018

So I thought I’d add another project to the blog. This one is going to be monthly, and the idea is that I choose a word and then write a (most likely) short piece involving the chosen word (poetry or prose, but I’m going to try and write more prose, since I already have a fair amount of poetry here). The idea is to get me writing more regularly.

The piece could be about the word, or use the word, or be inspired by the word.

I will consider suggestions, if anyone wants to make any.

This month’s word is inchoate, meaning “just begun and so not fully formed or developed; rudimentary”.

I decided to write something quite silly for the first one.

I hope you enjoy it.
____________________________________

Inchoate, his feelings swirled within him. He could not decide what to do. Should he have crisps or chocolate? He couldn’t afford both, but he didn’t want to make the wrong decision and open himself up to regret. After all, he’d impulsively bought that chilli-flavoured chocolate the other day, and he still regretted it. It was lying around in the kitchen, barely nibbled. He didn’t really know why he’d purchased it – he hated chilli. He was determined not to make that kind of mistake again.

What did he want? Sweet or salt? The crunch of crisps or the smoothness of chocolate? It was not a decision to be made in a hurry.

“Hey! You’re holding up the line!”

He jumped, startled, and looked around. A huge queue had formed behind him, and it seemed as though they were all staring accusingly at him. He grabbed the closest item, paid, and left without making eye contact with anyone.

Outside, he opened the bag to see what he’d bought. He sighed.

“Pork scratchings. And I’m a vegetarian.”

© bardofupton 2018

Inkwarriors, part 1 (Fiction)

The first thing an inkwarrior child learns is the Code. It’s the first thing they learn when they begin to speak. The Code binds all inkwarriors, regardless of what political differences they may have.

The Code is simple to remember, hard to master. It goes thusly:

An inkwarrior writes the real, keeping it safe from chaos. An inkwarrior wastes no words, writes no lies, holds nothing above their calling. An inkwarrior goes where they are needed, shows no favour, takes no bribes. An inkwarrior owes allegiance only to themselves and to the real…

Meril paused, sighing. “Must I keep repeating this? I know it by heart!”

“If you truly knew it, you’d not be mooning over some wizard! You’re an inkwarrior, Merril. You cannot love a wizard.”

“But I do!”

“You’ve never even spoken to them!”

“I… That’s true, but it doesn’t matter.”

“It doesn’t matter? You’ve no idea who they truly are. And they’re a wizard, so, y’know, evil.”

“How can you say that?”

“Wizards dabble in chaos for their own aggrandisement, Meril. Everyone knows that.”

“Well… I’m sure this wizard is different.”

“Doesn’t matter. They won’t give you the time of day. They hate us as much as we hate them. After all, we do spend a lot of our time undoing what they’ve done.” Paro sighed, seeing the determined look on Meril’s face. “You should forget them. It can’t go anywhere.”

Meril shook her head stubbornly.

“You need to study, Meril. The first exam is in two days!”

“Maybe I don’t want to be an inkwarrior.”

“So? An inkwarrior child becomes an inkwarrior. Just as a wizard’s child becomes a wizard, and a carpenter’s child becomes a carpenter.”

“And that is why our bookshelves are so wobbly,” Meril retorted, “because our carpenter has no actual aptitude for carpentry. Why can’t I become something else?”

Because it’s ordained. Do you want to fight not just the inkwarrior guild, but the priests and the king too?”

Meril stared stubbornly back at Paro, but said nothing. He sighed, and pulled down a thin book from the overflowing bookshelf.

“Read this. Maybe it will change your mind.”

“What is it?”

“It’s the story of the last person who tried a change of career.”

“It’s not very long.”

“There’s a reason for that.”

© bardofupton 2018