Writing project, November 2019

This month’s word is wall, meaning “any of various permanent upright constructions having a length much greater than the thickness and presenting a continuous surface except where pierced by doors, windows, etc.: used for shelter, protection, or privacy, or to subdivide interior space, to support floors, roofs, or the like, to retain earth, to fence in an area, etc.” or “an immaterial or intangible barrier, obstruction, etc., suggesting a wall”.

————–

Walls make me feel safe. It’s always been that way, as long as I can remember. I’m never happier than when I’m indoors. The best, in fact, is sitting inside a closet. Two sets of walls, even if one set is wooden. I’ve occasionally considered putting up a tent within the closet, to maximise the number of walls, but I can’t find one small enough.

It’s not that I never go out. I go out regularly, in fact. It’s just that I’m never happy or relaxed when I am. And as soon as I enter a building, any building, I feel a weight lift off my shoulders. Home is best, of course, but anywhere will do.

When I was a kid, I used to build walls. Walls within walls within walls. Entrances offset from one another, so more of a maze, I suppose. Sometimes they’d be indoors, but more often outdoors. They were never high enough, barely kneehigh usually, but they filled a need – I did always have to start from the outside and build in, though. I’d be too scared otherwise.

All of that, I suppose, explains why I became an architect. Now I can design walls for a living. And I can do it inside.

All this is a prelude to explaining why, when I got an enquiry about designing a labyrinth, I jumped at it. I’ll admit I thought it was an odd request, but how often was I going to get a chance like this? To build walls, and walls within walls?

It was by competition, so others were submitting plans too. I knew I had to outdo them all, so I made the effort to travel to the proposed site so I could adapt my ideas to the location. I made my labyrinth a multi-storey structure, spiralling deep within the ground.

And I won.

At the time I was delighted. I felt like all my dreams had come true. I even supervised the construction in person, because I couldn’t bear to miss the sight of my ideas becoming reality.

But it turns out I was working for a modern-day King Minos, and once this labyrinth was finished, he had all the workmen killed. One of them managed to get out a scream, and that gave me enough time to flee into the labyrinth, but now I’m stuck here. I daren’t leave, because he knows who I am, but I’m afraid to stay. It feels wrong in here. I hear strange noises, and I’m reminded of something I once heard, about how all labyrinths are the same, that there’s only one true labyrinth, and all others connect to it. I laughed at the time, but now I’m not so sure it’s fiction. It’s easy to believe strange things, down here in the dark.

The walls that used to comfort me don’t anymore. I can hear them moving in the darkness, sliding from place to place, changing the layout until I couldn’t escape even if I wanted to. And it feels like there’s something else in here with me, something alive, something angry and malevolent, but there can’t be. Can there?

I don’t know anymore, but I’ve gathered my courage, and I’m going to travel further in. Maybe there’s a way out. Maybe I will end up in the one true labyrinth. Maybe I’ll die here. But whatever happens, I want to find the centre of the labyrinth. I can’t help but think there’s something worth finding there.

Wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

© bardofupton 2019

A new poem

This is another new poem.

today
i have a sad
feeling
downhearted and discouraged
unloved
craving touch
skin hunger blooming
loneliness blossoms
i fall into myself
down dark deep
inside
drowning in myself

i have a sad
today.

© bardofupton 2019

Writing project, October 2019

This month’s word is dark, meaning “gloomy; cheerless; dismal” or “evil; iniquitous; wicked”.

This is going to be a short one, because I am kind of behind on writing it.

————–

It had been raining for weeks. Everything was damp, or wet, or flooded. The sky was a constant grey, making everything gloomy and dim. The perfect weather for a slow, creeping kind of evil. Nothing flashy, nothing too noticeable, just something that spread and spread like a cold, bringing misery to as many as possible. The conditions were ideal for a small, unimportant demon like Xel.

Almost too good, Xel thought to themself. Perhaps it’s a trick.

After all, they did have a number of enemies, despite their insignificance. Other demons were constantly clawing for any advantage. Or perhaps a senior demon was amusing themself by baiting a trap for a minor demon.

That’s not unheard of, thought Xel. I need to be cautious.

Besides, if a senior demon had set things up, they would get the credit, and Xel would have put in a great deal of work for nothing. It was probably better to wait.

Yes, Xel muttered. I’ll wait. Better to wait than to let someone else take credit for my work. Yes.

So, once again, Xel did nothing, for fear of doing the wrong thing or of someone else benefiting. They received neither blame nor praise and as a result, had risen high in the infernal hierarchy, an occurrence which had caused anger amongst those demons who did take action and work to spread darkness over the earth. Xel was aware of this hatred, but was unconcerned by it, as they now outranked all of them.

Although Xel’s fear of doing the wrong thing was an innate trait, they had begun to deliberately cultivate it once they realised how successful it was as a strategy. Xel had, in fact, managed to hack the system, something they were secretly smug about.

Pretty good for a minor imp, they thought to themself. My plan is working.

Xel gave a demonic laugh, breaking off suddenly as Pek, another demon, appeared in their doorway.

Lucifer wants to see you, Pek said.

Xel swallowed. That was never good news. They took a deep breath, stood up, and went to meet their fate.

© bardofupton 2019

wolf (poem)

This is a new poem. It’s been quite a while since I wrote any poetry, so I’m happy to have something new to put up.

I’m feeling quite wolf today
wanting to tear and rend
and howl at the moon
my hands become paws
ripping away with sharpened claws
longer teeth and elongated jaws
I’d like to shred my problems
and scatter them to the winds
solve my issues with a snarl
and a flash of fang
because
today i’m feeling quite wolf

© bardofupton 2019

Writing project, September 2019

This month’s word is doll, meaning “a small figure representing a baby or other human being, especially for use as a child’s toy”.

————–

I’m a floppy kind of thing, sprawled across the bedroom floor. Wool hair, button eyes, skin made of different scraps of fabric: I’m a unique creation.

I lie on the carpet, looking helpless, immobile. You think I’m inanimate, just an object to be moved around at your pleasure. But every night I crawl into your dreams and save you from monsters.

I’ve been with you since you were a baby. That was almost ten years ago. You think you’re too old for me, but somehow you never get round to throwing me away. I’ve been relegated to the floor, however, but it’s fine. I know how this will end: one day you’ll finally throw me out or give me away or, best case scenario, I’ll end up in a box somewhere. And you’ll wonder why your nightmares have gotten worse, but you’ll never put it together.

Humans never do.

© bardofupton 2019

Writing project, August 2019

This month’s word is pocket, meaning “a shaped piece of fabric attached inside or outside a garment and forming a pouch used especially for carrying small articles” or “any pouchlike receptacle, compartment, hollow, or cavity”.

————–

[start of file]

I put pockets in everything. Not just clothes, but in the sofa, in my mattress, in the curtains. I’m obsessed with them. It’s kind of like a magic trick: anything could be in there.

I like to fill them with random objects that I come across. Right now I have the following items in my right sofa pocket: a small pair of scissors, a penny, and two packs of chewing gum.

I spend a lot of time on my pockets: perfecting the size and shape, experimenting with different materials, trying out different types of closures. My favourite pocket at the moment is big enough to get my entire hand in up to the wrist, made of suede, and closes with a popper. It’s a curtain pocket, so I have to be careful what I put in it, otherwise it drags the curtain down on that side.

I spend a lot of time thinking about pockets, is what I’m saying. So it was inevitable that once I heard about the concept of pocket dimensions I would become obsessed with them. I kept wondering if it would be possible to put one into an actual pocket, so that you had infinite storage. Retrieval would be an issue, of course, but consider the possibilities!

I had many sleepless nights thinking about it. I repeatedly contacted cosmologists, astronomers and physicists with queries, to the extent that I’m banned from every university in the country. I tried, and failed, to create one on my own, but I did successfully cause a massive explosion, and that is why I’m now writing you from a secret government facility. It turns out that I somehow invented a new kind of explosive. Not as cool as a new pocket, or a workable pocket dimension, of course, but pretty good for someone who is entirely self-taught.

I will put this note in the portable waterproof, fireproof, unshreddable pocket and drop it in the bin so you can retrieve it from the incinerator, as arranged. This message will be the last; they’re moving me elsewhere tomorrow.

I hope all is well with you, and say hi to everyone for me. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. After all, they need me.

[end of file: text found on desk of [redacted] at [redacted] after sudden cardiac arrest. “pocket” referenced could not be found.]

© bardofupton 2019

Inkwarriors, part 5 (Fiction)

Meril moped around her home for a few days, mourning the loss of her wizard, but then had a sudden, inspiring thought. What if they were interested? After all, they hadn’t said no; they’d just pointed out the difficulty of a relationship between the two of them. Maybe she did stand a chance – if she could find a way to contact them again.

She began to keep a lookout for them, once again. She wondered if they were thinking about her. She hoped so, because she couldn’t stop thinking about them.

***********

In the wizard district, behind its high walls, a certain young wizard was thinking about Meril, but not in the way she hoped. They had thought, after their encounter and Meril’s confession of love, that she would forget them. And she had, briefly.

One of a wizard’s powers was to know when someone was thinking of them. Because a wizard’s true name was a secret even from themself, this feeling was usually a vague background mutter wherein someone was just thinking of wizards in general, but sometimes there would be a spike, usually when another wizard was thinking of them. Meril’s obsession had been annoying before she’d met them, causing large surges of attention. This had only intensified since.

The wizard was unsure what to do. The obvious solution would be to change their route, but the path they took through the city was part of the spell they were in the process of casting, and to change it would destroy the work of many months. Also, thought the irritated wizard, why should they have to change their habits for an inkwarrior, of all things?

The origin of the animosity between wizard and inkwarrior was lost in history, but the essential point was that their aims and methods were opposed. Everyone knew that wizards and inkwarriors did not mix, and indeed could be thought of as two opposing forces.

Both wizards and inkwarriors learned the same catechism as children:

What is an inkwarrior?

An inkwarrior writes the real to keep it safe from chaos.

What is a wizard?

A wizard uses words to bend the real to their will.

This chant was the only known point of commonality between the two groups. There were a few who claimed that this spoke to a shared ancestry, but that was fiercely denied by the elders of both groups.

The wizard decided to take the Meril problem to the wisest person they knew, their mentor. Perhaps they would be able to unravel this tangle. Even if they couldn’t, it would be a relief to talk to someone about it.

***********

Meril knew she should be studying, or practicing her glyphs, or doing anything but obsessing over her wizard. She was fully aware of this, but nevertheless she had not opened any of the books stacked in front of her, nor had she picked up her chalk. She had already taken, and almost certainly failed, nearly all of her exams. There was only the most important one left, the final test of an inkwarrior’s skill: mending the real.

She knew she’d fail it. Probably everyone in the house, down to the youngest child, knew she’d fail, but she had to take it nonetheless. After all, she couldn’t make the glyphs, and if you can’t write the symbols you can’t mend the real.

“I wish I could just quit,” Meril said to herself. But she knew it was impossible. There was nowhere she could go, and in any case she had no other skills. She would be an inkwarrior til she died, and she would never get to be with her wizard.

She buried her face in her hands and cried softly. She might as well resign herself to being the unwanted failure living in her family’s house.

© bardofupton 2019