The Flags Came Finally Down

In the year 2029 (or roughly thereabouts), the world, having finally stopped warring with itself (and therefore being quickly on the mend) decreed that all of its flags forevermore (and when flags were even called for) should, out of respect for the far-too-many millions dead from conflicts and global mismanagement over the many millennia, be forever flown at half-mast.

The decree was raised on a Wednesday afternoon and voted in favour of, with an 87% global approval (and a +/- 2.5% margin of error). By that Thursday evening, many of the flags still flying around our globe had finally come down, to one degree or another.

Of course the decree was not a binding one; some chose to fly their flags at full-mast still – as was their right – while others chose to fly at half (or use the opportunity to remove the flags and repurpose the poles), or leave them to raise to full height only in celebration of good news (itself a subjective call in many cases). Some others – particularly in places historically enamoured with flags (and the right to wave them) – took understandable exception to the decree, and in some of these cases, installed flagpole extensions and larger flags, so they could express their freedom to choose by flying large, in the face of the common will and wisdom on the matter.

And it did not matter to the rest, really, if they did; everyone (including the flag-raisers, if they were being honest) were just happy the Long War on Ourselves was finally done; there were more than enough things left (like what the appropriate height should be to fly a flag) to fight over anyway… so things would never be boring, just far less furious.

At some further stage, some of those that “flew their flag at full-half” began to see no reason to have the top half of their flag pole at all, and installed shorter ones, to save on material and cut down somewhat on “pole pollution”; others would counter this trend by pointing out that the point was to keep the flag at half (out of respect), not just make the flag pole shorter (out of pragmatism). Both sides had their points.

This argument would cause some waffling “half-polers” to later convert back to “half-masters”, dropping their flags to half again, which really made them “quarter-masters”, since they were now at half-mast on a half-sized pole. Sometimes this trend of wavering on the meaning of flags and poles continued, until a person’s flag threatened to touch the ground, it had been so continuously brought down; and then (often) they would just be furled up, and put somewhere safe; or perhaps traded for dry goods, and some services (which are, to many, of more practical importance than flags in any case); occasionally, they might just be hung on a wall (were the wall large enough, or the flag sufficiently small); sometimes, flags would be collected and turned into sails for sailboats; sometimes, they were sold at craft fairs, as portions of blankets, or stuffing for huggable bears.

Flags never really went away, of course – after all, the flags themselves were never the issue – they had only marked the continuance of issues, until those issues themselves had been dealt with; the issues had been the issue, all that time. Don’t blame the flags.

You might be wondering were I came down on the issue of my own flag, at that time. The truth is, like many, I rarely if ever flew one to begin with (though I’ve stood attention to a few in my day); I had no flag to fly at any length of any mast, at the time this was all going down. This made me a bit sad when the whole thing began, because I had no flag to drop in that early and important global solidarity movement – when the flags flew from the shelves, due to demand to put them up in order to bring them back down again. But now I am well over it, being privileged to have seen it happen. It was something to witness.

I have a pillow now, bought online, sewn together from the fragments of nations that not long before dropped bombs on each other to great effect – and each night I put my head upon it, and I dream the most impossible, wonderful dreams.

Beer, the Third

Once our neighbour Harry had his third beer in him, anything might get said. This is why I tried so hard to stay up late enough on those nights when he came over to play Crib with Aunt Bee. I couldn’t stand the thought of missing something Harry might say. I had a whole notebook dedicated to him. I had planned to write a book. One more project that never really went where I thought I wanted it to.

I got good at listening through the floorboards of Bee’s old house, for all sorts of reasons.

As an example: once night, Harry told Bently to go shove himself off a short roof. Another time, he said that Bee had the nicest eyebrows he’d ever seen on a “woman of her age”. I heard him, on two separate occasions, admit that he didn’t mind that he had the “incurable condition of melancholy” – it kept him from doing the rash things he might otherwise have attempted, had he “been a more optimistic man”.

Everything Old Neighbour Harry said was pretty random, as far as I was concerned. It wasn’t what he said, just the volume and inconsistency. And then he died.

Well, the funeral was boring, without Harry’s comments about the catering. Haven’t I mentioned Old Neighbour Harry before now? Well, I just remembered him. I’ve seen and forgotten and seen again so many things in this life. You can’t expect me to recall all of my adventures in one go.

Today is my ninety-eighth birthday. Can you imagine? I can’t. I never thought I would get old- certainly not older than Bee did. I miss her every single day. She was the woman who showed me what kind of woman I wanted to be. Well, not at first. But eventually – and full on. That was Bee: all in her own good time. And powerfully.

But those are other stories. We’re talking about Old Neighbour Harry right now. I think he might have been a warlock. Just a hunch though. Never confirmed.

My favourite thing Harry ever said in my presence (though not knowing I was present… wait – as far as I know) was this:

“You can’t make anybody do anything at all, except what you actually need them to do, so you can get on with the being of you”.

Well. I was eight when he said that. Imagine how many years I had to chew on it before it made any kind of sense at all. But I did, and it did. Big time.

I won’t go into the details. I cried at his funeral. That was only the fourth time I had ever cried, like out loud. Embarrassing. Nobody saw that coming. Not Maevis Morgan. Maeve was the girl who didn’t do anything when she was supposed to. I guess Harry got to me. He was unmarried but like my third or fourth grandfather. I had a few. I didn’t always recognize them for being that, but I do now. A person needs grand mothers and fathers. A girl needs elders. So does a boy. Any child. You just ask them to really think about it. They’ll know.

There was a time when we didn’t know. We had forgotten. We had to be reminded. Reminded where we came from, and why we needed all our hands on deck. Even the wrinkled ones. Especially in those troubled times. We hadn’t quite gotten to Mars yet, in style. I won’t spoil the story for you – it’s a good one, and ongoing. Maybe I said that already, somewhere else.

We needed to fix some things on Earth before we could go to the stars, with those first steps. It seems so obvious now, but it wasn’t then. I don’t know why. We were wrapped in plastic and fear and rage – or something. Niall once told me that he thought we were just a butterfly about to bloom. I told him butterflies and flowers were related but not the same thing, and he told me he wholeheartedly agreed – but we were still a butterfly about to bloom. I think he was right.

You might not know what I’m talking about right now, but that’s ok too. I don’t know how I got to be ninety-eight, but I did. It’s not so bad at all. I get lots of perks. I’m technically a cyborg, I’ve got some replacement bits. Nothing too cool though. Standard stuff. I’ve waived my right to gene mods. That’s a little much. I guess I’m old-school that way.

Look, Harry’s still with me. I keep a poem he wrote. He left it on a chair in Bee’s kitchen, the night I saw him for the last time (but didn’t know it then). It says this:

Maeve- keep your ear to the ground and your eye to the stars. Your generation will fix things. That’s really what you’re here for. Every one of you. Me, I’m here to get drunk, screw up mightily, and make kids like you keeping wanting more for yourself, by the time you’re my age. Don’t forget you are all magic. Say hello to Mars for me.

Harry, I never did, and I certainly will.

Flash Flood Fiction

Just that past week, the water had rose like some damp demon to right below the bottom step of our front stoop. Hello, ocean. Within a week, it had travelled meters or miles, depending on where you were in the world when it had happened.

I called to tell Grandmother B to be careful, and ask her if she was safe, and I wanted to make sure her neighbours were around and knew where she was and what she needed. She was, according to herself, just fine. “Things could always be worse”.

Could they, now?

My Grandma had a blog and on that blog she wrote about things she felt and thought and prayed for and I thought it was just so much nonsense to spend time writing about wispy things like dreams and prayers when the world was in such disarray.

I didn’t understand how anything could be fine anymore. Everything was upside down in our world. Supply lines were a mess. The news was agape and aghast, as they say. My Internet was more intermittent than ever. There were runs on things.

And yet, Grandma was mostly concerned about the garden. She had worked on her planting all that spring and now her flowers might not bloom. Or something. I didn’t listen. I was making lists of things I’d send Terry to go stand in line for, somewhere. He knew a guy with a rowboat. I’m not making this up.

Of course I could tell you about all of the intervening months between that time and now, and the troubles, and the turmoils… but you already know I’m OK enough to be writing this, and that I’ve found a way to send it to you. I can tell you also that Grandma’s flowers did bloom, and she’s visiting this weekend with her sisters. Somehow, all of them are still with us, just as they’ve always been.

I won’t spoil what happened – it’s a good story. The upshot is, we got served. People are a bit kinder now, and we’re all growing up a little, because… well, what choice did we have? Things aren’t the dark ages like you’d think – but boy-howdy, are they different. I’m not sure you mind all the changes we had to make though. Don’t count humanity out quite so quickly. We’re like cockroaches that way, but we make art and we make love and, if we get served hard enough, we make change too. We’re real good at making change. Don’t forget that.

Well, my power credits are nearly out for the day – the Internet’s about to go brown for a while so essential services can run smoothly. I don’t mind having to unplug – there’s work to be done planting. Also, it’s game night, and we’re playing Settlers of Catan by candlelight. Norm finally found the dice (in the hamster cage, go figure).

Things could always be worse.

Self-Scattered Seeds (plus bonus story)

#JOURNAL

Some time ago, I decided what I needed was to create another blog, so that I could put one type of Written Thing on one blog, and another type of Written Thing on the other. That, in turn, soon led me to create yet another blog – because the various types of Written Things were more numerous than just two types, and the idea had by then taken root: I needed a bunch of blogs for my bunch of moods and moody notions.

At the point where I found myself opening this third blog, I almost at once felt both as though I might have either extended myself too far, or else, once again, taken on a bit too much. Having three blogs did not make me feel somehow as though I now had less work to do, in organizing my Written Things. As to why I had ever assumed that it would, your guess is as good as mine, I imagine.

My plan had been simple enough: Separate Fact (i.e. Opinion) from Fiction (i.e. Stories). Readers who liked Opinions could go to one place, where that’s all I would share (and using different colour schemes), and Readers who preferred made-up stories could stay here, where I would endeavour to post only truly really made-up things: stories about people or animals or creatures that definitely weren’t me directly – although were nonetheless often admittedly inspired by what my life (the only one I can directly experience, while in it) made me feel and think about.

The characters in these made-up stories were oftentimes not not me… but they were still not me. Some of them were bits of people I knew, and then bits I made up, or thought about, for reasons unknown to me. Standard fiction-writing stuff.

The opinions expressed in the blog where I put opinions were of course usually more like me trying to be me… but they aren’t necessarily me either, and as time goes on, they might be even less and less me. People change.

I still draw a line between fiction and “non”-fiction, but I am no longer so sure I need to practice endless branching more than I already do. I’ve gotten myself out on a limb with all the branching – it’s made me a bit tired of starting things that I’ll never finish.

Whenever I come here (the Internet) to write words – whether it’s opinions or poems or stories or whatever else – I am really just trying to express myself, after all. The mode of expression might make for some interesting categorization opportunities, but is it worth splitting my persona into a bunch of specialist writer-characters?

And what if I feel like stating an opinion, and then immediately sharing a Flash Fiction piece about a tree whom I just made up?

What then, and where will it go?


#FICTION

Whelbus, the Middle-sized Tree Didn’t Go for a Stroll, One Foggy Afternoon

Whelbus was a middle-sized tree, as trees go. They had no legs to speak of (that they knew of) and so couldn’t imagine ever going for a stroll, and so never truly did.

This went on for some time – perhaps a full lifetime, if you are one of the shorter lives lived in the shade of Whelbus’s leafy top part – and then one sunny morning (or it might have been a rainy night, Whelbus had a hard time telling, at times), the notion occurred to them that they wouldn’t mind picking up their roots, and moving someplace new.

Why, might you suppose, would a perfectly ordinary, middle-sized tree ever think to do such a thing? Well, why do trees of any size ever choose to think to do anything, really? I can’t rightly tell you, I don’t happen to be one at the moment. I only know this story as it was told to me by a sparrow friend of mine, who told me that she knew some Crow who had heard somehow how it all went down.

All my friend and I (and of course, the Crow) know is that Whelbus one day somewhat woke up (I’m told it happens even to trees, a times), and felt they’d rather be … well, not exactly Here, where they had always been… but perhaps There, instead.

To a tree of almost any size, the concept of There is almost entirely foreign. It is a real abstraction to imagine any other place than Here, the place where you are and always have been, when you are a tree. In fact, even coming to terms with the idea of there being a Here rather naturally takes some serious considering. After all, without a concept of There, how in heaven’s name does one even fully understand about the idea of Here? These things rely upon the other, after all – otherwise, the whole thing makes practically no sense whatsoever.

But still, after rings (years) of gradually coming to terms with the idea that they had, in fact, been Here all of this time, Whelbus finally woke up to the idea that there must then be a There… somewhere.

This all took time to sort out, but trees very often have a fair amount of that. And so, this is what happened; Whelbus wished to know what it might be like to be There, instead of Here.

Well. You can imagine how that might have gone – that day that Whelbus first thought to try and move their roots… and I mean, really try to move them, and not just grow them a bit further outward, in search of more water and minerals.

All of that growing beneath the ground had made their roots quite entrenched in their ways on the matter: they were not willing to budge.

Oh, Whelbus tried. Believe me – because I certainly believe the sparrow that told me, because she heard it from the Crow, and they know all about trees… and their sometimes attempting to try things that they were never once meant to do.

Whelbus wasn’t the first tree to try the trick of walking uprooted and upright – and wouldn’t be the last, not by a long shot.

Why do you think trees fall on their own in the forest? I bet you’ve been told it’s wind, or maybe soil erosion, or even tree rot.

Well, yes, granted, oftentimes those are the reasons. Sometimes though, it’s just that the tree finally broke free, took one tentative step, and fell flat on their face. How could it happen any other way? Roots are not feet, and even humans fall a good number of times before they figure out how to get back up. They’re fortunately flexible (and resilient) enough to do just that, nearly almost every time.

But if trees were meant to walk, well, we’d all be in some kind of trouble, wouldn’t we? Quite thankfully (though perhaps not for Whelbus), they are most certainly not meant to do just that.

Peasant’s Poetry Circle

Philgram Noodlen had started a poetry circle for the other peasants in the county just that past season, and it had quite taken off. None of the other serfs had ever thought to try such a thing – but now that all the warring and pillaging and looting and Goblin scourges (and scourging) had seemed to have ceased, at least for a spell, common folk had come to have more time on their hands for things not directly related to hiding from dire peril. Arts and crafts began happening in the most curious of places.

I won’t belabour the story with unneeded history, or extend it overmuch into some sort of pointed tale; I’ll simply recall for you here the second-place entry for that first year’s poetry fair, held just West and North of Duchess Banks (a middling sized town where the best woollen cloaks can still be bought for mostly fair prices).

The title of the poem was not submitted, as the author hadn’t yet had the opportunity to learn to read, and therefore had not had the opportunity (or even notion) to read the contest’s rules about naming poems.

He had instead spoken his poem to the Goatkeep who was standing next to him, who had then asked his daughter to write it down for the man. The daughter agreed, finding her father’s friend’s poem quite nice, even by her standards (she had already met four real Bards by the age of eighteen). The two men – I’m talking about Goatkeep and his friend (the town smith) – had been old friends for most of their lives, though had only that year been able to attend a poetry event for the first time, neither having ever heard of one before, prior to that.

Again, I digress. I get all the stories in my head wanting to come out at once. It is an issue. Back to the poem (which went on to win second-place, if you recall):

The poem was handed in, just shy of the deadline at noon, and read aloud by the town crier (Jack something or another) in front of the crowd, which numbered close to one-hundred-and-twenty human souls (and those of three cows and a cat):

I do not know
how I can be
in this world
of such beauty
and pain, but
night and day,
how I might
(and if I may),
I can but will
to try again.
Thank you.


The judges on hand were not altogether certain whether that last line was to be a part of the submitted poem, but felt it rude to ask right then in front of the gathering, and so we have all since left it in.

The crowd was pleased enough with it, clapping politely and in several cases nodding appreciatively too.

None of them knew the smith had had his sad days, or struggled at all with anything except how to swing a hammer and stoke a flame. He had always worn a smile, whenever out in public.

But of course he had suffered – had he not lost his wife three summers ago? I suppose it had just not occurred to anyone in town to call on him after, and ask how he had been – so many had been lost that year. The rest needed his nails, and his hoes, and occasionally a sharpening for an ax or knife – now more than ever, with so much work to be done in the repairing of things.

They had otherwise all been dealing with their own problems for a bit too long by then – and each assuming they had been the only one who found this life so hard, somehow.

After that fair, the smith had more visitors to his smithy than he had before, and began telling stories from his youth while he worked, some of which were quite good, and well spoken enough, in his old, grey voice, punctuated by a hammer’s fall. Some tales too were a bit naughty. You just never knew.

The Goatkeep learned to read well enough to write some simple things down himself, for others who had not yet learned to do that for themselves but didn’t mind asking for help. His daughter soon moved to Glassworks to study scribery and archery, and to pursue Politics (a new craft of the young – he was not entirely sure what that was, but knew his daughter would do it well, being more like her mother than him).

As for the winning poem of that contest, I’m afraid I’ve lost my notes. That is, I’ve lost it within my notes… many of which I’ve lost. The finding of those are all other stories.

(Philgram travels the Isles still, starting trouble wherever he may.)

“Shhhhh … I’m thinking something”

This is what he said to me, when I asked him what he was doing. He could have left out the Shhhhh part, and just answered my question. Thinking something, thanks for asking would have been perfectly fine.

He was always like that, back then: complicated when you tried to be his friend. I tried a lot. I mean, it worked eventually, obviously. I’m good at friend-making. Now, anyway. Maybe not in the beginning.

It doesn’t matter. Niall was hard to figure out. He always had something going on, and I always wanted to know what, which annoyed me – and that was confusing. It was all too complicated. Regular school kid stuff, then all that weird stuff thrown in. Like I needed all of that, all at once. But that’s all other stories.

He’s still always doing something, and it’s often pretty weird. He never waits for anybody to start something, so that he can join in – he just goes and starts something himself, and then everybody (well, me, and sometimes other people) have to find out what he’s doing. Usually, we want to join him, even though we still don’t understand what we’re doing, or why. We just need to be there. You know, that’s friend stuff.

This was one of those times, anyway. Niall had started something on his own. He was in the library, at the table next to the Globe of the World in the corner, looking at a book, which wasn’t opened – and he had been looking at it for a while like that (not being used like a book), and at some point I just couldn’t take it anymore so I had to go over and ask him what he was doing. Just so that I could stop wondering about it. He was always being annoying like that.

And that’s when he Shhhhh‘ed me. Second time that week, not that I was counting. I wasn’t. I just remember things.

So I waited for him to elaborate – me standing there like an idiot, again, waiting for Niall to figure out people couldn’t read his mind, but that this didn’t mean they didn’t want to know what was going on in it anyway. He knew this. He must have. Actually I still don’t know. He’s changed a lot, but not really in some ways, at all. Just some ways.

It was fifth or seventh grade. I don’t remember that part. I said I remember things – I didn’t say how many, or how often. That’s a whole other story too.

So we’re in the school library, and this is in 5th-or-7th grade, like I just mentioned, and it’s lunch time or after school or maybe before school – Niall was in the library a lot, so that’s where I was too – and I’m standing there like an idiot, waiting for the rest of the answer to my question, already knowing it’s probably not coming. Thinking what?

Niall just keeps looking at the book. The one he hasn’t opened for twenty minutes now. It looks old, like one of those magic books in one of those stories about magic books. I didn’t know then. He’s sitting, he doesn’t ask me if I want to sit, or how my day’s going… or what I’m doing. No. Not Niall. Niall doesn’t care what anybody is doing, most all of the time. Well, certainly a good some of the time.

Then he says this (yes, I know I’m changing tense. I’m allowed, it’s my story. The retelling is taking me back there, keep up):

“Do you notice something?”

“What?” I’m surprised. I was in the middle of being mad at him for not wanting to know what I was doing – or wanting to tell me what he was doing – and then he asked me a question, which I hadn’t thought would happen. That almost never happened. Maybe that was the first time, actually. Hm.

Asks me, I mean. Stay with me – we’re back there now. In the past – the present-tense.

So Niall looks up, makes brief eye contact with my right shoulder (he’s having a “warm day”)… he says, “This book is on backward. Can you see?” He pokes the book. Like it might do something back. He’s acting strange. I mean, more strange.

I’m looking at the book too, but I’m not getting what he’s saying. “On backward? Niall, I don’t know what you’re talking about again. Can I sit down, or something?” I’m looking at two chairs across from him but all his stuff’s on both of them. He does that – I mean, did that – on purpose. I mean, he still does it, too, sometimes, in libraries and Tim Hortons. Niall’s still Niall- just taller and different.

“Niall.” No response, the book is all there is in Niall’s world, right then. He’s shifted it slightly on the table. It’s a book.

“Niall. Hey, Niall. Can I sit down? Niall.”

But he’s not listening to me, again, and now he’s not sitting down anymore either. He’s gathering all his stuff. Very efficient. I can tell he’s gotten Mission Brain. It happens very suddenly – you have to be careful not to get in his way when Mission Brain happens. He pretty much will run right into you, like the regular world is invisible and it’s been replaced by a different one.

“Niall. Where are you going? Niall.” He’s got his two backpacks (the big Brown one and the small blue one) and that book and his Cheetah thermos, and then he’s past me, and then I’m still saying “Niall!” but louder now, so the librarian is almost also getting ready to Shhhhhh… and then Niall stops, like he’s almost forgotten something.

And I stop breathing. I’m learning some Niall, by then.

And his back is to me, but his torso sort of half-twists in that awkward way, and his head turns even a little more, so that I can just see the side of his face now, and maybe he is looking at me too in his peripheral vision, and he says, “We need to go somewhere, now. Let’s go.” And then he goes, and fast.

And the mission is on.

And I don’t what it is, at all, but I’m on the mission too, and I don’t need anything more – not anything. I’m fine now.

We’ve always been that way, since. Things have happened but we’re still there, doing that kind of thing. We’re both different, but we’re both even more just the same. And even better.

But that’s more short stories still.

The Day I Met Most-Recent Jesus

This is a short story I wrote after drawing a picture, and then giving it a title, based on what it made me think of. I thought it would be easier to write the story, having a picture, but it wasn’t – in fact, I’m luke-warm about the result. There’s no real punch, no twist, and no moral. It’s just odd and incomplete. I feel like writing it again, and putting it in a completely different context, but I don’t think I will. I’ll just post it here as an attempt, and hope that Jesus has a sense of humour.

Although I initially decided to password-protect this post, I decided this morning that a better idea would be to open it up as an example of a half-baked idea that remains half-baked.

This is an open-source blog, and so I welcome you to take this image and create an even better story (of any length), using the image as the starting point. You can of course just continue the story as I’ve started it, if you think it might have been going somewhere interesting. If you have Photoshop skills, you can also mess with the image, maybe adding a different title. You get the idea. This is yours, if you want it.


Some fiction I hope prophets will not dislike

I must write this down before I forget – I’ve had one-too-many drinks I’m afraid, and my head might not be on quite straight. I think I just met Jesus, twice in one night.

He was at this party I left an hour ago. He looked the part, though a head taller than I imagined him. Beard and demeanour otherwise spot-on, though I’m no catholic, so can’t say for sure. I’ve seen him of course hanging here and there in effigy around town, I feel I know him in some way. Never that up-close though, I admit. I’ll have to ask around if his physical dimensions were ever known.

I should mention that the party was put on by the local LARPing community, for a charity of some sort, or something. I went there in the hopes of getting laid, I suppose. It’s been a long year, and I’ve taken a while getting to know people here. None of that matters though, after a person thinks for fairly certain that they have just met Jesus.

Of course, most of us were in robes or cloaks or leathers of some kind, because that’s what LARPers do at LARPing parties for charity. There were wizards and elves and witches and an anime robot or two. A few warrior-types sporting real armour, even… and then the woman with the green skin paint – a goblin priestess whose number I will never forget never asking for. She left early with friends, which made me and several other virgins present a bit blue. I’m being presumptuous again – perhaps I’m the only one left.

Did I mention Jesus though? He stood out, even though I know what you’re thinking – he showed up in a costume and had hair and a beard like Jesus, but that doesn’t make him Jesus. The shine is dwindling now, but it was bright. I don’t know how to describe it. I wish I could think straight to get all the details down.

He saw through me – but in a way that made me feel clean, despite all that dirt inside.

I was looking for another beer or something to make me into a braver man, and I had pushed though the hall and into the tiny back kitchen, where there was an odd lack of crowd – only a couple discussing a movie in the corner nearest the toaster, and then the calmest man I have ever seen standing by himself at the window ledge, regarding a fishbowl on a shelf, set among some hapless plants.

Who puts a fishbowl in a kitchen? I asked of Jesus, as I opened the fridge and found a beer. Jesus did not speak, but smiled – at me or the fish or both, I couldn’t say – and that’s the moment I knew at once that he was Jesus Christ, and not a LARPer at all. I can’t tell you how I knew it, but I did. His cloak was plain, and he had running shoes worn almost through. He had nothing else with him; I knew this.

So, how do you know Ben? (Ben being the host, whom I barely knew myself). I cracked the beer open, and drank it down fast. I had left all my courage at the door, and I had just met the Son of God.

He had put his finger on the glass of the bowl while the lone tetra drifted idly, neither hungry nor curious.

Jesus said, I’ve known Ben forever. He had no questions for me; there was nothing Jesus didn’t know, as far as I could tell, and so I just nodded and stood there for a time, watching a tetra in a fishbowl with Jesus Christ. It was nice. I’m not sure why. I forgot what it was to be awkward, or to want anything.

Eventually I needed to take a piss, so I went to find the washroom, and the whole time I was away from Jesus, I knew he would be gone when I got back. And he was. I asked around but nearly nobody knew who I was talking about, and those who did just said they thought he was a friend of Ben’s. Ben had no idea whom I meant, when I said the “Tall guy who looked a lot like Jesus”.

So I left the party not long after that – the highlight of my evening being clearly over. Why hadn’t I asked Jesus any questions? Why hadn’t he given me any answers anyway? Didn’t he know I could use some advice about every possible thing in my life right now? I’m only twenty-four and already I’m so, so lost. My parents didn’t teach me to believe in anything at all – they just told me to be careful, and that they supported my decisions.

So I walked myself to the bus stop two blocks away from Ben’s, to catch the last seventeen back to my place, and a minute later, up rolls Jesus on a bicycle. It’s nearly midnight and he’s not wearing any reflectors, and isn’t wearing a helmet. He brings the bike to a stop right in front of me, gets off the thing, and offers it to me.

You missed your bus, Jesus says. Take this – I have another. And after a short pause, I do accept it, and he’s right – the seventeen stopped running a half hour ago, because they changed the schedule, and I just forgot. But now I have a bicycle, thanks to Jesus.

I left him there and peddled away, and didn’t even think to thank him, or consider how weird it was to just accept a bicycle from a stranger – even if I was pretty sure that stranger was also God.

Where he walked himself from there, I really don’t know.

The Long Spell, Part I (of Many)

The ancestors who first dwelled here (that is, following the Ant and the Bee and the Frog of course – and also the Bear and the Drake, I must not forget to mention) were known as the Older Folk. I mean, they still are called that, at least in the villages I have come to visit in my time here.

The descendants of the Older Folk call them Ancestors, or sometimes the Gone Kin. These descendants are now just counted as many among a greater many of us, though some hold fast to traditions from their own lineage, and so still self-identify with those Gone Kin, although now long-gone. My family too is like that, though they – we – came to the Isles only after they had become Islands – that is to say, recently. We have less past to proclaim, at present.

The Gone Kin had cast The Long Spell on all of us, it was long ago told (and still is). This is a story not easily told in a short form, since The Long Spell, when rightly cast, cannot be seen as more than events unfolding due to diverse causes, causing effects that become more causes still. Ripples in Things.

The science of The Long Spell (more of a craft I am told, though do not tell that to a wizard) is complex and nuanced and full of opportunities to get it (and then other things) quite wrong. Entire kingdoms now beneath the earth or waves can sadly attest to that. I have been studying the histories of Long Spells gone wrong for, well, quite a long while now. So I know a thing or two.

The point I am hoping to make here is simply that “ordinary” time and circumstance is anything but; we are ensorcelled still it would seem, by those who lived in these hills and under the ancestors of the trees many of us now call home. The Spell continues to unfold, shaping events into its likeness – a likeness conceived over the full time of its casting, which is not yet complete.

You might ask (especially if you have not progressed past second-year-or-so in the general study of Magical Arts, and who could blame you for not?) why it is that a spell can take effect before it has gotten fully done with being cast. This would be a legitimate question, and there is no shame in the asking.

The Long Spell school of thought is not one easily reconciled with those of more straightforward forms of magic – namely, Elementalism, Wards & Banes, Guile (or Illusion), Necromancy (pardon for speaking its word), Divination, Temporalism, and ARTIFICING (to state only the most obvious); these other Arts all in some way or another require an intention to be set – and energy then expended – in order so they may then commence to changing their environment in one manner or another. Long Spells by contrast become a part of their environment, and so change (and are changed by) them, over time. This, to many folk, simply sounds like normal, mundane life, impacted as it always is by actors and then heir actions. Quite so, it does, and indeed.

I haven’t the time for that rabbit hole though (wherever did that term come from? I am unaware altogether of its origin, though its meaning seems somewhat plain, regardless). I must simply refer the reader to one of the many treatments on this subject by its currently assumed authorities, namely: Morthander T.R. Gilrod, The Widely-Written Grey Witch Ajest O’Feathern, or any of the current Penumbrahm Septuplets (saving, of course, the fourth). Long Spell theory has taken lifetimes to formulate, and will naturally take the lion’s share of any other’s who might seek to discern its mystery currents, and how to best ride, weather, or shape them anew.

What I have been consulted to achieve is the finding of those still living and responsible for the Spell-in-question’s upkeep, ongoing invocation, and full implications. It is surely not the case (a case put forth by several in recent years) that Long Spells are by definition impossible to stop once begun – they have proponents and summoners and guardians (as does any venture), and these are all mostly mortal, or at least partially so. Mortality is part of the requirement for being able to perceive Long Spells at work (and therefore, by definition, participate in their doing or undoing (as the case may be, in your case or another’s)). I am sent to sever or save one or more of those. This is my current career, you might say, I suppose.

I am now, therefore, at the full crossroads. I mean this literally (and then in the other sense), in that I am penning this report while sitting upon a Setting Stone (one carved precisely for sitting, if you are unfamiliar with the concept or practice – I will not make assumptions about from where all of the readers of this report might hail). This Stone is located at the intersection of the Old King’s High Road, and Teller’s Fork Trail. There is in fact a third path leading from this same intersection both ways, though I am not at liberty to say anything more about that at this time.

Suffice it to say, I have (more or less) at least six, established, ground-based directions to travel in from here: The road, the trail, and the path all continuing on their own ways straight through and then beyond this intersection, and all at roughly even tangents to the others.

I am currently not in possession of a flying mount or magical means of aerial propulsion (either and any of which would have been somewhat easy-enough to find only a few decades ago, quite unlike our today), and I am not about to try my hard luck once again and so soon on bushwhacking through the Hedgewild like a lunatic. Not after tomorrow’s fiasco falling into that time puddle. It will be the death of me yet, I’ll wager (being no Temporalist, I thankfully cannot know some things well enough to really worry about them until after they’ve presumably happened).

My beacon ring – the only small thing with an enchantment left on my person – suggests I go in all six directions at once, which of course means that it is either energetically confused, out of charge (finally?), or knows something I probably should (or shouldn’t). I have a weighted walking stick for defence, several day’s dried food, extra travelling clothes, some rope, and a bag of other essentials of the kind you might expect. It is late Fall – the snow will not likely come for a full season still, if at all. I have no reliable means of filtering water, though I have so far managed to find an inn every second or third day, and in those cases always fill myself to the brim on wine and cider, to fortify myself for the road. This has worked well enough so far – I barely feel the subtle effects of dehydration.

I am in good enough shape, in other words, for travelling some number of days, but not in the best shape for continuing that much longer. The arrowhead, though small, has not yet un-lodged itself, and I am beginning to feel as though it might have had toxins applied to it after all. Of what kind, I cannot say. My dreams have been dense these last three nights, and this morning, even invaded some of my waking moments as well. I lost track of myself while walking earlier today. Not for long, but any time spent walking without knowing you are there – out here – can certainly spell an uncertain end.

But back to the mission at hand: Given six walkable directions (and a seventh unlikeable alternative, in between all of the others), and no means of discerning which way might bring me a step closer to unraveling the truth governing the Long Spell I have been sent to end (or else perpetuate), I am left simply to sit upon a Setting Stone, and deliberate among myself. This Setting Stone, I can sense, has been sat upon quite a number of times before (and since… Cursed time puddles).

The choice, given each option is equally plausible as the next (and if plausible is even the correct word) seem to come down to a dice-bone roll. If only I had thought to not sell my better dice-bones. They did not seem especially valuable a fortnight ago, but they appear as exactly the things needed now. I can quite feel the Long Spell at work, even from this position of indecision. I know it must be close, though is either fleeing me, or else attempting to ensnare me, in the form of so many choices in such a small space.

Thus, the options, it seems, are thus:
Old King’s High Road (North-ish or South-ish)
Teller’s Fork Trail (East-ish-North or West-ish South)
The Path I cannot tell you the name of (you might imagine the directions, if you’ve been following)
– I have already said I will not strike back into the Hedgewild, so do not try me.

But what would you have me do? This is what Setting Stones are for, I’m meant to believe.

– Bardlii Noonstar, Questing