Monday, February 21, 2022

Bitesize fiction. A nightmare - part 2

Who are you? Are you really here to save me? I know I can't say this out loud, but I am yelling it in my head.

You take me by the hand and help me to my feet. Your face is obscured, but your eyes have an earnest look in them.

You motion me to stay low and lead me running down a paved street, flanked by austere concrete buildings. My heart is thumping. We are out in the open, what if someone shoots us?

Soon enough though, we duck inside a building and you close the heavy metal door behind us. We stop for a beat to catch our breath.

I raise my eyebrows questioningly. I still don't dare say anything.

"It is ok," you whisper. "This is a safe place. We won't be shot in here. This place is empty, abandoned by the family that once lived here. They have long run away over the border."

"Where are we? Why are we in the middle of the fight? Who are you? What happened to the people who kidnapped me? Wha-" You motion me to stop. I cease my torrent of questions.

"Don't talk please, just listen. We don't have that much time." Your eyes are pleading, so I keep silent.

"Thank you. I need to tell you, I need to show you... come with me!"

You take my hand again and we climb up a flight of stairs and go up to a window. You keep me out of sight and we peer together from behind the dusty curtains.

You whisper on "Look, those over there are the rebel fighters, who have risen against the dictatorship in this country. Those over there are the army... Some of them actually feel doubt in their hearts about the cause of the regime, but they buried it deep and replaced it with blind obedience. It is easier not to think." You frown. "So many people die when enough people are mindlessly following orders... Just following orders."

You grunt for a second and then turn your gaze back to the rebels.

"There is their leader. He used to be in the army too, until he deserted and formed this opposition. His military knowledge has helped the rebels get this far and survive for this long. His ideals may be fair, but most of his life has been a fight. Now violence is his only reality. Is he maybe no better than those mindless soldiers?"

You pause and look at me. Your eyes are sad, but I don't dare interrupt.

You turn back towards the window. The dust and rubble rises in clouds with each shell exploding. When it settles, it all looks slightly different. Just like a slideshow...

"Most of the rebels are just normal people, farmers, clerks, people just making a living. Most have families, children. They sent them away to safety and they stayed behind. To fight for their freedom from oppression. The hope to see their loved ones is what keeps them going day by day... Pay close attention now! This is the final battle... The army will destroy the rebel base and their armory and try to hunt down the freedom fighters."

I get a knot in my throat. Why tell me about these people, who are just going to fail? To fail and to die?! You turn to me and your eyes smile sadly.

"War is no joke," you say. "People forget how to be human, they forget the others are human too. If they remembered, they would not fight... Innocent lives would not be severed." You frown in silence for a moment. "But there is a silver lining. The rebels have called for outside assistance from a sympathising country. Their cause will win, after all. The war will go out, just as a forest fire eventually goes out. Leaving behind destruction and death."

I should be relieved, right? But why is there still a sense of despair in me?

"You need to understand. Even if people try to keep living their lives in a battle zone, when the fighting happens, time stands still. No progress is made, evcept towards the fight. Resources and lives are lost. The soldiers fighting in the war go in it innocent, like children. Then they are forced to grow up. Yet their own normality is set aside, stuck in the paused time bubble. And then, at the end, when it is all over, it needs to struggle to catch up. Some never become human again. Some, although losing their limbs, regain their sanity."

I suddenly feel sick and close my eyes, trying to drown out the images still burned on my rhetina. You squeeze my hand and I open my eyes. You say nothing more, just point outside.

Time has skipped forward, it seems. The fighting has subsided, there are no more explosions, no more gunshots. It is eerily quiet. The rebel leader is limping badly, supported by a comrade. One of his legs is severed, from the looks of it by an explosion. He is going forward to meet his allies, thanks to whom he has won the fight.

"I know I said this man's only reality has been only fighting, but I think there is hope that he has regained his humanity."

I look at his face. He is smiling a sunny smile, like a child.

"There will be time to mourn the dead and rebuild their lives later. But right now, they can be happy. They are free!"

And with those last words, your eyes smile and you let go of my hand, which has been gripping yours for dear life until now. Your hand, your smile, the window, the curtains, it all collapses together into a flurry of pages, as the book I have been reading falls to the floor.

But I can't pick it back up. Not yet. It just... still hurts.

Bitesize fiction. A nightmare - part 1

I had a terrible dream. I was in a war zone, a terrible, horrible war. And some people then came and pointed guns at me, pointing towards a car. I don't remember what I said, but one of them hit me over the head and I blacked out. Just a dream though, nothing more. A terrible nightmare. Time to wake up and...

Boom!

Was it my head exploding in pain? Or was that... a real bomb? Am I still dreaming?

I try to open my eyes, but a cloth is tightly tied over them. My head is reeling with a dull pain and I can taste blood in my mouth.

Boom! Bang! Bang-bang!

I can feel those resounding in my brain. More explosions? Gunfire? I need to get out of here!

I try to get up, but I can't. I can't even feel my arms, but I am sure my legs are tied up. Then reality comes smashing back and sheer panic overwhelms me.

"Help! Someone help! Don't hurt me!" My voice comes out raspy. I must have breathed in a lot of dust.

A sudden thought stops me. What if I am actually making it worse? I should shut up and listen, get my bearings, make a plan of escape.

There are definitely sounds of gunfire and bombs, followed by buildings crumbling and people screaming.

Where am I? I am lying on my side, but on something soft, maybe a sofa. I can't stretch my legs, something is blocking them. Am I in that car? There is no movement, no engine running, maybe not.

Where are those people who blackjacked me earlier? Maybe I'm in that car, but then where are they now? There is no other human sound close by.

I wriggle my head against the cushion I am sitting on, trying to loosen my blindfold. I manage to peek under it to see I am indeed in a car -

The door opens quickly and I hear a hushed voice urging me: "Don't say a word! I will get you to safety."

My hands and feet are untied and I painfully regain feeling and movement in them.

I push off my blindfold, turning to face - hopefylly - my savior.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Broken pencil poetry. Maladroit

You hesitate...

Don't.

Your arm is rusted in place
And a pain shoots through your shoulder.
That hand that used to be yours
Is staring at you empty
And helpless.
It's covered in cold, slimy scales,
Like a reptile's claw,
Like a snake's claw.

A snake's claw?
Hahahaha!
Your laughter echos in the dark,
But you know that it is true.
Just like a snake has no claws,
So is your own hand... not your own.

You give up
And stare at it in despair,
Afraid you've irretrievably lost
A piece of yourself.
Have you?
You want to cry,
You want to scream,
You want to smash that foreign appendage against a wall.

But no,
You don't,
You can't,
Because your other hand,
Your warm and feeling other hand,
Is stopping the claw
From getting hurt,
Cradling it, protecting it,
And you can finally breathe.

Slowly, gingerly,
You pick up a pencil and paper.
You will now have to learn
To write with your other hand.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Bitesize fiction. The price of fine dining

Long ago, in times of magic and on realms of constant turmoil and battles, deep in the heart of the jagged Mount Silver, there lived a clan of dwarves. They were, as passed down from their forefathers, tireless miners and skilled smiths. The weapons and armor they crafted were greatly appreciated and their little community thrived.

The dwarves of Mount Silver were not particularly known for their humour, since work always came first and the work was hard. Maybe these dwarves did not have the funny bone in their genes... And it was true of all... but one.

Bilkin was seemingly a dwarf like any other. He also worked hard to mine the ores from the mountain and was not a bad blacksmith. But he had one flaw - he liked to sing and joke and, even if no-one else laughed at his jokes, he would laugh at them himself.

Because the other dwarves could not stand his exhuberance, they stayed far away from him as he worked, well out of earshot. His joyous voice resounded in the empty caverns, punctuated by the "dang-dang-dang" of his pick-axe against the rock:

"IIIIIII am a dwaaaarf and I'm diiiiging a hole!"

He stopped suddenly, frowning hard, as if he'd just been given the most puzzling riddle and his life depended on solving it correctly. He grunted and shuffled his foot, leaning heavily on his pick-axe. Was Bilkin sick? But he immediately brightened up, smiled broadly and bellowed "Diggy-diggy hole!"

"Would you please stop that infernal racket?" another voice thundered, making the walls of the hall shake and little pebbles and dust trickling from the ceiling.

"Who said that?" Bilkin was alarmed. No other dwarf would be working so close to him. Could it have been a spirit?

"I did! And I warn you, Mr Dwarf, I don't take too kindly to anyone disturbing my slumber!" Bilkin heard the warning all the way to his knees, who wanted to start buckling. He willed them to be still and cleared his voice.

"I do apologise for waking you up! I will do my digging in silence from now on, so as to not rouse you again." He hid his snicker behind his sleeve and pretended to have a cough from the recently stirred dust.

"Will you now?! Then suppose I will not crush you with a stone boulder, but with a cluster of diamonds, so as to not hurt you, hmmm?!"

Bilkin had known his joke would be a mistake, but for some reason, one of his reflexes when in trouble had always been to joke. Sometimes that would get him in even bigger trouble. No surprise there!

Trying to appear fearless, he countered "Why, diamonds could never hurt me! My helmet and armor are made of mithrill, a secret precious metal that cannot be crushed or pierced by anything! A metal so rare and wonderful, that only a precious few items were forged from it and only by the most skilled dwarven masters!" He twirled once on his heel, to show off the impenetrable armor and helmet he had boasted. And of course, to peek around, looking for the owner of the thundering baritone.

"Hahahaha! You jest, Mr Dwarf! The mithrill armor you speak of would only be worn by kings! You are no king! Perhaps the court jester!" The walls of the cave quaked as the voice laughed copiously.

But Bilkin had no time to enjoy finally amusing someone else with his humour. A voice so big could only come from one creature in a cavernous mountain like this... a dragon! But why hadn't he nor his mates ever seen or heard of him before?

"Sir, I beg you not to mock me! I am truly just a humble dwarf, but I have earned this priceless armour in battle! Why, I have single-handedly slain a..."

"A what?" the voice was a bit suspicious. Just a bit.

"A mighty dragon!"

The silence that followed stretched uncomfortably over the dwarf and his unseen interlocutor. Finally, the dragon spoke:

"Any dragon could easily scoop you up with one claw, you measly rodent! He could crush you like a flea, blow you into thin air like a dandelion! You could never defeat any dragon! Mighty or not!"

The voice was haughty and confident and Bilkin had no doubts even the least mighty of dragons could do that to a small dwarf. Yet he was unswayed.

"Perhaps, perhaps! But you must not have heard of me. I have the strength of ten dwarves and the agility of ten more! Why, Sir, I could slay you as well, if only you weren't hiding - if you would pardon my saying, Sir - like a coward!"

At this, the dragon growled angrily, making pebbles and dust fall on Bilkin's helmet and back. Bilkin coughed for a good few minutes and added: "A brave and noble dragon would come out and face me properly. How do I even know you are a dragon? You could be nothing more than a flea yourself!"

The dragon was no longer coherent, instead growling and snarling who-knows-where. After he had regained his words, he spat: "I am indeed a dragon, the oldest and mightiest in the world! And I am not hiding, you measly crumb! I am simply retired to the deepest depths of this mountain, seeking nothing but peace and quiet! Which is what I had until you came close to my cosy cave and started your infernal singing! Why can't you be quiet, like the other dwarves?"

Bilkin wasted no time with his retort: "Good grief, Sir! How can you say my fellow dwarves are quiet, when all they do each day is dig with their pick-axes and hammer in their forges?!"

"Those are rhythmic, almost pleasant sounds. They lull me to sleep. It is your horrid singing that wakes me!"

Bilkin felt a little hurt that nobody in the entire Mount Silver cared for his singing. He himself thought he had a lovely voice.

"Well, if you are so far deep in the heart of the mountain, how come you hear me and I hear you?" Bilkin asked.

"I have closed off all entries to my quarters except for a few very narrow ones through which I get my air and rats."

"Rats?!"

"A true delicacy! Have you never had rats?"

"No, I don't believe I have..." Bilkin felt a little queasy thinking about such a meal. He looked around for a boulder to sit on to compose himself. It was then that his eyes fell on a narrow tunnel in the ground, leading downwards farther than his eyes could see. Could this be the air (and rats) supply shaft the dragon had spoken of? He decided to test that theory. "Say, my good dragon, do you get many rats down there?"

"Oh, not many, unfortunately. Most of the time I have to make do with the small fish and creatures that live by my lake. Rats are a rare treat for me..." The dragon sighed.

Bilkin realised that, far from the stories of fire and greed, this dragon only wanted to be left alone and snack on a crunchy rat or two. Ewww, crunchy rats! But to each his own!

Bilkin spoke up: "Mr Dragon, what do you say about a deal? We have quite a few rats nesting near our pantry caves and they are eating our food as if the end of the world were near. We brought a cat, but those rats are vicious. Could you make another one of your rat vents leading to our pantries?"

"I most certainly could. My fire breath can still bore through the rock. As you know, I am a mighty dragon!"

"Indeed, you are, Sir! And I will guide you to the pantries with my -"

"Don't even think it, dwarf!" the dragon gnarled.

"- Singing!" Bilkin concluded triumphantly.

"The things I have to do for fine dining!" the dragon resigned.

And the caves resounded once more with Bilkin's merry singing: "IIIIIII am a dwaaaarf and I'm diiiiging a hole!"

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Broken pencil poetry. What the hell were you thinking?!

I'll make this as convoluted as possible,
So you know that it's no joke.
I will make this into slam poetry
Without rhythm,
Without rhyme,
Without any reason at all.

Oh, yes.
And without an audience either.

Some things
You must digest alone,
Scratching all the old scars by yourself,
Because you suspect
That asking the only person who has answers
Will just make them hurt.
And yes,
You do care
About the person with answers.

I was there,
An innocent witness,
Yet far too green to grasp it all.
I was protected
From the black holes
And I am truly grateful for it,
Knowing now that they existed,
Though I didn't see them back then.
I only saw the pretty playful nebulas,
Which I looked at cross-eyed,
As if they were a toy.

"Did you ever fall in the black holes?"
I would ask the person with answers...
But I can't.

Somehow so long after the fact,
I see them.
I finally understand
The dangerous pull they had.

So I don't ask the person with answers,
I scrutinise the past
Through glasses fogged up by nebulas,
Squinting, no longer cross-eyed.
The nebulas are nebulous,
But I think the shadows are clear.

I drop-kick my prejudice (good riddance!)
And carefully extract my answer.
The answer.
The shadows only skirted the black holes
And just wadded through the murky nebulas for a while.

And though I think
That nothing good came out of it,
I'm glad
It wasn't worse.

PS. "What the hell were you thinking?!"
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