Herbert the Trillionaire – Chapter 1.02

The committee members were all seated on the grass in a semi-circle around Herbert, clutching paper coffee cups and trying to touch as little of the ground as possible.

Herbert, for his part, was reclined back on his elbows, eyes closed against the sun.

On the walk to the park, the questioning man’s fellow members had berated and encouraged him at turns with nothing more than glances or general pats on the back. He had been silently elected their spokesperson, and so he sat in the front row, nearest Herbert’s feet.

“Sir?” he asked once again. “What did you bring us here to tell us?”

“Hmm?” Herbert replied. “I just came here because it was nice. What would I tell you?” he asked, gazing down his nose at the man. Herbert did not sit up.

“You… you had an idea,” the man repeated lamely, his sentence fading to silence as if uncertain or unable to go on.

Herbert sighed and sat up, crossing his legs Indian-style and resting his elbows upon his knees. He leaned towards the man.

“I’ll be perfectly honest. I have no idea what you are talking about,” Herbert replied.

The committee blinked at each other, as well as at the spot of grass a foot in front of Herbert, and at a nearby lightpost as well as an apparently perplexing park bench. No one blinked at Herbert.

“Ex… excuse me? …sir?”

“Who are you people, anyways?” Herbert asked.

Herbert the Trillionaire – Chapter 1.01

Herbert was having a nearly normal Monday morning. There was a delicious mocha resting on a stone coaster on the table in front of him. The table was smooth mahogany, highly polished and stretching widely away from him, down the length of an elaborately decorated room with a wall of windows to his right and a wall of obsidian to his left. His chair was leather and rocked slightly as he bounced his feet against the floor, feeling his toes dig into the soft inside of what were presumably quite nice shoes. Herbert smacked his lips as he looked at all the faces that lined both sides of the table, each wearing a similar expression of confusion as they stared at him.

“Sir?” one called out from halfway down the table. “You were saying?”

“What’s that?” Herbert replied.

“You haven’t finished your sentence, sir.”

The people to either side of the tremulous man scooted slightly away from him and made eye contact only with a spot on the table about two feet ahead of Herbert.

“Ah,” said Herbert. “And what was I talking about?”

The committee members cleared their throats nervously, adjusting ties or turning their coffee cups in place as they all sought different spots on the table to examine. The questioning man began to sweat.

“You were just telling us you had a new direction, sir. A new idea, you said. You, um… you haven’t told us what it is yet, sir.”

Herbert nodded absently, staring out the window. A cloud of birds had just swooped down between this building and the next, across the wide street, and he watched them dance for a moment before they flew out of sight.

“We should go outside,” Herbert said.

Starting the Season

This is the first in a long series of vignettes. The goal of these stories is to help communicate what it truly means to be a witch–not akin to Sabrina (The Teenage Witch), Harry Potter, or the witches in Buffy (The Vampire Slayer), but a witch in real life. Each story is a short scene, a single experience, highlighting how a witch might approach a situation, how they might react, and what they are capable of.

The stories are fictionalized, in that names, characters, and conversations are (somewhat) mostly made up. The stories are all based on real life.

Thomas frowned at the wind ruffling his hair. It was another beautiful day, sun shining high in the sky with not a cloud to interrupt his gaze. Though it was late November, the temperature was still in the mid-70s and it had miraculously only rained at night for months. It seemed as if perpetual summer had come to Missouri, each day like the last and the next in a state of never-ending brightness.

It was unnatural, and it made Thomas angry.

Someone was intruding on his land and mucking with his weather, expanding summer long past when it should have died and preventing autumn from taking its rightful place.

Closing his eyes, Thomas stretched his senses out, particularly that one sense that is uncommon to most humans. He had never tried to describe the weave of magic to anyone, partially because the best he could do would be to call it an enormous, three dimensional, glowing blanket that covered and permeated everything. It was in and a part of every object and being, and by examining and using the weave he could learn about and change the world.

It was clear to him that someone was tampering with the weather, and after a few minutes of investigation he was able to trace the threads to someone west of him. Someone acting in concert with a coven of other witches (for this person clearly did not have the power by himself to enact such a climate change) to extend the summer. Thomas smiled grimly. Here was the catalyst, the conductor, and the director of the unnatural season length.

Thomas could see the residual strings that tied this person to magics manipulating the flow of air streams, pressure systems, and atmospheric modifications to allow sunlight more directly through. The power needed for such a spell was immense, but it had a weak point.

The caster.

With a wrench of his will, Thomas spat out an incoherent word, half growl and half power, and snapped the thread. The amassed might of the spell recoiled upon the caster to the west, but behind it went Thomas.

Thomas sensed the man fall as he was struck by his own released magics, and Thomas entered him in that moment of weakness. Amplifying and manipulating the magic now unleashed, Thomas scoured the man clean.

Where the wind had quietly ruffled his hair, birds gliding on gentle currents and singing their songs to the sun, now it rose with a fury. A month and more of suppressed natural inclination was free to return to normal, and Thomas raised his hands in recognition of its force. Borrowing from the power of the wind, he clenched his eyes and forced more into the caster.

When the man had fallen unconscious, Thomas returned to his body, a cruel smile raising the corners of his lips. The director of the coven would never use magic again—it had been burned from his body. He was cut off from the source, the weave, unable to interact with or even see it. To Thomas, it was a fate worse than death, and it was what that man deserved.

Laughter began to rise from his gut, up through his chest and past his slightly uneven teeth. That will do, he thought. What power I have!

Picking his bag up from where he had dropped it beside his feet, Thomas slung it over is shoulder and walked down the hill to his high school. None of the other students, rushing so they wouldn’t be late to their classes, had noticed his display simply because he hadn’t wanted them to.

It is a wonderful thing, he thought, to be a witch.

An Honest Day’s Work

Joseph prided himself on maintaining a forty hour work week. Many in his line of work did not, opting for the least work possible with the best return on their investment. It would be easy to do the same, to arrive only when he needed and leave immediately, but his father had been precise about such matters, so Joseph would be too.

It was a lazy man who didn’t put in his forty, his father would say. A man who didn’t understand the value of a dollar, or someone who didn’t have pride in their work. Grandad was a union man and fought to get that forty hours, and his dad dutifully maintained it with religious precision. Starched shirt and tie, out the door every day by eight-fifteen to catch the bus downtown. Joseph understood now that it wasn’t just to take care of his family, but also to take care of his soul.

Start slacking off, cutting corners, working less than the golden forty and a man becomes slothful. Thirty-eight hours was a sin against God, taking employment for granted. Lucky to have a job, so it deserves a full forty.

That’s why Joseph always set up thirty-nine hours and thirty minutes early. He didn’t need to—an hour or two would normally be sufficient—but he took pride in his work. It was because of that pride he was sought out. Joseph was a professional, and the men he worked for knew he would give the job his everything. That was his duty.

Joseph would occasionally sigh as the hours wore on and wonder about taking the easier route, but he always recoiled from these thoughts with a mental slap. That’s not how I raised you, his father would say. I thought you were better than that. I didn’t raise a slacker.

Joseph checked his watch, grimly sighed and stretched his back, then laid back down on his stomach. It was about that time.

Placing his eye to the scope, he shrugged his shoulders to loosen them up, adjusted the angle slightly, and waited for the door to open. Pull the trigger, sit up, disassemble and slip the rifle into his briefcase.

Five o’clock—time to go home.

Philosopher King

“A rounna drinks, on me!” Lem shouted. He’d rarely bought drinks for himself, let alone anyone else, but everything was different now. He was somebody.

His daughter, worthless bluestocking bookworm that she was, had somehow caught the eye of the count. And he’d proposed! Lem always thought he had a good turn coming, something to balance the years of bad luck, and this was it. Happiest night of his life.

As he turned from the bar, mug in hand, he surveyed his kingdom with a grin. With a shock he spotted a dwarf in the corner.

“Heya!” he shouted to the room in general. “We aughta have us a drinkin’ game! It’sa dwarf!”

No one really seemed to notice his declaration, but they probably just didn’t see the dwarf, sitting as he was apart from the celebration. Lem began to walk across the room when he saw a barmaid deliver one of the drinks Lem had just ordered for everyone to the bearded stranger. With a negligent wave of his hand, the dwarf shooed her away, his nose stuck in a book.

Fury suddenly gripped Lem by the throat and he slammed his mug onto the bar. He staggered across the room, shoving faceless friends out of his way.

“Bah, whats’is?! A dwarf ‘oo won’t drink?!” the human slurred as he slapped his hand down upon the rough, wooden table.

The dwarf in question had been sitting quietly at a table for four, spectacles perched upon his craggy nose. He had arrived at the tavern near dusk and the haze of the road still coated his armour, his pack dropped in the nearby corner and hanging open where he had retrieved his book. Closing it silently, the dwarf marked his place with a finger and looked up at the man over his glasses.

Clearing his throat, the dwarf nodded once. “Sorry friend, I meant no insult to you or yours. Did you need something?”

“I bet… I bet you just been sittin’ here judgin’ us, ain’t ya?” the human shouted far louder than needed. “Sittin’ there with ya… with a book! Just like my daughter… is’at it? Maybe yous a girl unner that beard!”

Lem laughed, a great guffaw made greater by the silence in the tavern, as he staggered back from the table and pointed at the dwarf with one hand while gesturing for others to join him.

“What’ya say fellas? I heard’at dwarfs all look da same until ya get them wet!” Lem grabbed a beer from a table nearby, his eyes gently spinning.

The dwarf sighed, having a good idea where this was going. Before the man could throw the drink, the dwarf made a quick movement with his free hand, two fingers pressed together. Bands of radiance erupted around Lem, constricting his movement and dazing him. Lem fell to the floor, the drink clattering from his hand and soaking the boots of the nearest person (who cursed quite colourfully about this happening yet again).

Smiling apologetically at the barkeep and the two men who hauled Lem from the tavern, the dwarf laid an extra silver piece beside his glass of milk and returned to his book.

Introduction to Farsight

As difficult as it is to type, I hate writing by hand and have work that needs doing, namely the creation of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Farsight is the base town for the adventurers, a sleepy hamlet of drunkards trying to forget.

This wasn’t a town that got up early. As the sun rose over the forest to the east, bakers and blacksmiths alike pulled blankets up and rolled away from windows, groaning quietly with clenched eyes. Chamber pots were always close to the bedside in Farsight, and no one rose before midmorning. They would stumble blearily to the Djinni’s Den for the miracle cures that got them through the day, combinations of pork fritters and eggs any way you liked them. Farsight was renowned for its meats, largely because its residents had such a devout interest in protein-based hangover cures.

As the light sparkled off dewy grass cropped close to the ground by wandering goats (their herder wouldn’t be up for another two hours), a young elven man scratched his head, enjoying the feel of hair between his fingers as he looked upon the town from the westward road. No smoke rose from the chimneys and even the children were still abed, having learned that breakfast would arrive only when it was good and ready.

Hitching his pack over his left shoulder, the elfling pulled a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket and regarded the scribbled address with a grin. A new adventure was waiting just down this road.

As soon as it woke up, anyways.

A Reporter’s Private Journal

I always hope that the world will prove the stereotypes wrong. When the setting calls for a dark and stormy night, I anticipate a soft sunset and a warm breeze, the tall grass dancing its mockery of every bad novel with slashing lightning and sloshing mud. The world’s an ornery place that doesn’t play by our rules, and I count on its contrariness to make life a little more pleasant sometimes.

Of course, this self-inflicted reverse-psychology doesn’t usually work. Turns out the world doesn’t give two figs for what I think or want. That’s why on the night when Sargent Faithful and his boys marched into Colonel Rupert’s camp it was raining fit to drown a pig. The wind lashed at the empty tents still weighted down by the gear of dead men, and though all trace of lock-stepped boot prints had been washed away, I shuddered as the howling wind seemed to bring them back to us again.

The colonel had sent his squad out three days ago on a reconnaissance mission into enemy territory. None had returned, but HQ had sent him another squad anyways. That, too, was stereotypical.

I’d heard about Faithful before, though I’d never met the man. Military life has a way of changing a person, and it’s not uncommon for a man to lose his way after a battle or two. It’s hard to believe in a god out here. But not the sargent–he was a man who always knew exactly where he was. It was uncanny, in fact, how present he was. I always expect the religious to fix their stare into the other world, always dreaming about how things will be different someday, or how it should be. Not Faithful though, he was always here. Always right here.

Corporal Collins
Bragovia Army Corps
Summer, 642 TE.

Keep On Walking

I’m going to start posting first drafts more often here as I’m developing pieces, so get used to that I guess. I’ll preface them with something like this to let you know. Expect to see more bits from stories and other things I’m working on.

I’m a bit embarrassed about my earlier attempts at writing, and a similar feeling will likely overtake an older, wiser me as he looks back at this piece. I recall once taking a poem into the Potter’s House, a Christian coffee shop just east of the college campus where I used to live, and ask if I could post it there. It was a theologically inspired piece, something about struggling to do the right thing and fighting against the evil inside us, and it wasn’t all that good. I knew at the time that it was amateurish at best, but I had something I needed to say and that was the best I could do.

Too often we are afraid to speak for fear of our inadequacy. We’re afraid we won’t sound eloquent enough, or that we can’t do the story justice, or that people will either make fun of or ignore us. We don’t want to waste our stories on our poor skills, so we remain silent, hoping for a time when we can communicate adequately.

But there is no shame in our offerings, be they ever childish.

My freshman year of college it was recommended that I read The Art of Writing by William Strunk Jr. Not being a particularly good student, I only skimmed the book, but one line leapt out at me and remains lodged in the fore of my brain. “Never compound ignorance with inaudibility,” Strunk wrote, and I don’t mean to. I will offer the best I can at this time, and hope that it’s enough. I’ll keep writing, and what I have to offer in ten years will be better, the best I can at that time, but it still won’t be as good as I will be in twenty years.

We only have so much time on this earth to speak and share with others. I am not inadequate if my communication fails to meet my standards of eloquence and clarity. Inadequacy in this case stems only from silence. As long as I am writing, I am winning.

Haikai during Argos Training

Brenda discovered a new game during our training session. Three-line stanzas were written by me, and the two-line stanzas were written by her.

While sun sets on
hazy streets, chill clouds rise
over wearied monitors.

Fireflies wink softly
as faces reflect harsh light

of gridded sheets that cover
but provide no warmth
or comforting cells.

Numbers dance and blur
as I fall into daydreams of you.

Flying toasters
stream across my closed eyes
while a Harvest Moon takes flight.

Whales swim in a sea of tulips
and dance across the sky,
Continue reading

I wonder if I’ll get in trouble for this…

Family Legacy

The world so often surprise me. Just yesterday,
I went to piss at a Panera Bread, did it
the usual way: polite knock on the door, locked
it behind me, and washed my hands in the too cold water
by the soap thing that never works right while
the urinal flushed itself, a cake of disinfectant eroding
at the bottom.

Wash vigorously–used to work
at a hospital, you know–
so I had time to look around,
really take it in while my hands froze.
Paper towels where you should grasp firmly,
Two hands, not one, and pull straight
down, but if it’s an emergency, I guess
you’re supposed to turn this wheel.

I thought, “Huh, emergency feed. When
do we need towels so bad?
Is everything such a damned rush
that we can’t just use two hands,
grasp firmly, pull? Follow the damn
pictures they made so even the chinks
can do it?” I pulled, two hands–
I’m American, after all–
and left.