Braiding Tales: We Built a World, Row by Row (a true story)

braid

“We gave the Future to the winds, and slumbered tranquilly in the Present, weaving the dull world around us into dreams.” ― Edgar Allan Poe, The Mystery of Marie Rogêt

I spent most of my early teens in the Bronx. The street I lived on, corner to corner, ran the length of three average city blocks and was the picture of diversity—the melting pot that New York had become famous for. It was all about migration. Italians were moving to new ground as black people nestled in and on their tail were Hispanics followed by West Indians. It was a neighborhood in transition where multi-cultures learn by cohabitation that differences in race didn’t make a person less human.

It was also the 70’s and I rocked a killer afro to end all ‘fros. Metal pronged afro pick with the handle clenched in a black power fist and a peace symbol carved out on the base, tucked in the back of my hair.

It drove my parents crazy. They rode my back constantly to get it cut but there was that preteen Samsonian fear that the strength of my personality—-my Madd-ness—-would be stripped away, were a barber to lay clippers on my precious locks. When I got the “as long as you’re living under my roof” speech, I knew I needed a solution and I needed it quick.

Enter: Cynthia Holloway. I mentioned my plight in passing and out of nowhere she offered to braid my hair into cornrows. So, we sat on the stoop of a private house and armed with only a comb and hair grease, Cynthia worked her nimble fingers like a loom.

She was one of those neighborhood girls that I’d never really spoken to before outside the odd hello. Not that there was anything wrong with her, she was simply a person that kept herself to herself. The type of person you’d have to make an effort to get to know.

It would take many years for me to become that type of person.

But in sitting with her I discovered she was both intelligent and imaginative, with interesting stories to tell. Her father was a retired Army Ranger colonel, who spent a great deal of his free time on the road in a jazz band.

I’m not sure how much of that was true. No one could ever remember seeing Cynthia’s dad, so maybe it was a story she invented to keep nosy kids at bay. Or perhaps it was one of the quiet lies that parents tell their children to spare them from the harsh realities of troubled marriages.

Since we had nothing but time to kill, we talked about our constricted home lives, mentioned the odd hobby, told a few jokes and had a couple of laughs, and when all the conversation wells had run dry, we told each other stories.

At the end of every month, when the braids began to look a little ratty, I’d take them out and Cynthia met me back on that stoop to repeat the process. And after a brief bit of catch-up, we’d go back to telling each other imaginary stories and without meaning to, wound up designing an illusory sanctuary from the burdens and pains of our everyday pre-teenage lives.

While we mentally terraformed our neighborhood row by cornrow, we got to know each other in those months as the monarchs of our fantasy world. We explored the surroundings, went on adventures, and basically forgot the world for a few hours a month.

Come the fifth month, I sat on the stoop and waited, my hair a wild crop of imagination waiting to be plowed, but Cynthia never showed. I later learned from a friend of a friend’s sister that she and her mother had moved away in the middle of the night without telling a soul where they were headed.

I tried to imagine all the possible reasons that would cause them to make a hurried escape under the cloak of twilight and seriously hoped it had nothing to do with her retired-Army-Ranger-colonel-jazz-band-dad. Nothing negative, anyway.

And yes, I eventually had no other choice than to submit to the butcher shop barbershop haircut. Much to my surprise, I managed to retain all of my Madd-ness afterward. I was still filled with my nerdy sameness and when I missed her a bit, I’d sometimes sit on the stoop and give an imaginary Cynthia updates on the latest goings-on in the world we created.

Thanks for humoring me as I wool-gathered.

PS. Cyn, if through some bizarre happenstance you should come across this, hit me up real quick. There’s a world in some need of serious upkeep.

Text and audio ©2013 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

I Am A Sentient Black Hole. Ask Me Anything.

I’m feeling a bit under the weather today, so instead of either skipping a day or tossing up some filler nonsense, I’ve decided to invite a guest blogger, who happens to be a character in one of my science fiction novellas.

Please extend to her every courtesy.

– Madd Fictional

Sentient Black Hole

My name is Ganymedorah and I’m a sentient black hole keen to debunk stereotypes. Ask me anything.

The title says it all. In my recent travels throughout the universe, I found that many people know little to nothing about what it’s like to be me. Let’s change that!

saganosity How’d you come to be?

Ganymedorah Wow, a birds and bees question straight out of the gate. Okay, let’s see how to put this. Do you know what happens when two gigantic patches of darkness get so close to one another that they fall into each other? Well, sometimes, if they love each other very much, they take a honeymoon trip together. I am a result of a wild, crazy and uninhibited weekend.

SarahMcL If you had a pet, what kind would you choose and what would you name it?

Ganymedorah If I could own a pet, I’d probably choose an inverted supernova. I’d love to watch the little guy bury the bones of a dead solar system in the yard! And I’d name him Champagne, of course.

justice4hansolo What fact still blows you away even though you’ve known about it forever?

Ganymedorah The universe is filled with empty calories. Seriously. I can eat and eat an incomprehensible amount of matter at an absurd speed and never put on a pound. Well, almost never. Sometimes I manage to put on a little water weight.

syfy4lyf Star Trek or Star Wars?

Ganymedorah Star Trek, original series. Nobody beats Shatner’s Kirk. Nobody. Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga should be sent to Rura Penthe for the way they killed the character off in Star Trek Generations.

winstigator Do you think you could beat Centaurus A in a knife fight?

Ganymedorah Centaurus A is so full of shit, pardon my French, puffing up his chest and boasting that he’s a “giant galaxy.” If he ever looked at me sideways, I’d whup his superluminous central supermassive black hole butt without breaking a sweat.

fullostars What are your thoughts on Brian Cox, Neil Degrasse Tyson and Michio Kaku?

Ganymedorah Imagine that theoretical pub debate! If only I could find a place at the edge of the universe that pulled a proper pint. Time to whip out the old Hitchhiker’s Guide, methinks!

knows.e.parkour Tell us something you’ve never told anyone.

Ganymedorah I pick up broadcast signals all the time. Reality television is my guilty pleasure and I’m absolutely addicted to 90 Day Fiancé. Kirlyam is so friggin’ cute!

K-FitzMat Do you believe in ancient aliens?

Ganymedorah Believe in them? I still see them (there’s a whole weird bendable time thing that runs around and through me). I am totes timey-wimey. Oh, and before you ask, yes, dinosaurs existed and no, they didn’t ride on the ark.

othrwhtmeet Do you like bacon?

Ganymedorah Duh, who doesn’t? Next question.

icanhazeuropa Is there life elsewhere in our solar system, particularly Mars, given the variable quantities of methane in its atmosphere that could suggest bacterial activity beneath the surface?

Ganymedorah Aw, man… y’all are really making me regret spilling the beans on the whole ancient aliens thing. Why would you want me to ruin that surprise for you? Wouldn’t it be better to discover it on your own?

xs10shal What never fails to blow your mind about humans?

Ganymedorah 1) That people always choose to pursue things that are the absolute worst for their emotional and physical well being.

2) That even the most vile among you are sometimes capable of acts of kindness so incredible as to make my gaseous heart feel as if it’s about to burst.

3) The Captain & Tennille divorce. I mean, who saw that coming?

tinfoilhat Conspiracy theorist here. Is there a secret society of black holes?

Ganymedorah If I told you, I’d have to drop you into a gravity well.

trebek2dafutr If you appeared on the game show Jeopardy, how do you think you would do?

Ganymedorah Depends on the categories. I’ve got Space, Science and Potent Potables on lock. Do the kids still say that? But I’d suck (sorry, black hole humor) at Pop-Music, Sports and Math. I would definitely make the first few rounds, especially if I hit a Daily Double but ultimately would lose the Final Jeopardy question. Wheel of Fortune? That’s an entirely different matter.

statnislndmedim What are your feelings on the afterlife, and are you scared to die?

Ganymedorah Without any hint of braggadocio, I, by my very nature, am too much of a good thing to worry about my decomposition and demise. Too much mass, and too much gravity pushed together and collapsed into a single point with infinite density. In-fi-nite. I love the sound of that. Now, if I’m meant to die, I will not go gently into that good night, trust me. As for what awaits me on the other side, who knows? But I love a good mystery, me.

dollylamas Will our minds ever be able to truly comprehend our worth in the vastness of the universe?

Ganymedorah As long as you continue to ponder it. If I could impress one thing on people, it would be to stare into the unknown and unknowable without fear and full of questions.

constellationkate Last night, a 900-foot asteroid was due to streak extremely close to Earth, but it just disappeared, leaving astronomers baffled. Do you know anything about that?

Ganymedorah Yup, and you’re welcome.

Burp.

Oops, pardon me.

Text and Audio ©2014 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

 

Greetings from Europa – Sixteenth Transmission: News From Dery’Ylok Prefecture

First Transmission * Second Transmission * Third Transmission * Fourth Transmission * Fifth Transmission * Sixth Transmission * Seventh Transmission * Eighth Transmission * Ninth Transmission * Tenth Transmission * Eleventh Transmission * Twelfth Transmission * Thirteenth Transmission * Fourteenth Transmission * Fifteenth Transmission

Greetings from Europa!

Jampi and I stayed in Jhisal long enough to repay Meis’lo and the rest of the village for their hospitality. This was done by sharing our stories and pitching in with the communal chores.

On the morning that we packed our egami and prepared for our departure, two Denpas entered the village, one from the east, the road behind us, and the other from the road ahead.

I recognized Huc’yan, one of the Denpas from my village, who carried word from Kubus and Veron. News concerning the children of Rezter was coming less frequently now because villages grew scarcer the further out they traveled, and when they finally arrived at Pwyll there would be no word until they had completed their pilgrimage and were on their way back.

For now, Kubus and Veron had managed to circumnavigate mecot’ra safely. They encountered biss’ore, a band of travelers, or nomads and after describing their pilgrimage, received an offer of friendship to camp with the group and travel together as they were headed in the same direction, at least for four days.

Huc’yan also had a message from my wife, who was relieved that our son was safe with me. She had never been separated from myself or our children before and admitted that she didn’t realize the value of the things taken for granted until they were gone. This was her way of saying that she missed me and Jampi and it nearly brought tears to my eyes hearing Huc’yan imitate not only my wife’s voice, but the pain in it as well. I made him repeat the message several times, which he did without complaint. I sent word back that neither I nor Jampi ever felt we were taken for granted, and I added, “We miss you, too.”

The second Denpa, the one who traveled in from the opposite direction, wasn’t known to me. He brought news of a terrible tragedy that occurred in Dery’Ylok Prefecture. A young Europan girl was killed (not the word the Denpa used, but my human inference) by the mother of another girl. The two children were playing in the field when they came across a (the Denpa used a word that I had never heard before. When I asked for clarity, no one could help for the word had no translation. It was known to Europans and had never needed explaining before). This object, whatever it was, was so fascinating that the girls fought over ownership of it. Their village elder was called in to arbitrate the dispute and after listening to both girls’ stories, awarded it to the one who told the most compelling tale. This threw the mother of the other girl into a frenzy and she strangled the little poor girl, stole the object and was caught attempting to hide it.

The news was almost too much to process. Fighting over an object? Jealousy and anger? Murder? This wasn’t the Europan way. As I mentioned in a previous transmission, Europan children are considered micdow yl, sacred, the vessels of new life. Something was definitely happening in Dery’Ylok Prefecture and it wasn’t right, and here I was traveling to this place carrying my son in tow.

I voiced my concerns to Meis’lo and asked if I could leave Jampi in his care. The old man agreed without hesitation, but offered a piece of advice:

“This is Jampi’s age of learning and he is with the best teacher, his father. He is safe with you because you will do everything to protect him, and he needs to experience the world, both good and bad.” I let that simmer a long while, and in the end, Jampi and I continued on our way to Dery’Ylok Prefecture. The little scamp would probably have found a way to sneak out of the village and follow me anyway, so it was best that I knew exactly where he was at all times. And Meis’lo was right, I would protect my son with my life, and if agvann occurred, then it would have been the will of Nes’Tim.

Until next broadcast, this is Captain Edwards, signing off.

To be continued…

Text and Audio ©2014 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Glossary of Terms

  • Abogzons – Gynecological engineers.
  • Agvann – Translation: The will of Nes’Tim; an accident.
  • Alum’Vedca – The day marking the new solar cycle of Peace and Maturity; a tribute to the era when Europans evolved from their primitive prey state.
  • Arcek – A spiritual theologian
  • Biem – A time to show respect for the aged.
  • Biss’ore – Travelers, nomads
  • Bokloryn – An unrepayable debt; an act that places the receiver in a lifetime contract of servitude.
  • Cu’nal – A biological storage unit.
  • Denpa – An envoy equipped with an audiographic memory that can store and recall spoken messages at will in the same voice, tone and inflection of the original person who spoke it, who travels from village to village to deliver messages from other communities both near and far.
  • Egami – A docile mineral-based creatures primarily used for family transportation due to the fact they are virtually inexhaustible.
  • Gates of Juh’holl – Europan afterlife; where souls are released from the flesh to become stardust and rejoin the universe.
  • Grahas – A gerbil-sized creature, resembling a stone armadillo, that emits heat when stroked.
  • Homnils – A warm, yet sad, reminiscence about something in the past.
  • Ipu llqr mwyll xfrr – Abogzon credo meaning “success or death”; satisfaction guaranteed.
  • Isogoles – Europan monthly day of pay.
  • Jampi – Captain Edward’s son.
  • Jbwqnadb – The Europan spelling of lemonade.
  • Jhisal – Meis’lo’s home village.
  • Klanea – Translation: unknown to us; stranger.
  • Mecot’ra – Unterraformed areas of Europa.
  • Meis’lo – The only surviving witness to the murder of  the prophet Nes’Tim.
  • Micdow yl – The vessels of new life; children.
  • Nes’Tim – The most revered spiritual prophet on Europa, slain by a heretic tribe who call themselves Sel’Tab.
  • Pwyll – Europa’s highest mountain.
  • Qik’climajh – Depending on its usage in a sentence, denotes either the act of telling a story, or the storyteller themselves.
  • Sel’Tab – A heretic tribe responsible for the death of the prophet Nes’Tim.
  • Shig’umfu – “Interesting world of another”; a documentary qik’climajh in which neighbors tell the story of a person’s life as learned from casual conversations.
  • Spo – Food.
  • Uz Cu’nal – A biological storage unit used primarily for food preservation.
  • Uz – An unspeakable sexual act; a derogatory term; an insult.

The Strange Case of Wilhelmina Soames

“Tucker, Nelda, Aubrey…” a woman’s voice would call out.

“Farley, Vance, Giselle…” every day like clockwork.

“Odilia, Ainsley, Wesley…” regardless of the weather.

She was dubbed the Mad Mother of Main Street, this woman was, Miss Wilhelmina Soames by name, pushing an empty pram up and down the thoroughfare from sunup to sundown, calling out a series of names in the same manner that a mother would call her children and placing a hand behind one ear to listen for a response.

Most of the locals came to ignore Wilhelmina’s comings and goings because people had a way of accepting the things that happened every day, didn’t they, even madness. Those with nothing better to do than mind the affairs of others had many a nasty thing to say about the Mad Mother, but not one single solitary soul could have testified under oath that Wilhelmina spoke ill of anyone, not even of those who mocked and teased her as she strolled by.

Occasionally the mental Miss Soames would go rooting around alleyways and underpasses and all the other nooks and crannies that the city possessed, places ignored by upstanding citizens, places where the foolish, the nosy, the mischief makers, and the destitute often went missing, and she would sniff about and go digging like a truffle pig through the rubbish and muck. Most times she emerged disappointed but on rare occurrences there would be a smile wide enough to split her soot-speckled face in half, as she cradled something invisible to the eyes of everyone else but her own, and she would coo and sing lullabies to it as she gently placed it in the pram.

If Wilhelmina had a home, no one knew the address, and if she ate, no one bore witness to the consumption of food of any sort.

Because gossip was the least effective yet most prevalent form of communication, many rumors surrounded Mad Mother Soames, all supposedly from reliable witnesses explaining her separation from sanity. Some said she used to be employed as a childminder for a wealthy couple and lost track of her young charge while running errands, and the distraught parents ruined her socially, leaving her to fend for herself on the streets like a common beggar. Others claimed the baby lost was her own and in a moment of distraction, the handle slipped from her gloved grip and the pram rolled out into oncoming traffic.

And then there was the urban legend. Before cities were constructed, the planet was a patchwork of tribal lands filled with indigenous peoples who knew the ways to appease the forces that kept the balance of life in check. Those ways and the knowledge that accompanied them were lost when the colonizers arrived. As was the way with life, accidents would occur that sadly resulted in death and those souls too young to have bonded with their physical counterparts would become separated and wander aimlessly with no knowledge and no ability to find their path to the afterlife. So, every decade a new person who had unwillingly and unwittingly sacrificed a young life to the forces that kept the balance of life in check, would become the collector and guardian of those tiny lost souls.

The Mad Mother’s daily search ended when the city was asleep, and Wilhelmina would push her pram into a lot that had remained vacant as long as anyone could remember because it did not have a clear title. The ownership situation was so complicated that no real estate investor felt it was worth the time and effort to resolve.

Wilhelmina had been fortunate this day, so she scooped her invisible bundle out of the pram but tripped over a bit of rubble in the process, causing her to slip and strike her head on the jagged edge of a section of a demolished brick wall.

She awoke quite literally beside herself, her flesh encasement lying face down in the remnants of a building had taken on an ashen pallor, but she was surprisingly unconcerned because she realized it had served its purpose faithfully and it was now time for her to move on, as she had much bigger fish to fry.

Miss Wilhelmina Soames, the Mad Mother of Main Street, smiled as she looked out over the sea of baby souls surrounding her, all with arms outstretched for a cuddle and calling her Mummy.

Text and Audio ©2014 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Blood Money (Part 2)

Blood Money Part 1

Foy plucked a dried fragment of brimstone from a carpet fiber with a pair of tweezers and dropped it into a plastic vial. “All right, Detective History Channel, if we can’t touch the coins…”

“Or the pot,” Elodie added.

“Okay…or the pot, then how are we supposed to bag them as evidence?”

Elodie pulled out her phone, scrolled through her contacts and dialed a number. “This is Detective Elodie Arcement, Badge One Point Six One Eight. Suspected religious artifact at the scene, possibly cursed. Requesting Pure Soul dispatch as soon as possible.”

Foy raised an eyebrow. “Pure Souls are immune to religious curses?” she asked.

Elodie shrugged. “More immune than you or me, I reckon. If it turns out they’re not and the smotening happens to them as well, then it’s their fault for not knowing their limitations.”

“First of all, smotening?”

“I don’t know how to conjugate smote, do you?”

“Second,” Foy continued. “Your regard for the preservation of human life is astounding.”

“I know. It’s my gift and my curse,” Elodie said, inspecting the living room. “When your team comes in, make sure they collect any phones, tablets and computers they find, as I don’t see any in here.”

“We know how to do our job, Detective Arcement,” Foy said, the arctic front blowing off her shoulder dropped the room’s temperature by ten degrees.

“I know you do, Mara. I was just thinking out loud, that’s all,” Elodie offered her friend and colleague an apologetic smile, before leaning into the foyer to call for the uniformed officer guarding the front door of the house.

“Yes, Detective?” said the baby-faced cop, Nelson by his nametag, mid twenties at best, green as grass.

“Gather up all the available uniforms to question the crowd for witnesses and do a door to door with the neighbors to see if they’ve noticed anything suspicious going on in the neighborhood recently,” Elodie said.

“On it,” Nelson nodded and left to carry out his instructions.

“You’re treating this like a murder investigation,” Foy asked. “I thought we were classifying it as Divine Misadventure?”

“We are, I’m just covering my bases in case this entire thing was staged to make it look like an Act of God.”

Before Foy could comment, a man with a briefcase appeared in the living room entryway. He was at least a head higher than what society considered to be tall, and was undoubtedly the recipient of thousands of the air up there must be thin comments throughout his life. And even though he was too tall for his build, looking like he had been stretched on a torture rack, the isolation suit fit his lanky frame perfectly. Elodie groaned at the sight of him.

“Elijah Richardson, Eleventh Level Pure Soul, ID Number 937781, reporting as requested,” the man said.

“I know who you are, Richardson,” Elodie said.

“I am required by law to state my name, rank and identification number when first entering a crime scene,” Richardson replied.

“And you’ve done that, so can we please get on with this?” said Elodie, exasperated.

“I should have known you would be here, Detective Arcement. These types of cases have a way of finding you, don’t they?” Richardson said, giving Elodie the once over. “Still ignoring regulations, I see. Pity your shoes have to pay the price for your independence.”

Elodie was about to respond when Foy chimed in, “Marabel Foy, Forensics.” She proffered her hand and Richardson glanced at it a moment before ignoring the gesture completely.

“Where is it, then? This potentially cursed artifact?” Richardson asked.

“Can’t you sense it?” Elodie asked with a wry smile. “Aren’t you attuned to the vibrations of objects replete with religiosity? Or is all that rhetoric you spew a load of bunkum?”

“The only vibrations I can feel are the jealousy and shame emanating from you,” the Pure Soul retorted. “Must be hard for a lapsed Catholic to have to rely on someone else to do a job she was deemed unworthy for.”

Foy’s eyes went as wide as saucers. “You were a Pure Soul?”

“A novitiate,” Elodie corrected.

“Who couldn’t make the grade,” Richardson added.

“I found some of the teachings hard to swallow.”

“Too bad that was the only thing you found hard to swallow,” Richardson said, extremely pleased with himself.

Elodie’s temper flared from zero to sixty. “That’s a dirty sticking rumor with no basis…”

“Enough!” Foy interrupted. “You two can get a room later and hash out your differences. We have business to attend to. The artifacts are right this way.”

Kneeling before the clay pot and coins, Richardson set his briefcase down on the carpet, careful to avoid a smoldering brimstone puddle, and inspected the items. “Shekels of Tyre,” he said.

“And take a look at the pot…” Elodie said.

“The clay looks to be circa AD 30 – 36 and it was obviously smashed and pieced back together,” Richardson said.

“Can someone please tell me what the significance of this pot is?” Foy asked.

Elodie was about to explain when Richardson beat her to the punch. “There are several contradicting accounts of what Judas did with his payment when he learned the price Jesus paid for his betrayal. One version stated he was commanded by God to give the money to a potter to create a clay pot. When finished, the potter smashed the pot on Judas Iscariot’s grave.”

“So, you’re suggesting that this pot may be the only vessel that can hold these coins?” Foy asked.

“The only logical explanation as to why anyone would go through the trouble of gluing the pot back together,” Elodie said.

Richardson opened his briefcase, revealing a smaller case inside, and in that case was a pair of white gloves embossed with an ornate cross. He said a prayer under his breath and touched each glove to his lips before slipping them on.

“And if these artifacts are cursed, you can safely handle them without retribution?” Foy asked, gesturing to the charred body that Richardson seemed to ignore entirely.

“I suppose we will find out soon enough, won’t we?” Richardson said. “I advise you both to stand back.”

Elodie and Foy took two giant steps back from the coins and the Pure Soul.

Richardson recited another prayer under his breath, blessed himself by making the sign of the cross, and reached for the coins.

To be continued…

Text and Audio ©2014 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Duchess and the Anecdote

Duchess

They come from miles around, my characters do, traveling the great distance from the fringes of my mind’s eye, some even making the long and arduous haul from my childhood, just to sit and talk. They do this whenever I’m alone.

As they gather ’round, I cast an eye upon their many and various faces and can’t help but feel the slightest twinge of remorse. Being in my company, locked within the confines of my imagination, is not wholly unlike a purgatory for them. A holding pattern, a waiting room, where they converse amongst themselves in voices audible only to myself, trying to catch my attention in the slimmest hope of being set free. Birthed into a story.

Some are fresh meat, the rest lifers, each easily spotted by the differences in their appearance and the strength of their voices. Fresh meats are gossamers—newly formed characters, little more than a stack of traits—who shout in whispers. Lifers, on the other hand, are as fleshed out as you or I, perhaps even more so, who have acquired the proper pitch and turn of phrase to catch me unawares during the times when my mind idles.

Before the talks begin–serious conversation, not the normal natterings they engage in–a flying thing the size of a butterfly, jewel-toned blue stripes, greenish-gold spots, with flecks of silver on the wings, lands in the palm of my outstretched hand.

“What is that then?” a childlike voice asks from somewhere deep in the crowd, low to the ground. I recognize it instantly.

“It’s an anecdote, Duchess. Come see for yourself.” I reply as the creature’s wings beat softly on my palm.

The throng–my personal rogue’s gallery whose roster includes reputables and reprobates alike–part like the Red Sea, making way for the noblest of all serval cats, The Duchess.

“An antidote? Have you been poisoned?” The Duchess queries as she saunters into the open space, a dollop of concern gleaming in her vivid blue eyes.

I try to not laugh, partly out of respect, but mostly due to the fact that though she is the eldest of my unused characters, she is technically still but a kitten. “No, Duchess, it’s an anecdote, as in a short, amusing, or interesting story about a person or an incident.“

“I know full well what an anecdote is, thank you kindly. I was merely attempting to lighten the dreadfully somber mood with a bit of levity.” Not her best faux pas cover, but it was swift, which should count for something. As casually as she could manage, the kitten turned to see if anyone found amusement at her expense. No one did. They knew better. “May I hold it?”

I hesitate and stare at the leapling. Created on February 29th all those many years ago, it was my rationale–on paper–for keeping her a kitten, seeing as she had fewer birthdays, she would naturally age at a decelerated rate. The actuality is I have an affinity for kittens. For full-grown cats? Not so much. And now the dilemma is if her kittenish nature should come into play, and without meaning to, cause injury to the anecdote, then all this would be for naught.

Her eyes plead with all the promise of being good and I have no choice but to relent. “It’s fragile, so be gentle. Take care not to crush it.” I gently place the anecdote in her cupped paws.

“Why does one need an anecdote?” The Duchess of Albion asked, her nose twitching whenever the creature moves its wings.

“To tell a proper story,” I answer. “More than just a sequence of actions, anecdotes are the purest form of the story itself.“

“But I thought characters are at the heart of every great story?“

“They are and anecdotes connect the hearts and minds of those characters to a story.” I try to feign calm but I can see the kitten’s body tensing up. Her eyes, those glorious baby blues, are studying the creature closely. Was I wrong in my decision to trust that she rules her instincts and not the other way around?

“They also add suspense to your story, giving the audience a sense that something is about to happen. If you use them right, you can start raising questions right at the beginning of your story—something that urges your audience to stay with you. By raising a question, you imply that you will provide your audience with the answers. And you can keep doing this as long as you remember to answer all the questions you raise.“

The kitten’s breath becomes rapid and her paws close in around the anecdote and I want to cry out, urge her to stop, but it’s far beyond that point now. She is in control of her own fate. Canines bare themselves, paws pulling the creature closer to her mouth.

“No!” she shakes her head violently. Her ears relax and her mouth closes as her breathing returns to normal. Then, the oddest thing happens…

The Duchess begins to vanish. All the characters look on in dazed silence, uncertain how to react.

“What is happening to me?” she shoots me a panicked glance as cohesion abandons her form.

“Haven’t you sussed it out yet?“

“No… I’m scared!“

“Don’t be,” I smile. “Look around you. You’re at the heart of a story. You’re free.“

“Truly?” she is suddenly overwhelmed with delight, her expression priceless. “But — but what do I do with the anecdote now?”

“Open your paws, let it fly off.”

She unfolds her paws. Tiny wings beat their path to freedom. Then someone from the back of the crowd gives The Duchess a slow clap. Soon, others join in, building into a tidal wave of applause.

The now translucent Duchess waves a tearful thank you to the crowd, before turning back to me with a request, “Say my name.“

“Why?“

“Because you always simply address me as Duchess and I want to hear you call me by my full name one last time before I g– —“

And just like that, she was gone.

I bid you a fond farewell, Your Grace the Duchess of Albion Gwenore del Septima Calvina Hilaria Urbana Felicitus-Jayne Verina y de Fannia. Enjoy your journey. You will be missed.

Text and Audio ©2013 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

 

Blood Money

Detective Elodie Arcement arrived on scene shortly after 3 a.m., the so-called hour of the wolf, when things of this nature usually occurred. She flashed her credentials to the uniformed officer standing at the barrier of black-and-yellow crime-scene tape and was intercepted by a second officer attempting to hand her a forensic isolation suit, which she waved off. Those things never fit right and she found them difficult to walk in because they always managed to bunch up at her feet.

Arcement entered the victorian terrace house, and the air stank of sulfur, largely due to the drops of brimstone that fell through the shattered skylight, creating puddles in the remnant of the living room shag carpet. Although avoiding the puddles as best she could manage, her shoes were getting ruined. She cursed herself for not slipping on the isolation suit when she had the opportunity.

In the center of the living room, Forensic Scientist Marabel Foy, in her isolation suit, was kneeling over the charred remains of a body, conducting her preliminary examination.

“Someone took their sweet time getting here,” Foy said without looking up from the corpse.

“Give it a rest. I wasn’t on call tonight. Shumway called in a family emergency and guess who gets to pick up his slack?” the detective said. “What do we know so far?”

“It’s early days yet, but I believe I can officially list the cause of death as: Smote,” said Foy. “Don’t you just love biblical crime scenes?”

“Gotta give Shumway credit for ducking out on this one. Can you ID the victim?” Arcement asked.

“Ellie, I can’t even tell you if it’s male or female. I need to get what’s left of the body back to the lab.”

“Everything been photographed?”

Foy nodded. “My team’s been over the scene twice. I always find it odd that a bolt from the heavens can reduce a human body to ashes and leave everything else undamaged.”

Tell that to my shoes, Arcement thought, before noticing that the corpse’s right arm was extended and just beyond its reach was a clay pot lying on its side with coins spilling out of it.

“Has anyone touched these?” Arcement asked, gesturing at the pot and coins.

“No. Like I said we were waiting on you…”

“Good. Tell them not to,” Arcement cut her off.

“Why not?”

“Because these coins bear the likeness of the Phoenician god Melqart along with the Greek inscription ΤΥΡΟΥ ΙΕΡΑΣ ΚΑΙ ΑΣΥΛΟΥ which, if they’re genuine, makes them Tyrian shekels.”

Foy waited for an explanation and when none came, asked, “Meaning…?”

“Tyre is a Phoenician city in what we now call Lebanon. They issued silver coins from roughly 130 B.C. to 70 A.D., but no two are alike due to their primitive minting process.”

“And you know this how?”

“By having a theologian and coin collector for a father,” Arcement answered. “Like I was saying, shekels were struck by hand with a four-foot-long hammer whose head had the face on it and the minters stood four feet back and struck the coin and even the most skilled minter wasn’t able to get a perfect strike every time, making the images off-center.”

“I’m still not following,” Foy said.

“Okay, how many coins do you see?” Arcement asked. “I count nineteen on the rug and I’m willing to bet the number still inside the pot is eleven, which would bring the total to thirty. Think about it, thirty pieces of silver.”

“You’re not saying that…”

“This may be the blood money Judas Iscariot received for betraying Christ, and if I’m right then these coins are cursed and may be the reason our victim is now a charcoal briquette.”

To be continued…

Text and Audio ©2014 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Can You Meet My Conditions?

You tell me that you love me and desire nothing more than to be with me, but I must make you understand that entering into a relationship with me is a job you must be on call for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, regardless of prior personal commitments, non-life-threatening illnesses, and sensitive family matters including death. You must be highly trained in a form of self-defense, be in excellent physical condition, and be ready at a moment’s notice to defend not only my life but my honor as well.

I only date the very best of the best, and my dating pool is so elite that less than 20 percent of all potential suitors are excepted for training, and only a fraction of them make the grade to become applicants. Applications are submitted to my parents, and to have their applications accepted, potential suitors must be highly motivated and disciplined, and possess a strong history of long-term infidelity-free dating, as well as an immaculate husbandly appearance.

If appointed, a potential suitor is assigned to one of my aides for a 2 week training period where they will be trained on the particulars that will be expected of them, which includes following strict rules, training guidelines, and the need for complete dedication and commitment to the relationship.

The training cycle is intense, consisting of a series of 5 exhaustive tests over 6 to 12 months. These tests focus on ceremonial performance, wardrobe preparation, and knowledge. If the potential suitor completes the training cycle and passes the tests, they are able to flawlessly conduct 7 different types of ceremonies, meet the highest standards of small talk preparation in a variety of subjects and recite 35 pages of my background and family history without error.

The successful suitor is awarded the title of Inamorato, and will be from then on referred to as my consort. To understand how serious this is to be, the title of Inamorato can be revoked for any act that brings disrespect to myself or my family. If this happens, charges will be filed, remuneration will be sought, and an active attempt will be made to ruin your life forever.

Do you still find me attractive?

Text and Audio ©2014 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Of Things Read About and Dreamt

In spite of the pleasant weather forecast prediction, a rogue thunderstorm struck Friday evening, the likes of which had not been seen since the days of Noah and the flood, ruining the plans of revelers looking to get a headstart on their wild weekend festivities.

Titus Shelton’s plans hadn’t been affected by the unexpected downpour in the least, as he had always been a bit of a homebody. Even as a child, he was perfectly comfortable being alone with his books, preferring the company of fictional characters, and losing himself within their fantasy worlds. Sometimes, he would even combine the characters from different novels and create better stories and more exciting worlds within his own vivid imagination. And now, this weather, considered ghastly by most, provided him with the proper backdrop for a perfect evening spent at home.

Entering the spacious high-ceilinged living room decorated in dark wood furniture, Titus strode across the carpeted floor, past the curio filled with odd knick-knacks, and the baby grand piano, to the inlaid mahogany bookcase. Running a delicate finger across the numerous title-embossed leather spines, he made a selection, and carried it to his favorite seat, the plump armchair positioned closest to the fire burning in the hearth.

He loved this chair because it contoured to his shape, offering maximum comfort as he read, which he did this night until he dozed off, and as happened on many an occasion, he brought aspects of the novel with him into dreamland. This particular book had been a gothic horror tale about an ancient nocturnal creature who feasted on the evil that existed in every human being since the original sin was committed. In the dream, he was alone in a dark, foggy petrified forest, being chased by a figure he could not see clearly, who traveled from shadow to shadow. Through dream logic, he knew his only hope was to reach a well-lit area, for the illumination would have provided a barrier against the darkness. But the creature was gaining ground…

There was a noise.

Titus woke abruptly, confused. Was the noise a part of his dream, or had it come from within the house? He pricked his ears, listening in silence for the noise to sound again. Nothing. When he tried to move his head, to verify that he was alone in the room, Titus discovered he was locked in a sleep paralysis.

The noise again! A scritchy-scratchy sound, like nails clawing at the inside of a coffin lid. Something was definitely inside his house…and it was coming for him! Rationality abandoned him as his mind, overtaken by his imagination, grasped at straws. He wondered if the book he was reading contained some sort of incantation and had he unknowingly summoned something from an ancient dark realm? And, in dreaming it into existence, had he brought this nightmare into the waking world?

Titus looked at the burning logs in the fireplace. Surely they cast enough light to keep him safe within, he thought. But the security of that thought was short-lived, for a fog impossibly began to roll into the living room, and when it touched the logs, the flames dimmed. Then, the temperature in the room dropped drastically, becoming so cold that he saw the condensation of his breath that was coming in frantic little gasps.

Although he could not see behind him, Titus imagined a creature slinking from shadow to shadow, drawing closer and closer…

He struggled in his mind, his brain commanding his body to stand up and flee to the safety of a place filled with light, but nothing moved, not even a pinky. He was still in the thrall of the paralysis, still locked to his favorite armchair.

More scratching noises, this time closer, and the cold air filled with a hot, sickly sweet, fragrant cloud of burning sulfur that singed the edges of his nostrils.

From the corner of his eye, he detected movement! Impossibly long white fingers crawled in a spider motion across his shoulders, and he felt a mouth crowded with sharp teeth kiss the tender flesh of his exposed neck.

“Oh, it’s you, Mother,” Titus breathed a sigh of relief, as the sleep paralysis finally loosened its grip. “Welcome home.”

Text and Audio ©2014 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Greetings from Europa – Fifteenth Transmission: Death and Rebirth

First Transmission * Second Transmission * Third Transmission * Fourth Transmission * Fifth Transmission * Sixth Transmission * Seventh Transmission * Eighth Transmission * Ninth Transmission * Tenth Transmission * Eleventh Transmission * Twelfth Transmission * Thirteenth Transmission * Fourteenth Transmission

Greetings from Europa!

Meis’lo is old, even by Europan standards, and has a tendency to speak in alien hyperbole, simile, metaphor, and analogy, most of which I understand, some of which I have to extrapolate the meaning from the surrounding story, and others that I take wide stabs at in the dark. I need you to keep this in mind as I translate and paraphrase what he told me he witnessed as a young child at the highest point of the mountain Pwyll, the day the spiritual prophet Nes’Tim was slain.

Before the arrival of Nes’Tim, we, the land and the people, were not as you see it now. We were…less. Different in form, different in thought. Our thoughts were simple: Find food. Find shelter. The world was ice. Food lived in the water beneath the ice. We were not strong enough to break the ice, so we searched for cracks that led to crevasses in the surface to the water below in order to reach food. Many died while trying to capture food and became food themselves.

And then one day a being appeared in our sky. It was unlike anything we had ever seen before, above or below the ice. We had no concept of what it was but it moved as if it was alive, so to our hungry eyes, it was food.

It streaked across the sky and landed on the peak of Pwyll with such a tremendous force that shook the ground. We climbed the mountain and found it lying still, but alive. Whether it was injured before or because of crashing into Pwyll, I could not say, but we all knew it was dying.

When we entered Nes’Tim, I could feel its torture, its struggle to survive. I wanted to feed but I also wanted this being to survive, the others, the Sel’Tab, did not. They wanted to feast on the parts that gave Nes’Tim life and I alone stood in opposition, but I was not enough.

As they began feasting on the heart, Nes’tim released a scream, a noise ringing with tremendous power as it bounced off of the rocks and echoed through our bodies. That was the beginning of Alum’Vedca for us all. This wise and powerful being had called forth its heralds, despite being devoured by we lesser entities, and they covered the lands and all who lived above and beneath the ice with the prophet’s grace. From that moment on, we were changed.

When Meis’lo said they entered Nes’Tim, although I had no visual reference, I pictured him and his people walking into the mouth of a giant space whale. But when he placed a finger to the ground and scratched out in the dirt a rough image of what Nes’Tim’s heralds looked like, my entire perspective changed. His crude drawing resembled one of the terraforming pods launched from Earth.

Then I was hit with a bizarre thought. Meis’lo said that before Nes’Tim, they were less. What if he meant that they were microbes, or some other tiny organisms, tapeworms, even, trying to make a home in a body, the way bacteria does. What if, as they were attaching themselves to Nes’Tim’s body, the terraforming pods landed on Europa and released their biological nanotech payload, which bonded to the predeveloped Europans and the space whale and combined their genetic codes on a subatomic level and repurposed them, initiating the evolutionary process that eventually matured into the beings I have come to know and love?

What if the connection I suspected between the Europans and the land was due to the fact that on a fundamental level, there was no separation between them? Just like the astrophysicists on Earth believe we’re all made of stardust, what if the developed life on this moon was a genetic combination of land minerals, indigenous microscopic organisms, the space whale they called Nes’Tim, and NASA funded terraforming nanotechnology?

My mind hurts. I need to rest and process this.

Until next broadcast, this is Captain Edwards, signing off.

To be continued…

Text and Audio ©2014 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Glossary of Terms

  • Abogzons – Gynecological engineers.
  • Agvann – Translation: The will of Nes’Tim; an accident.
  • Alum’Vedca – The day marking the new solar cycle of Peace and Maturity; a tribute to the era when Europans evolved from their primitive prey state.
  • Arcek – A spiritual theologian
  • Biem – A time to show respect for the aged.
  • Biss’ore – Travelers, nomads
  • Bokloryn – An unrepayable debt; an act that places the receiver in a lifetime contract of servitude.
  • Cu’nal – A biological storage unit.
  • Denpa – An envoy equipped with an audiographic memory that can store and recall spoken messages at will in the same voice, tone and inflection of the original person who spoke it, who travels from village to village to deliver messages from other communities both near and far.
  • Egami – A docile mineral-based creatures primarily used for family transportation due to the fact they are virtually inexhaustible.
  • Gates of Juh’holl – Europan afterlife; where souls are released from the flesh to become stardust and rejoin the universe.
  • Grahas – A gerbil-sized creature, resembling a stone armadillo, that emits heat when stroked.
  • Homnils – A warm, yet sad, reminiscence about something in the past.
  • Ipu llqr mwyll xfrr – Abogzon credo meaning “success or death”; satisfaction guaranteed.
  • Isogoles – Europan monthly day of pay.
  • Jampi – Captain Edward’s son.
  • Jbwqnadb – The Europan spelling of lemonade.
  • Jhisal – Meis’lo’s home village.
  • Klanea – Translation: unknown to us; stranger.
  • Mecot’ra – Unterraformed areas of Europa.
  • Meis’lo – The only surviving witness to the murder of  the prophet Nes’Tim.
  • Micdow yl – The vessels of new life; children.
  • Nes’Tim – The most revered spiritual prophet on Europa, slain by a heretic tribe who call themselves Sel’Tab.
  • Pwyll – Europa’s highest mountain.
  • Qik’climajh – Depending on its usage in a sentence, denotes either the act of telling a story, or the storyteller themselves.
  • Sel’Tab – A heretic tribe responsible for the death of the prophet Nes’Tim.
  • Shig’umfu – “Interesting world of another”; a documentary qik’climajh in which neighbors tell the story of a person’s life as learned from casual conversations.
  • Spo – Food.
  • Uz Cu’nal – A biological storage unit used primarily for food preservation.
  • Uz – An unspeakable sexual act; a derogatory term; an insult.