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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Journey of the Soul-Linker, Part 10

Previous post here

Beginning here

When the desert falls away before you at the top of the hill, a blue seascape takes your breath away. Below you, a cliff-face drops down to groves and groves of deep jade trees flecked with oranges, and a port town of bronze and umber, leather-colored roofs creeps out right to the edge of the water. The town seems sea-hungry, with boardwalks and piers fingering out into the waves as if the whole brown port might just crawl out into the sea like an octopus going home. You can almost imagine it cluttering across the water towards the turquoise and rose-pink horizon, and then sinking to crawl on the bottom of the sea…

You look behind you, at the arid sand-dunes as their tips swirl into the dry wind. Melly comes up behind you, and then clambers up a rise above you. Her half-ponytail blows in the wind as she crosses her arms over her chest and strikes up a Captain Morgan, looking for all the world as if she just conquered all she surveys. "We'll stop and buy some tincture of time here," she says.

"Tincture of time?" You repeat, imagining potions that freeze the clock, or slow down your enemies…you hope it's not just an expression.

"It's a bit complex, y'see," Melly says, starting to climb down the cliff-face. "Humans ain't s'posed to control time, only control our selves, in time. We're its ally, not its master--think riding the horse bareback, instead'o'tryin' to beat it into submission with saddles and bits and bridles and clocks. The tincture of time's like the horse's carrot."

You don't understand the metaphor at all, but warm breath and soft little humid horse whiskers play in your memory over your palm. The last time you fed a horse was…when was that? Did that really happen? You distinctly remember a wide, green pasture, splinters in an old ocher fence, and the galloping of hooves, the musty scent of manure, and the slime left on the carrot as the huge teeth nibble and nibble away…

It's weird how you have memories that may or may not be yours.

"You comin'?" Melly calls from down below you. 

"Why don't you use your jetpack?" you shout down.

"Shhhh! Swearing's illegal here!" 

"Huh?" You glance down the cliff, and then left along the slope of the hill where the desert meets the edge of the sky-and-water view. Maybe it's time to put those long-distance hiking skills to the test, because you won't be climbing down after Melly any time soon.

"I'll meet you at the bottom," you say, and with that, you break off on your own.


Meet the Tincture of Time, and discover what swearing has to do with Melly's jetpack! Next week.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Journey of the Soul-Linker, Part 9



You and Melly now stand alone in the empty village square, surrounded by half-devoured candy houses. Syrup sparkles in the sunlight. Sprinkles slide to the ground off a nearby roof that's got a big, slimy chunk bitten out of it.

"Were the people made of candy, too?" you wonder.

"They were. Gingerbread people. Folks say that's why they were so dang militant," Melly says. "But you can be militant without wiping each other out, I say. I'm militant as heck."

"What do you mean, militant?"

"Well, if you were made o' edible stuff, you'd be armed all the time, right?"

"Aren't we all edible stuff to someone?" you ask.

"Sure, and do you hang out unarmed with those someones? Bears or whateva."

"Sure, if there's mutual trust there."

Melly rolls her eyes at you. "Wrong answer. Trust but verify, I always say. Ain't nothin' better to verify with than a good ole laser-sword. Anyhoo, so they did well for a while, but they didn't count on the slime in their DNA. 'Member how I told you it's gotten into errything in our world? Well, they didn't defend against that. So their protectiveness turned to jealousy, to paranoia, until they jumped at erry little thing. Fear's mighty dangerous."

"And they wiped each other out." You gasp in realization, almost smirking, because the image of primal, horrified chaos, of men and women running through the streets with axes, families eating each other alive as votes are taken on who's the traitor, children huddling in the dark as insane caretakers hunt and whisper "I know you're a monster, I know, I won't let you eat my children"--the whole thing seems different when imagined through the lens of gingerbread people.

Melly begins to trudge through the village streets again, pressing onward again, and you follow. You contemplate asking her if you can break off a roof to carry in your pocket, but you realize very quickly that would be disrespectful, and you hold your tongue and your half-smirking laughter at bay. This place exists to petrify, to mark the memory of the little candy people who went insane here. You've got to learn to respect that.

"I'm surprised you're not mad at him," Melly says presently.

"Mad? Why would I be mad?"

"Took your agency and all that. Didn't let you save yourself. You're the protag an' all." Melly shrugged.

You look around at the deserted streets. It's hard to be mad when someone saves you from goo-assimilation! If anything, you're mad he didn't save all the little candy people. 

But then again, isn't she right? Aren't you supposed to be the master of your own story, opening your own doors? "Yeah, well, I am mad," you say, with not even a quarter of your heart in your puffed-up voice. "We had it under control."

Melly smiles and looks up to the sky, and you have a distinct feeling you've fallen into her trap. You hunch your shoulders, and search for something to say back at, not to, her. Something slimy whispers in your ear, and you find the perfect thing: guilt.

"You said you'd warn me before something bad came up. Trigger warning and such--you have a 'sense' for these things, you said." Your voice is cold.

"What, is black goo triggering for you?" She says almost everything in the same even tone, so it's hard to know if she's making fun of you or not. You glare at her, and you catch a sympathetic look back. "Nah, I mean it. I'll warn you if something that's triggerin' comes up. Most folks from your world don't got experience with slime waves. If anything, I had ta warn me." She stares towards the end of the street, hunches her back, and sighs. "I am sorry I snapped atchoo back there, though."

You almost don't remember what she's talking about. "Oh, when I ate the roof."

"Like with many, many snaps through history, the thing I snapped about wa'nt what I was really mad about, Mera. Didn't like how you talked about the Master of the Caves. He's my best friend. I'm not sorry for bein' mad. But I shouldn't of snapped."

You shrug. "It's not healthy to hold in anger."

"'S'not healthy to blast it out, either. There's a way to let it out without lettin' it take charge."

"Well. I'm not mad." You wipe sweat off your forehead--you've gotten to the edge of the village now, and a heat-wave hits you as you're back in the desert. You look back, and realize there's something keeping the candy-town cold--preserved, remembered. "While we're having this heart-to-heart, though, can you answer a question for me?"

"Mebbe." Melly sounds friendly enough, so you go for it.

"Why'd you get upset the first day, when I asked if you were a story character?"

Melly narrows her eyes and shakes her head. Okay, you get it. You drop the subject and pick up another one. This one's stringy, and long, and you pull it and see the past and the future, holding together the story you're in. A good subject. "Where are we off to, now?" you ask.

"We'll cross through the Jungle of Questioning Worms, and then we got one more stretch o' valley between us and the center. There I'll show you the lab, and you'll have had a good view o' what the slime's doing in our world, and then maybe you can use your ecology expertise to come up with a solution."

"Sounds good," you say. But you glance at the burnt, raised welts on her ankle, and suddenly you wonder if you've got what it takes. You glance back at the empty town behind you. Mist rises from it, obscuring the desert sun. The details of the candy houses disappear into the fog, and a shiver runs down your spine.


See you next week.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Black and White Exclusive Just For You!

Hey folks! Got a special treat for you--you can download full size, if you want. It's the continuation of the story over at becominghero.ninja, and I had a trouble deciding between b&w and color, so here's the pure, un-colored one, just for you!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Journey of the Soul-Linker, Part 8: In which your agency is briefly borrowed by someone else

Last week's adventure here

Part 1 here

The wave of slime crashes down towards you and your flamethrower. You're a tiny candle as the darkness plunges down, waving your flickering flame in circles above your head--

Something surfs under the crest of the crashing wave, something glowing and muscular, speeding towards you, racing to beat the fall of the slime. Before you can decide whether it's friend or foe it crashes into you, a solid warmth wraps around you, and you're rocketing through the closing tube of goo together as a pro-surfer one. The light at the end of the tunnel starts to go out--you zip out of the wave, surfing along a rooftop, just in time. 

"You've got a better angle to fire from here!" he shouts as he skies away, down the slope of goo trailing along the building, over into the street where Melly struggles with her ankle. She's surrounded by black slime; her face lights up as she sees him approach, but you can't quite make him out--you see a back, and shoulders, and it's almost like looking into a kaleidoscope. 

But you turn to focus, because the goo's coming up the house, and you're swinging your flamethrower as it tries to lick at your feet. The goo squeals and squelches. You hold it back. It tries to loop around behind you. You've got your little circle of clean, but it's creeping…creeping…

The surfer glances at Melly, and although the face isn't clear you can distinctly see, or feel, an "oh well" smirk cross his face. He raises his hand, and throws a golden rock.

The rock lands in the center of the goo, and with roaring, slurping scream, rushing past you from every corner of the little gingerbread town, the goo sucks into the stone.

You climb gingerly down the side of the candy house, and bend over by the stone. It's no longer golden. It's black, and swirling, like a nebula trapped inside a glass.

"Whoa." You look at Melly, and not at the weird kaleidoscope-man. "We could use this."

Melly shakes her head as she rises to her feet, and points--and you see a new blackened scar wrapped around her ankle like angry Henna. "It can't get the slime outta livin' things, not without killin' 'em. We think mebbe the goo's encodin' itself into the introns in our DNA."

She picks up the rock, and when you turn to look, the kaleidoscope man is gone. She grins, sighs, and puts the rock in her pocket. 

"Who was that?" you ask.

"That?" Melly smirks. "That was why I got mad at you back there. That's my best friend, and you were talking' crap about him." 

You didn't recognize him. He's hard to really…see. "That's the Master of the Caves?"



"That's the Master of the Caves."

See you next week.