Friday, September 15, 2017

Scavenger Logic

Scavenger Logic
by
Bobby Derie

"These things are predators, see." One latex-gloved finger slipped inside the corpse's mouth, and he peeled back the lip to expose black gums, jagged yellowing fangs with gaps in between them. "Ghouls don't normally go after living humans. Only the older, sicklier ones, the loners on the verge of starvation. They hunt and scavenge in packs; the weak get forced out, fight for scraps, then left behind to die. That's when they get dangerous."

Detective Jack Bastard stepped around the body, letting the technician continue chalking it. Behind him, the flash of a camera briefly back-lit him again the chunk of meat in the wheelchair, which occupied the middle of the small, cramped bedroom. He turned slowly to look at the pair of pale legs sticking out of the tattered gingham dress, which ended rather abruptly shortly above the waist in a bloody ruin. They still hadn't found the top half.

"They don't look for a fight. Go after the young, the old, the sick, the lame, the ones that aren't protected. Stragglers of the herd. That's scavenger logic. Nursing homes are prime spots for a lone ghoul. They sleep a lot, and dream often of death. The stench of dying things hangs around these places. Can't really defend themselves."

The detective stepped out of the way again, took a wider view of the scene. The victim on the ground was nude, with the lean, quivvering flesh of a chihuahua, skin loose over small, taut muscles. Hairless except for a fine down, which was white. The white line of scars were visible on the flesh, especially around the arms - like a stray cat. Digits ended in pale, arched claws, bits of meat still stuck under the nails. It's throat was a gaping wound, blood gone black and sticky. The head was wrong; jaw too prominent, muscles on the side overdeveloped, pointing forward. A biter.

"They do fight, if cornered. Like rats. Adrenaline response; they'll escape if they can, but if they're boxed in - and human buildings are just a nest of boxes - then they can scrap it out. That's what happened here." He pointed at lines of fresh scratches on the face. "Not a mated pair; they would have shared. This was somebody caught be surprise. Overlapping territory. Two of them came in. Fought to the death over scraps, this one lost. The other..."

He tapped his canine teeth together, jaw chattering briefly in gibberish Morse code.

"...they took the meat, what they could carry, anyway. Ghouls like dead meat; want it to ferment for a while. Alligators do the same, pull the prey under, drag them somewhere to soften before they start to tear pieces off. The winner has a lair, or at least a larder. That's where the rest of grandma is. Stronger and tougher than the old boy here, but not strong enough to haul all of her in one trip - runt of the litter, maybe."

He clicked his teeth again. "The other one left his opponent behind, though. Must have been surprised; lone ghouls tend to be cunning, out of necessity. They know they're vulnerable, away from the pack. Don't like to leave traces. They don't feed on each other, though." The detective gave a back-throat chuckle. "That would be cannibalism."

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Friday, September 1, 2017

Book-Coal

Book-Coal
by
Bobby Derie

They bought the old paperbacks by the bag, from the landfill-miners. Hauled them all the way back to the forge. The covers would be stripped off, and the glue scraped off, the dusty, crumbling pages tied tight in blocks with twine. There was a screw-press there that took both of them to operate, and when they pushed and pulled they could squeeze six hundred pages down until it was a centimeter thick. Six of those together made a block, and the block went in the barrel - slowly, carefully, heat and pressure would turn the block into coal. The coal they would take to the smith, and the ash they would spread in the garden. Sometimes the spade would turn up a blackened leaf, with the shadow of a letter glittering on it, but not often. They had learned their craft well.

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Friday, August 25, 2017

Straight Talk

Straight Talk
by
Bobby Derie



The writer met her fan at the bar. They ordered separately. The fan allowed themselves a slight smiles as the cocktail arrived. Just like in the books.



"You don't owe me," the writer said, taking a first sip. "And I don't owe you. That isn't how this works."



The fan quietly tasted her how drink.



"I write, and you read. You get what you pay for. That's the extant that either of us owe each other. I can't promise more than that in this kind of relationship. Do you understand?"



The fan smiled, and nodded. Then finished her drink. She slid a book across the bar, and the writer signed it. The fan left. The writer held up a finger to the bartender, and took out a pencil. The tip had broken off in her purse.

"A writer casts blood into the abyss. Whatever she wants to communicate, whatever intent she has, must go out all at once, or it is lost." She sharpened the pencil with the care of Van Helsing whittling a stake. "And the readers for their part are no blank slates; they bring themselves to the story, with all the baggage of their experiences. It is what makes each reading unique."


She blew off a curl of lead-tinged wood. "You can't prepare the readers, you see. You have to take them as they are." The writer looked at him suddenly. "Do you think she heard me? Do you think she understood?" The bartender didn't meet her eyes.



"Fans read what they want to read. They bring their own understanding. Writers can't control that."



The writer knocked the second cocktail back. "Something harder, next time."



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Friday, August 18, 2017

Potentialities

Potentialities
by
Bobby Derie


"Just as an individual may possess exceptional mental or physical abilities, so too may they develop spiritual abilities." Professor Chua was the color of tea, from the dark limpid pools of her eyes to the faded brown-gray fingertips, from the tight steel-gray bun of hair on her head down to the sandel-clad feet with their long nails. Her stout, maternal frame was draped in a dress of milky brown raw silk that swished slightly as she walked. "Or perhaps we should call these philosophical abilities, as they do not always extend to theological applications. In any event, as with Olympic level athletes, practitioners at the highest level of ability are specialized by the narrowness of focus. A bodybuilder is not built like a marathon runner; a linguist need not be a chessmaster. So it is likewise with adepts. Before you realize your potential, you must determine your potentialities."


Practical Metaphysics the marker scrawled on the board. Students were scattershot in the mostly empty room, bored and impatient and enthralled in turn. The institutional red brick, wooden floors, and heavy tables gave it the air of an old chemistry lab, abandoned by the sciences for riper hunting grounds.


"Before we begin this preliminary exercise, I would like to remind all of you that whatever your particular spiritual talents, all of them can be improved, with study and training. This is not a matter of whether one has a gift, but whether one chooses to develop and hone their own spiritual strengths."


It was a guided meditation. No trances, no occult verbiage. Her smooth tone walked them through the first steps to crafting a sigil, had them trace and retrace it in their minds eye, and finally with pen and ink on notecards.


"The sigil, is a core element of this semester's project. Do not discard it. This is a symbol of self, which you will charge with meaning; for some purposes, it will be you. As you learn to manipulate it, to work it through its variations, you will also make alterations to yourself. The external transformation will be mirrored by internal transformation. This project is one of becoming. You will take out of this class exactly what you put into it."


She pursed her lips and looked out at the handful of young men and women. "And if you are diligent and fortunate, you will survive the examination."


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Friday, August 11, 2017

The Red-Litten Temple

The Red-Litten Temple
by
Bobby Derie

All cities are reflections of the one city, and at some point in their lives all seekers find their feet drawn along strange paths in search of things they cannot name. For cities are finite things, and whatever secret places they hold, they are ultimately mundane secrets; the alley ways end in mountains of trash, or open sewers, or give way at last to empty lots gone back to a sad and stunted nature. The exotic, the precious, the obscene, the glorious and the profane are all tainted by the sundry limits of the world, so that not even a hint of divine madness can long last as more than a flicker of flame in a wind, or the virtue of a new-minted whore.

Yet hunger drives the seekers to where hungers burn bright, and the steps of the pilgrim may yet step into red-litten shadows, and through the little door where the Keeper hands out her faded yellow tickets, the same strange smile on her face...a face that belongs to no one race or no one time. Then the attendant comes and leads them down that long hallway of red lamps, whose light spills out into the street. Beneath each lamp, a door and a statue of a god; each god engrossed in a lascivious benediction.

Here the crooked-spine is bent almost double, lips locked upon the base of his own member; there, dual female divinities, fecund with life, locked together in an endless circle; or two devis are locked together, and a third presses himself between their facing mounds; farther on there are stranger things...gods of whips and chains, or coupled with beasts of the forest, field, and barnyard. As the knees buckle and the tongue burns, there are things that leave behind the dross of physical possibility, where terrible endowments pervert the form, and some of the gods wear inhuman shapes, exquisite in their detail. Always, always, the pilgrim stops at one of those lamps, and turns within to pay homage to the idol by engaging in the rite.

For the only offering acceptable in the red-litten temple is yourself.

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Georgia Peaches

Georgia Peaches
by
Bobby Derie


Peaches are a part of the state of Georgia; the firm fruit of its bloody soil, succulent and juicy. The people of Georgia feed on their peaches from the youngest age, and grow new crops of them in turn. It is a cycle as natural as it is somewhat maddening, the crunch and slurp of teeth biting through the thin, fuzzy skin to bite off raw, dripping chunks of the sweet flesh within; the pulped remnants sliding down the gullet to land in the stomach, where it dissolves, the bits of peach breaking down, being carried throughout the body, building blocks of cells, becoming human at some indeterminate point along the way, no longer peach at all.


Many Georgians are peach souls in embodied in blood and bone. You can sense their innate, sickening sweetness seeping through their soft pink flesh. Yet it takes a long time to recognize them as such - the Peachkin. Like farmers and their pigs who have fed off one another so long that they begin to grow alike, and have finally switched roles, so that the men wallow and the oinking master draws the knife across a rough throat. So it is with the Peachkin, who are invariably closely tied to the production of peaches themselves, to their native soil as it were - walking amid the orchards, eyeing the unripe fruit with some instinct that goes beyond mere familiarity and experience, to something closer to communion.


Perhaps it is just nearness that does it. A child is born without a soul, near an orchard, and the wafting spirit of a peach fills the spiritual vacuum. Or perhaps it is the cumulative effect of all those peach lives, consumed generation upon generation, permeating the flesh of mothers and fathers, building blocks of sperm and egg... or maybe there is just a vast spiritual pressure that comes from the calm heart of the peach orchard, that forces out whatever squawking, red-mouthed thing that passes for the human life force, replacing it with something more vegetable. Not quite dryads but something just as elemental, spirits of the peach trees oddly bodied.


Some of them fall. It's not the human nature that fails them, I think, but something innate in the peach nature that finds ready access through human flesh. Perhaps the souls of those come from the old peaches that fall on the ground, the ones in which that terrible natural alchemy takes place. The fallen Peachkin are much like that. The flesh is bruised and soft, the terrible sweetness transmutes to a sickly odour, like a bad wine. They fall into corrupt practices - for while the peach may wish you to eat the flesh of their flesh, the fallen peach wants you to drink of their blood. A heady, straw-colored wine that brings madness and joy.


Then there are the few - the perfect. Those who have fallen and passed through, they purify body and spirit. Distilled down to their essence, the overpowering aura of the peach seems to shrine through their frail flesh. To even stand in their presence is enough to be drunk, for the full majesty and power of the peach is upon them, the spirit and weight of the orchard, the red clay of Georgia pulled up through their roots and combined with the summer rays to make a golden ambrosia of distilled sunshine. They bleed amber and golden, and offer themselves to supplicants, who take the peach into themselves more and more, unheeding of the spirits they permit into their vessels, into their very flesh...


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Friday, July 28, 2017

Thog Life

Thog Life
by
Bobby Derie


Before dawn, Thog rose to hunt the mammoth. She left the warm pile of her family in their hut, retrieved her skirt and foot-wraps and spear, and filtered into the silent press of men and women of her tribe who had likewise risen for the hunt.


It was a long day, and when Thog returned in the afternoon, hauling her share of the kill, the village was in siesta. Thog dropped the mammoth haunch off at the family hut; smiled at the children, glowered at the rump of her sister as it bounced up and down atop her mate. Their mother would be with the other old women, bitching about their sons and daughters. Thog hurried off before her mother came back.


Oogla found Thog down by the flint-workers, getting her spear sharpened. Raised a couple of gourds and winked. The two wandered down to a secluded creek spun-off from the river, where the fishing was poor and few bothered to go. They sipped from the gourds through reeds, the alcohol sour and harsh. It made Thog's head giddy after the long day.


"It wasn't supposed to be like this," she confided in Oogla. "Thog was going to grow up to unite the tribes! Now, Thog have to drag herself out of bed every morning, hunt mammoth not to starve. Mother still asking for grandchild. Compare Thog to her sister, Soona. 'Soona have four kids, two survive infancy! Only sixteen summers! You never going to find a mate, settle down!' I tell her 'That not what people do these days. Thog still trying to figure her life out. Not like old days.'"


Oogla burped and nodded, not quite soberly. Talk turned to other things. The cave-boys they had seen last season, with the straight white teeth and firm brown asses. The marsh-folk that lived out on stilt-huts, who wore the skin of the sacred crocodiles they worshipped, and claimed the universe hatched from an egg. The days in the red hut, when they had first become women together, making dolls out of straw. Too soon, Oogla had to go back to her hut. Her own mate was waiting, and there were hides that needed scraping, fires tending. Thog was left alone as the sun began to die.


She steeled herself to return to the hut.


Soona was happy to see her, grinning through a mouthful of mammoth; her belly was already showing with grandkid #5. Her mate nodded; politely. They had talked about the stick-games every now and again, but even after four summers they had never really become friends. Not since she had woken up with his hand on her ass one night, and she'd had to blacken both his eyes. Since then, he always slept with Soona on the far side of the pile.


Thog's mother, Atala, was wiping one of the babies down. In a glance she could tell the old woman was in a snit. But her stomach rumbled, and there was a choice cut of mammoth left, which no-one begrudged her. Near the hearth Soona began telling her story - about the handsome girl of the tribe and the bear-man who carried her off, before the boy came to rescue her - the children listened with rapt attention, but Thog focused on her meat. She was too old for romantic stories. There was no bear-man, and no boy to rescue her.


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