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Wednesday, 3rd November, 2004, 04:38 PM #101
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
I should have a better idea what my next couple of weeks look like later today.
Dreaded_Beast, yes post the stories here in this thread. You should also choose a way to annotate your pictures so it is clear where they are being used. If nobody else beats me to it, I will get a synopsis on how to annotate your pictures posted in this thread, and in the FAQ.
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Wednesday, 3rd November, 2004, 05:00 PM #102
Novice (Lvl 1)
As a judge, let me just say that I like links to the pictures, even if in a connotation. It helps me to better visualize when the pic should come into effect, and it's less work for me
"I desperately needed to go throw up, but I was so busy reading your story I made myself wait until I was done reading it" – Sialia
Read my stories (PDF):
Gwen / One Hour Later, Three Days Ago / Cold Fish / Indian Summer / Disillusionment / Rememberance / For Lack of a Better Term / The Hunt / The Second Coming (AU-Serial)
"Berandor, what a beautiful story. It made me cry at the end." – Eeralai on "Rememberance"
Disclaimer 1: Above all, I am a very silly man. So if a statement of mine can be construed as joke - especially if it's not funny - it likely is.
Disclaimer 2: I am also opinionated, so when not joking I am still voicing my opinion. Except when I am stating facts.
Wednesday, 3rd November, 2004, 06:09 PM #103
Write, my pretties, write!
So many games, so little time!
Wednesday, 3rd November, 2004, 06:13 PM #104
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
*takes whip from Maldur, cracks with gusto*
Write like the mad, desperate, hopeless fools that you are! Write, I say! Write!
*hands whip back*
Geez, this is more fun than... This is lots of fun.
Barsoom Tales II: Romance, Revolution and Bloody Revenge!
Big Trouble. Little Heroes. Welcome back to Barsoom. (COMPLETE)
Wednesday, 3rd November, 2004, 07:45 PM #105
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Things are looking pretty good on the home front. I feel much better and if there is a need for an alternate, I think I can jump in. Otherwise, I will happily sit here on the sidelines cheering for good writing.
Thursday, 4th November, 2004, 01:27 AM #106
Grandfather of Assassins (Lvl 19)
Our pic should be posted in a couple hours or so, I think. I hope I'll get the chance to look them over before I leave the house.Originally Posted by dreaded_beast
Thursday, 4th November, 2004, 03:41 AM #107
Round 1.3, dreaded_beast vs. FireLance
Thursday, 4th November, 2004, 06:59 AM #108
Gallant (Lvl 3)
Probably couldn't have participated, even if I had found this thread in time, since I've got a bigger fish to fry, with NaNoWriMo. First time I don't mind having to miss Ceramic DM.Originally Posted by BardStephenFox
Good luck to you, and to all the other competitors. May your pens flow with ingenuous expression and witty dialogue. May your metaphors be fitting and your spelling flawless. Go forth, and write to the best of thine ability.
Shameless plug: Read an excerpt of my novel in progress!
Thursday, 4th November, 2004, 07:06 AM #109
Gallant (Lvl 3)
Match 1, Round 1: Halivar vs. Macbeth
By Sage LaTorra, a.k.a. Macbeth
If my life were a story, this would be the end.
Your entire life you build an ideal. An education. A home. A job. Ikea furniture. A hybrid car. You make it all so perfect, and then this happens.
Your family comes back to haunt you. One minute you’ve got a promising career in mid-level management. Nothing special, just your life.
Then your ancestors decide you’re special.
They couldn’t have done these years ago. They couldn’t have kept you from leaving. They let you run around the world, move out of the village, see what the world is like. Then they decide you’re special. You weren’t special years ago, you weren’t a special child. But now you’re important. You’re the next shaman.
That’s the kind of baggage that comes with being part of a tribe. Radio waves pass through your village, just like any other place on Earth. CAT-5 cable forms a spider’s web beneath the ground the tribe’s bare feet walk on. If you walk a few miles, you can pick up the nearest WI-FI hotspot. And yet they walk around like nothing has changed. Bare feet, face paint, beads, the whole shtick.
Our tribe has a shaman. There aren’t many shaman left in Africa. They get tangled in the web of CAT-5, drawn by the siren call of the WI-FI hotspot. But somehow we still have one, and now I’m set to be the next one.
I don’t want to be the next shaman. I don’t want to spend the rest of my days dirty with dry dust, communing with spirits or whatever it is the shaman does. If my life were a story, this would be the conflict.
I hate the trip back almost as much as I know I’ll hate being back.
It’s a string of plane rides and Dramamine. Every airline seat feels the same, the same music streaming at a steady 128kps from my iPod, the same warnings about turning off your cell phone. I down another Dramamine, and try to fall asleep.
Dreaming isn’t any better.
Because my dream is nothing.
I’ve never had a dream like this before. I fall asleep, and I know I’m asleep but I don’t wake up. It’s complete freedom, knowing that this is a dream. Knowing nothing I do here has any meaning.
I spend a minute contemplating my options. Considering if my body will still move if I do something in a dream. And its a minute too long.
I wake up to the steady 128kbps of digital music. 1 and 0, true and false, something and nothing, somehow mixing to form the trendy, alternative, “I-liked-them-before-they-were-popular” music that flows through my ear buds. I curse myself for wasting my freedom, for not acting. I was in a world where nothing I did mattered, where I could do anything, and I wasted it. Great.
The village hasn’t changed. I haven’t been here in years, and it’s still the same as when I left. It’s like the overprotective parents, leaving their son’s room just as it was when he left for college. The tribe is my parents, and now that I’m gone, now that I’m special, they keep everything the same for me, when all I want is change. I don’t want to go home, I want home to be gone.
I spend a minute reflecting on the cobbled together society that still lives in the village. A hodge-podge of French, American and African traditions, the byproduct of one-time slaves returning home from Louisiana. How can I have pride in my culture when I know that my own name sounds more like something you'd throw in jambalaya then a proper village name?
I feel out of place in my slacks and travel jacket. I briefly consider taking them off before they see me, but its too late.
It's the last person I want to see.
“Everyone, Petro's here!”
She doesn't even sound like a villager anymore. So long native tongue, hello lingua franca.
“Dom Petro, you're not even going to hug your mother?”
The condemnation in her voice rings true. Here your expected to be excited. No more calm, cool, and collected, hello family.
I hug her. More for show then anything, more because I have to then because I want to. I want to tell her I'm still angry. I want to ask her why I'm special now. I want her to be so mad at me that she'll tell me to go away. To go back to my real home. If this were a story, I would do those things. It would be more dramatic.
Instead of any of those things, I say “How are things mom?”
“Same same same. How's our big college man? Still living in New York?”
“Good good. Now we've got to find you some clothes. You'll bake in those. All your old things got handed down, but I'm sure we can find something.”
She leads me into what was once my home. The little hut, just another shabby home among the shambles of thee village.
All my old things are gone. Can't say that surprises me. She tells me to wait there while she finds some clothes.
She's back with clothes too soon. I want her to take longer, so I can spend a little longer in my nice synthetic fabrics. Instead she comes back in a couple of minutes. Goodbye comfort, hello home.
I still can't sleep. I know that tomorrow I have to go see old man Mende. I know that tomorrow he'll take me away from the village, to train me. Each shaman passes on his secrets only to the next shaman. They leave the village for a few days, a week, maybe a month, and then only the new shaman comes back. The old one never returns.
I know tomorrow Mende will take me so far away from the village I won't have wireless.
My cell phone won't work where he's taking me.
So I spend the night thinking about ways to bring my stuff with me. Ways to bring my cell phone, or my PDA, my iPod, my GPS, anything. Even my wrist watch would be enough to give me a bond to real civilization.
I consider swallowing my gear. But its too big to swallow, and I haven't the foggiest how I would get it back out.
I consider other body cavities that could hold something. That idea doesn't last for long.
I finally fall asleep, cursing my dirty, grimy, dry, dusty, back water, no water, out of the way, backwards, sandy, horrible, boring, off the trailing edge of technology, miserable village.
If my life were a story, it would have too many adjectives.
Mende is my village incarnate.
He embodies everything I hate. He looks like your stereotypical villager, a century or two out of style, and he doesn't even do that right. His voice breaks the illusion. It's the voice of a professor, the voice of a teacher, a doctor, a scholar, and it speaks perfect English. So much for the shaman, hello imitation.
He seems about as mystical as the dirt under his feet.
The only word he's said since I arrived at his hut at the butt crack of dawn is Hello.
I said hello back. Neither of us has spoken since. 15 minutes, half an hour, something like that –I'm lost without my wrist watch, my PDA, something to tell the time– of pure silence.
If my life were a story, it would have better dialogue.
He's been sitting there the whole time, but the longer I watch him the more here he seems. Like he's fading in slowly. Of course I know he isn't fading in. He's been here the whole time. My eyes tell me he isn't fading in, but it still feels like he's more here then he was when I arrived. More solid. More now.
If my life were a story, it would have better special effects.
He's the stereotype I hate:(1) bright red, hand dyed fabrics. Leopard skins. Shells from the last time our tribe visited the ocean. War paints bringing him into contrast, bringing him out of the background, making him part of the picture. A fly swatter in one hand that hasn't moved the entire time I've been here, despite the flies everywhere. A staff that must be his is stuck in the ground next to him.
He finally moves when a small animal, maybe a merecat, runs out of a stand of grass. The animal runs up to Mende, puts it's front paws into his lap, and he finally moves. His hands move to pet the creature, and his head finally moves to look at it.
For the second time since I've been here, he speaks. “Is that so, Legba?”
Oh great. He's just like all old people, he talks to his pets. Here I am, now that they finally decided I was important, decided I was to be a shaman, and he talks to an animal instead of me.
“Ah, it is time for me to go now. The new one will take care of you.” He's still talking to the damn animal.
As if it could actually understand him, the animal runs back into the bushes.
Mende finally rises from his seat, and he seems to grow as he stands. “Now, Dom Petro, is our time. Are you ready to go?”
I'm not ready. “Yes.”
“No you aren't. You couldn't be. That's the important part. Now let's go. Follow me. It's time you saw something important.”
“Aren't you going to ask me to leave things behind first? Shouldn't I be without evil technology as I go on my journey?” The sarcasm drips from my words, leaving marks in the dry ground.
“No no no, I believe you can bring along anything you'd like. Mind though, it won't help you much.”
If my life were a story, he would make me venture into the wilderness with only my wits about me. This isn't nearly dramatic enough.
Mende starts walking away. I have no way to go expect to follow him.
“Before we get to the caille, you'll need these.” I don't even bother to ask what the caille is. That's probably what he wants me to do.
He stretches out his arm, distorting the war paints on his skin, holding his hand over mine.
“They're important, in their own way.” He drops 8 shells into my hand. They're garish in color, raising the question of how the hell he dyed these to get that kind of color. Reds, purples, blues, silvers, and more, each shell painted one solid color, all with a metallic sheen.(2)
“What are these supposed to be?” I know it's the question he wants me to ask, but I figure one question can't hurt.
“Shells, Petro. They are definitely shells.”
Mende is damn snarky for an old man. But his voice never looses that tone, that tone says he has something to teach you.
Walking away from the village kicks up dust with every step. Like some two-bit western, Mende and I walk towards the caille.
We walk all day. If my life were a story, it would skip over this part. The long day, the small sips of water from Mende's water skin, my always dry lips, the relentless sun.
Its sunset when Mende slows down. “We're here, Dom Petro. The caille.”
The sun is going down directly in front of us. We've walked all day, and finally all that's in front of us is a small river. Or at least it seems like a river. When the glare of the sun is just right, I can see that it's not a river. It's a circular pool, and what I thought was the other side of the river is actually an island in the middle. If my life was a story, I would have just lost you. This shouldn't be here. So much for suspension of disbelief, hello gaping plot holes.
And it gets worse.
As the sun sets, it seems the glow of the setting sun just settle onto the island. As night sets in, the setting sun's glow sits somewhere in the center of the island. In the dimmer light, other lights start shinning. Flickering shadows of... people, maybe?... come and go in front of the dancing lights, and the glow of the setting sun.(3)
I realize I've been standing here, with my mouth open, for a few minutes. Watching the sun set into an island in the middle of a circular river in the heart of Africa. If my life was a story, George Lucas would be jealous of the special effects.
And then I realize Mende is smiling at me, for the first time. “It is amazing. The caille, Dom Petro, the caille.”
Maybe the old man knows what he's talking about after all.
I'm still standing there, staring at the caille, trying to close my mouth, when Mende starts chanting. Poetry maybe, or a rhythmic song.
“Round river, Set sun,
The loa's daily feast be won,
and there the shaman's secret rest,
the old shaman knows it best...”
He says the nursery rhyme lyrics with a reverence that doesn't fit. It takes me a minute to find that I no longer care about the caille, I find myself lost in Mende's lyrics instead. The simple rhythm, the childish words, the deep reverence, it draws me in, makes me want to go deeper. “What's the song, Old Man Mende?”
“Nothing, Petro, nothing. It's an old song, it lost it's power long ago. Once it was part of a dance that the loa danced, and that we danced to feed the loa. The old shaman, back when we were the hougan, before the Loa changed, the old hougans sang the song to feed the loa. Now it's just meaningless words, like all the old songs.”
He makes me think of the loa, the god-spirits of our people. A shaman serves them, gives them food and drink, lets them use his body to act in pour world.
“The old songs. Mende?”
“The caille song, the culling song, all of them. They all lost their power. Now the shaman doesn't even need to learn the song.”
I don't know what I need to learn, but I do know I want to learn that song.
“So you won't teach it to me?”
“No, Dom Petro. Maybe the loa will, but they are week now. Now if you'll give me a minute.”
Mende walks away into the bushes, and I can only assume he must be going to relieve himself. I wait for him, still watching the caille, the place where the sunset lives.
Mende comes back with a chicken. Where he found a chicken out here I can only guess, but he puts it down next to me. “Now you have what you need. Dom Petro, you are now ready.”
Yeah, right. If my life was a story, I would have a snide comment to fire back at him. I need a script writer.
“Dom Petro, you can now know the loa. There is a secret here, a secret knowledge that you must gain to move on. I will leave you here, and go to the caille, to feed the loa. You will stay here. You have everything you need. When you feel you are ready, when you know it in your spirit, your gros-bon-ages, you can leave. This isn't a test. You only answer to yourself. Goodbye, Dom Petro. You are a shaman now, in the traditions of the hougans.”
And he left. The old Mende just left. I'm standing here, and I can't get over it. He just left, walked away. He walked around the circular river, and around behind the caille, and he never cam out the other side. The perspective almost made it look like he was walking across the water to the caille, but that's crazy.
And that's it. I can leave now, I'm a shaman. Or at least I will be when I have this revelation he kept talking about.
On it's way... now.
Nope. False alarm.
This could be harder then I thought.
Still nothing. If my life was a story, this would be easier. This would be the training montage.
As best I can tell without my PDA, my cell phone, my watch, or my GPS, it must be about midnight, and I'm still here, still clueless as to what revelation it is I'm supposed to be having. I can't even sleep. I'm too caught up in this revelation I should be having.
Enlightenment on cue.
I force myself to stare at the sleeping chicken until I finally nod off.
I can tell I'm dreaming. It's the same freedom again, the same knowledge that no matter what I do, I can wake up and it won't matter. I'm free to do anything, because I just don't care.
Waking up isn't fun.
My eyes open to the chicken standing in front of me, like it knows I should be working, I should be revelating right now. It walks in front of my eyes, clucking quietly, like it's laughing at me for not having found it by now, not having my revelation when Mende said I should.(4)
I sit up and try to get the dirt out of my hair. Nothing like sleeping on the ground to make you appreciate a nice mattress made of material so high tech NASA had to make it. Hell, sleeping on this ground would make me appreciate a mat back in the village.
The sun is still set on the caille. And I still have no idea why I'm here. No revelation yet.
I could just leave.
I could leave, and nobody would know.
But I would. And maybe, if Mende was right, the loa would. No, I can't do that. I'll stay here. If they think I'm so special, I'll just have to prove them right.
I spend the day considering how much everybody is depending on me. How I have no power, since I have to live up to other's ideals. I stack the shells Mende gave me. I consider how I'm supposed to need them. How they're supposed to help me.
The chicken just struts around and eats some grass.
It's sunset when I realize how thirsty I am. I haven't had water since Mende left. I walk over to the river around the caille, bend over, and take a drink.
I don't know if it's pollution, minerals, or something else, but the water isn't drinkable.
And I have a problem.
It's easy to panic when you learn you're lost in the middle of Africa with no fresh water.
It's even easier to panic when you realize you have nowhere to go.
If I choose a direction, and get lost, I'm screwed.
If I stay here, I'm screwed.
Goodbye choices, hello death. There's no way out. I don't know where I am, so I can't get back. I don't even know what direction we came from. I don't know my way around as well as I used to, and I wasn't paying attention to which way we came.
I have an idea where we came from, but what if I'm wrong. What if I go the wrong way. Then I don't stand a chance. At least here, at the caille, there's a chance I might be seen. Some plane must fly over this thing, and they're more likely to look down at this... island, then at some random bushland.
I can live without water for 3-4 days. Food's not a problem, I can go a week or more without food, water's the issue.
And there's no way to get more water. The pool is not good for drinking. Mende left with his water skin. Which leaves me high and dry. Like the rest of this desert.
By my best estimate, I have 48 hours to live. 48 hours to find out how the loa can talk to me, and get them to help me. A revelation with a deadline.
Like a office assignment: get this done by this time. Except if I fail, I get fired from life, not a middle management position.
So I have to have a revelation. I've tried everything. Meditation. Prayer. Math. Science. Laying spread-eagle on the ground and hoping something important happens.
The loa must not like me.
So what do I do now?
I think. I think about how I'm failing. How I've let everybody down. How the village is going to be without a shaman for the first time in ages. I think about how they chose the wrong guy. How I'm not a shaman.
And still no revelation.
If my life was a story, you would have stopped reading by now. The protagonist is all but dead. He failed. Might as well stop reading now. No use seeing how pitiful it gets.
They shouldn't have trusted me. I'm not part of this culture anymore, they shouldn't have trusted me with this. All the pressure on me, the weight of my own little world, and I let them down.
I'm just reaching for ideas now. Maybe its a puzzle. Maybe I feed the shells to the chicken. Maybe the chicken can fly me home. Maybe the chicken is a loa.
The chicken stares at me with the same blank gaze. I don't think its a loa.
So I'm at square one. The chicken wanders off again. It's been doing that every once in a while, but it always comes back. Stupid chicken.
It's night. I have maybe 36 hours to live, at my best guess. The chicken's back. The shells still sit there as useless as always. I'm still here, revelation-less.
I'm running out of time.
I still feel bad for how much everybody is going to be let down.
I'm getting desperate. It's time for action.
I'm still thinking about crossing the water. Following Mende. But then I still fail. Maybe I live, but my life's already over. I have to succeed. At this point, I can only live as a shaman. Everything else is gone.
Just out of spite for Mende's path, for him getting to cross to the island, and me being left behind, I chuck one of the shells over the water at the setting sun glow.
“You want your stupid shells back, Mende? They're definitely shells. And they're not getting me out of this royal pile of .”
I throw every one of them. I may have just lost a tool I needed, but I don't really care anymore. Mende thinks I need them, but I don't care, I'll do it without them.
The chicken is getting on my nerves. I'm almost dead, I can feel it, and all I can think about is how much I hate this chicken. My hate of this chicken knows no limits. I'm all alone, dying, with only a chicken to keep me company.
If my life were a story, it would have a supporting cast out here to keep me company.
And a laugh track. My life could use a laugh track at this point, because things are pretty funny. They're funny because it all doesn't matter. It's funny because I know that I'm done. I just don't care.
I just don't care, so now I can take action. It's the freedom from my dreams: I'm so close to death that I can do anything. It really won't effect me.
So I start walking. Nothing better to do. Might as well get away from Mende's callie. On a whim I choose the direction that the chicken has been wondering in.
It heavy bush this way, but about half a mile out, I find it.
I'm saved. I've had my revelation.
Lying in the middle of the brush is an old chicken cage, a water skin, and a note.
Mende knew what I would do. That's the revelation he wanted. He wanted me to stop caring what others think, stop worrying about letting others down, and act. I realized it all doesn't matter, so now I'm free.
Sly old bastard.
I pick up the water skin. I try to drink slowly. I don't want to overwhelm myself.
With drops still dribbling down my chin, I pick up the note.
Now you know how we contact the loa. Now you know the gentle indifference of the world, and you gain power from that. Now that you can put everything else aside, you can connect with something greater. Remember this: as long as you know that nothing you do matters, you can do anything. Now that you know this world can not effect you, the greater world, and the loa, can work through you. This is not the end, this is the beginning.
Sly old bastard.
The shells were just there to test me, to make sure I had something to focus on. To give me something to work towards the wrong answer with. And the chicken.
The chicken is talking to me.
“Dom Petro. You made it. Welcome to the worl between. Now that you understand that this world is absurd, that nothing you do matters, you are between the world of man and our world.”
“So are you...”
“A loa? Yes, Dom Petro, I am a loa, and now your training really begins.”
He's right. I can feel something greater. This world is nothing to me, and I can feel the greater spirit, whatever you call it. I am a shaman, and I can't let anybody down, because this world has done it's worst to me. I have realized that not matter what the people think of me, it makes no difference, and now the loa can work through me.
If my life were a legend, this would be the beginning.
(1)Mende, the old shaman, with his animal.
(2)The shells Mende gives Petro as a red herring.
(3)The caille, where shaman feed the Loa.
(4)The chicken that the loa rides.
Be bloody, bold, and resolute! Laugh to scorn The pow'r of man, for none of woman born Shall harm Macbeth
Avatar by Sialia
Thursday, 4th November, 2004, 07:11 AM #110
Gallant (Lvl 3)
Whew. Got it done, decided to post it early. If any of the other contestans would like to comment on my story, or any of the other stories that will eventually be posted, I've started a judge free feedback thread (since we had one last time around, I figured I'd start one this time, if the judges object, PCat or any other mod should feel free to close it). Do your worst.
Be bloody, bold, and resolute! Laugh to scorn The pow'r of man, for none of woman born Shall harm Macbeth
Avatar by Sialia