Friday, March 24, 2017

The Half Shaman in Space: Am I Me Again?

Am I Me Again?

Wake. Am I me again? I stretch. My legs still feel too long. Too straight. I run my hands over my breasts. Still too much flesh. I’m not myself. 
"This is not the growth chamber"
I open my eyes. The light is dimmed. Other than that it’s the same place. White white white beyond the podium. “There are a heap of people gone.” In fact, only about half the statues remain. “None of my friends knew me or they would have woken me, got me to come along.” 

"Each is blind to the others"

 Tears start for my eyes. Mongoose blind to me when he woke? I recall my suspicions while we travelled. Don’t remember who lay them to rest. Mongoose possibly. 

From the shadows in the corners come sounds of scratches, crying, swearing. “How do I get out? How do I get out?” 

How come I’m not blind to the others? I want to ask. But I pick something global with which to test the mysterious entity. “This is how you make it night? Dawn? Dusk? How many hours between?” Silence as I look round. 

Glimmer of the mirror. The situation is so unreal that for a second I think the figure studying its reflection is me. It has an animal shape, I realise. Dark fur all over.  An ape-like hunch. Serious disbelief in its stance. 

Other people having the same problems means I’m not being singled out. Which is a relief and which encourages me to be reckless. I turn onto my side. “Not getting up till I am me.” 

*** 

I wake. Open my eyes. I’m surprised that I slept at all. I’m alone on the platform. Every other statue is gone. Will I see them again?

My legs feel shorter. My breasts are bumps, how they should be. I roll over and up, survey the scene. 

I’m not even wearing the bit of flimsy I had on before so I put on my pants and long shirt lying creaseless in front of me. “Where’s my belt?” 

"You came without a belt"

“That’s true. I remember that now.” Lotor’s prison authorities took my belt before shutting me in the white cell. I take up the shirt’s hem and tie it around my waist to make a capacious horizontal pocket. Not that I have anything to put into it. 

My stomach rumbles. “Is there any food?”

"Not in this hall"


“Right.” I bet everyone else asked that too. Pretty slim pickings before we came and it seems we were remade with that hunger intact. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Half Shaman in Space: Waking Again

Mongoose Totem animal
On waking after the shuttle flight from Lotor, Jeb finds herself in a strange white hall, on a platform of statues. She finds Mongoose among them and tries to wake him, to no avail. At last she can only hope that he'll wake her when he wakes ... 

In my dream, Mongoose does wake. He glances down and steps over me, hops down to floor level and walking toward one of the white walls disappears into it.

I’m so frightened I shudder and wake.

The great white tile-shining hall is alight with a time of day I might as well call morning. 
Mongoose is not breathing beside me. Then I remember … he was standing. Without looking in his direction—I’m so so afraid—I feel for his animal-feet.  

 I don’t feel him. The dream was real?

I stand up, the better to flick my gaze over the podium, animal to animal, corner to corner, end to end. He isn’t anywhere among them. Among us. I sob.

I want to find him so desperately that my eyes want to bulge from their sockets trying to see him, somewhere, in this shining … white … nothing. I ignore the mirror newly installed opposite the podium because Mongoose is gone and what could possibly be more important than that? I call him and my voice echoes tinnily from the hard shining surfaces.

His weaponry and his pack are gone too. My voice clatters and falls, and I fall to the carpeted podium. 

All the time I’m noticing that there’s no sound other than me crying. No change in the light surrounding me. 
There wasn’t a mirror anywhere in the hall the first time I woke. 
There is now, and no other change except that Mongoose is gone. I run my gaze over the rows, everyone else is still here. All of them still in statue-mode. 

I’m the only one awake. That mirror is meant for me to look into.


"To see how I have improved you," says a room-sized voice. 

I didn’t hear that.

"I replaced your chip with a newer version, as well." 

I suspect something so dreadful that I am pulled to the mirror. I rise, walk, squat to jump from the podium, walk up to the silvery rectangle. 

The mirror reflects someone I don’t know. Almost I try to look beyond her. 


"Isn't that much better?"
The young woman in the mirror is willowy, I think they used to call that kind of shape. The hem of her tunic brushes her mid-thigh and her legs are straight and smooth. No lumpy legs on this girl. Her tunic is cinched at the waist with a narrow gold belt and her chest, too, is well-proportioned.

I have the irrational desire to rip off the mirror-girl’s tunic to see the real girl beneath. I twist and turn to see what her back looks like. Her hair falls in luxurious waves past her shoulders, in a pointed golden fall to the middle of her back.

She makes me sick she is so perfect. 

Her eyes are a piercing green. Her eyebrows are gold which means that all her body hair is also that same sickening gold. Forget seeing her naked. “No wonder Mongoose left without me. He didn’t recognise me.” 

I turn, walk, climb onto the podium and curl up in the mongoose’s square. 

"You aren't pleased," says the entity.

I try to fall asleep. Maybe if I wake out of a different dream, Mongoose will still be here … or we’ll still be in the shuttle, him beside me. What is this place, anyway?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Half Shaman in Space: Waking

Having hit a hard place in Monster-Moored, Part 2: Mongrel which has resulted in a swag of research to be done, I'm switching my posts back to The Half Shaman for a bit.

The Half Shaman in Space: the bit of space as seen from the shuttle
At the end of The Half Shaman

After I have pressed my hand against that jamb and thought my goodbyes toward them all, Mongoose and I go back to the command room with its glassy-looking dome. “I am totally comforted that you can be up here with me,” I say. 

Mongoose smiles. “Told you, I’m your love-struck loon.” He squeezes my hand. We lie down, sweatily holding hands the whole time. 

I slot the transponder in the depression for it on the arm rest. A dash dash dot dot flickers through its sequence. A dash dash flickers on Mongoose’s arm-rest. The mattress moulds itself around us. A pair of hoods come down from somewhere above and we cover our faces. 

We breathe the cool fresh air spurting from the hoods. 

I hear the shuttle’s starter engines scream.

I feel the shuttle spinning faster and faster to gather power to escape the steep-sided valley. 

I feel sleepy.

Mongoose does too, I can tell because his hand slides from mine. 

Before I start to worry that I can’t feel his hand, the most amazing scents drift from the hood. Spices and flowers, things of Earth my mother told me about. 

I dream.



The Half Shaman in Space begins here:

I’m aware. I’m awake. My breathing sounds loud. The space I’m in sounds big so I’m not in the shuttle. I fall … only a short distance. My legs seem too long. 
I feel around me. Carpet or something under me, my hands and my thighs. Then I realise … I don’t hear Mongoose breathing beside me. I don’t feel him. Snap! I open my eyes. 
Mongoose isn’t beside me! 
I’m wearing a thin white tunic. 
Mongoose isn’t beside me! 
I kneel up. Stand. 
I’m in a group of animals, still-as-statues, sitting or standing or frozen in a leap. Each on its own brown carpet square on a raised area in a huge white hall.
What is this place? Where’s Mongoose? 
Tiled white walls. White ceiling. White floor below the … podium? 
Among the statues I see animals I know. There’s a meerkat. A puma. A bear. A woodchuck. An orangutan. They are all life-sized. 
No. They are all the size of human beings! There’s a thylacine with a front paw that is a different brown to the other. In the square next to the place where I was is a mongoose. 
Sweat springs from me and is soaked up only where the skimpy tunic touches me. Everywhere else it rolls down me. I’m clammy in seconds. My heart hammers in my chest. 
The furry animal mongoose is up on its hind-legs and is wearing a sauger-hide belt with a curved panga hanging from it. A familiar-looking dagger is strapped to its leg. I’m sure they are my Mongoose’s tools and weaponry when I see his leather pouch with oil stone and cloth in it nestle in the small of the mongoose’s back that Mongoose keeps in his pack so I can hold onto his belt. 
I want to touch the furry mongoose, is it real? And I don’t want to touch it. What if it is cold as death? What if it is warm? All that fur. It looks fierce. Angry. Red mouth open in a snarl. 
Behind where I was is a meerkat. He wears similar weapons to Mongoose’s weapons worn by the mongoose. Next to him and behind the mongoose is an animal I don’t know. I have too many mysteries already. I turn back to face into the direction that the mongoose stares into. The front. 
In the square beyond mine, I see the back … I walk around it … of a wild dog. A jackal wearing Jackal’s gear, I fill in for myself. I walk on. In the next square is a woman with a blond plait. It is Isis. Leader of the smaller group that joined us in the Yellow City. She is herself. 
I remember that she never told us her Totem. 
As soon as I think that, I’m crying. I know the animals. I’m spurting with tears. I jump back to the mongoose. Sobbing, I hug his knees. “Mongoose! Wake up, Mongoose!”

 Finally, I lie down. Curl around his feet. When he comes back to life, he’ll trip over me, find me there. 




Sunday, February 26, 2017

Mongrel: Arriving at Zoo Hall

Tunnel into Zoo Hall ... Leaving the Sky Behind

Tardi, still with victory in his heart at Shad’s escape, ignored Neil’s fury. The hoverole crossed over grass and parkland as Neil drove toward the back entrance of Zoo Hall with about as much care for lawns and plants as his passengers. 

“Take it easy,” Zebe said. “Have us fined by the garden-bots in a minute.”

She’s not crying now. I was right. All an act. But why? 

“The Tree-hair has been against me from the minute we met,” Neil said. “I’m making sure he gets the full treatment. Get you out from under him too.”

Zebe toggled the passenger’s rear vision mirror, angling it to glare at Tardi. 

Still mad with him. None of it boded well for his welcome. 

“Don’t even dream of you and me as a pair, Neil,” Zebe said. “Not going to happen.” 

Neil braked. “So why are you here?”

“I’m seeing that Tardi isn’t broken in the time it takes Security to get him to the apartments?”

“Why would they break me?” Tardi said. “I’m volunteering to come in, I thought.”

Neil laughed. “Too bad you didn’t come in that first day. I had plenty of time to convince Whit of the whole other story.” He played a brassy tune on the hoverole’s keyboard as they drew up at the wide-open double doors of the unloading dock. 

Half dozen Security operatives swarmed over the hoverole. 

Tardi helped his progress out of the hoverole where he could, to have it over with, and to save himself the worst. Thankfully, Whit Smith, the EMBer, was not among the crew. Though it did mean that Whit sent others to do his dirty work. Something else to know about the man. 

As he was dragged past Zebe, Tardi saw that Neil had an arm around her waist and a hand over her mouth. Tardi didn’t understand Zebe’s actions but surely Neil’s tactics weren’t the way to get resolution either. He felt dimly comforted. 

A pair of operatives held one of his arms each. A second pair led and brought up the rear. All of them forward-staring, as in, they were not getting involved with the captive. 

Fine. He’d enjoy the journey. 

From the buff-painted corridors of the utilities department, they navigated into the rabbit warren of offices and corridors too narrow fro three abreast. 

One of his captors clicked a handcuff around his own wrist then linked the other of the pair around Tardi’s. The other fell back. 

“Why would you even think that necessary?” Tardi said. “I’ve been coming along with you without resistance?”

The head man stopped. Turned. “It’s nothing personal. We were told that you’ve been colonised by a part of the alien-composite. They are stronger than Rambo. Who knows what you might do under their influence?” 

What could he say? The explanations would take all week if he had to sweet-talk the whole scenario all the way up the chain of command? “Take the next left, then a couple of rights to get to where we are going,” he said.

“How do you know?” said the headman.

Would they warm to him if he let them know of his previous familiarity with the place? “I was a tourist here, ten years ago. My little brother was having his life saved at SoHAB. I played hide and seek here with the cleaner-bots. Seeing how long I could stay out of their clutches.”  

The operative behind them chuckled in a rich contralto. “Clever. A smart operator, getting us sympathetic to him.”

Ah. Unfortunately the gang-boss was with them. The rest straightened up and held tighter. They took the next left and following that a couple of rights. Coming into the open of the plaza surrounding the aliens' cage his guards snapped a second cuff around his left wrist. This for a walk of perhaps ten paces. 

Their obvious superior stepped into their path. Tardi remembered him very well. Whit Smith. “So who are you in the scheme of things?” 

 Whit, tall and calm with a flat board under one arm, ignored Tardi. 

Giving him the chance to see what was different about Whit. Thinly blond. No change there. Faded blue eyes that should be looking at distances. How he now dressed as well. Khaki jeans, shirt. Leather boots. He now gave the impression of being an outdoor sort of guy brought indoors. 

Different from when he was rambling round when Steve was being made over. Then Whit was never seen without a white coat.

“Taking no chances I see,” Whit said. 

“Instructions weren’t specific,” said the gang-boss from the back. “I had to interpret. This is what I came up with. You’ll thank me when he takes a bite out of you.”


Whit stared past Tardi. “Take the cuffs off him.” He smiled his famous Whit Smith smile, a thin-lipped little glimmer-grin. “So long as he is a man, he won’t be an eater.”

Friday, February 17, 2017

Mongrel: Concrete Proof for Zebe

Bark Texture, imagine if your back looked like this ...

In which Zebe herself, through her visit to Zoo Hall, organises proof that the monster sometimes exists in Tardi ...

Tardi and Shad softened down hard bread rolls by wetting them under the tap when they heard the individual sound of Neil’s customised hoverole swing through the intersection into the residential community.

“His air intake pipes have got to have been squeezed to make that screaming,” Tardi said. 

“I’ll get the door!” Zebe called.

There had been no communication between Tardi and Zebe since their upset. 

The hoverole squealed to a halt as Zebe reached the front of the house.  

Rumble rumble, said a male voice. Zebe’s voice was insistent about something. Finally Neil gave way, promising something. 

“Couldn’t understand a word,” Shad said. 

Neil followed Zebe into the open plan living space. 

“Gennelman wears his ‘gzitement right out,” Shad said in a broad version of the Stormy dialect.

Tardi nodded. Neil wore a fixed smile and a tense demeanour. His eyes glittered. He rubbed his hands, seemingly over a feeling of success. 

“Neil, could you make us a sandwich?” Zebe said.

Lunchtime was hours ago and surely Neil would’ve eaten in the SoHAB canteen? Zebe gave the man busy work in other words.

“We’ll be upstairs,” Zebe said. She waited on the third step for Shad and Tardi to precede her, almost with her foot tapping. 

Tardi lagged.

“Go on,” she said, not playfully.

“Why?” he said. “When you already decided … your discussing the situation on the front door step?” 

She laughed.

If that wasn’t the last straw. It wasn’t hard to stage him tripping, with soft carpet and narrow treads. 

Not saying a word, Zebe helped him up with a steely hand in his armpit. “I thought we could sit on the settle?” she said. 

Tardi only glanced at the space at the top of the stairs. He followed Shad into the master bedroom. 

“You surely didn’t have to make this much of a mess,” Zebe said. 

Tardi and Shad had stacked the bed and mattress on edge and roughly folded the bedding on top. 

Shad pointed upward. “Broken skylight. A piece of wrack in the wind. We saved as much as we could.”

The patio had the tarp stretched over it for shade since the wind dropped. Tardi’s toe-roots pretty safe on the concrete. And anyway, the tree in him was still in retreat. 

A fire-pit of scavenged bricks lay on the concrete. Embers glowed. Their swags hung drying over the guard rails. 

Tardi watched Zebe noting it all. Pain in her expression. Inadvertent tears that she tried to hide when she saw him watching. Her manner made more sense. How often had he hidden tearful emotions with anger?

Shad started to take down the tarp. 

Neil strode through the bedroom. “Fuckers ate us out of house and home.”

“No power,” Tardi said. “We ate everything that would spoil without refrigeration.” 

“Where’s your mate?” Neil said.

“I think he saw you coming,” Tardi said. “Find him down by the river maybe, if you want him.”

“Damn. I said I’d bring in the both of you. Two half-Stormies make a whole, right?”

“What’s your prize?” Tardi said.

Neil laughed. “Zebe, of course.”

“Neil, please! I asked you to allow me to tell them.” She stared Neil out of the room and down the stairs. She watched him from the top to make sure he went. 

Downstairs, Neil swore. Kicked something. Slammed a door. 

Shad vaulted back over the railings. “Tch. Two halves make a whole! If he only knew.”

“You going along with Neil’s orders, Zebe?” Tardi said. “I don’t expect him to have thought them up himself.”

“Have to. For now,” she said. “It’s not too late, Tar. I mean Tardi.”

“Not too late for what?” he said, frowning. 

“Don’t start. You want this stupid thing. Yes, it’s stupid. I hate it. And to set it up with SoHAB, I’m having to be a Class A bitch. Xanthe was good at that. Not me.”

Hug to comfort her? Better not, he wanted to hear the rest. 

She blew her nose. Continued calmer. “There are no standardised treatments for what you want so I had to sign you up personally. Because how else would they have committed to providing the protocols? Well, that was their argument. And fucking Whit Smith was laughing the whole time because he already knows all about you? I worry about that. How they plan to use you. Neil of course loves the plan.”

“Fuck Neil,” Tardi said. “I’ll hold out for you to doctor me, Zebe. Then you won’t need to live here because they’ll have to house you. Our story will be that I might need you any tick of the clock. Will you, Zebe?”

She sniffed. “Why don’t you hate me?”

He shrugged. “Circumstances. What could you do? Can we kiss and make up?”

“If you’ll try to think up some evidence?” she said. She angled her face. Pursed her lips.

Tardi hugged her. Met her lips with his …

… the fucking monster convulsed in him. It tore him from her with his arms and legs akimbo. 

Thud

The wall broke his fall. He slid to the floor. He groaned sorting himself.

“I think there’s your evidence, Zebe,” Shad said. “What possible reason could Tar have to tear himself loose from you with such violence and throw himself backwards to smash into the wall? Something about you that the Great Bastard does not like.” 

He helped Tardi up. “What alerted him?”

Tardi touched his lips. “The disinfectant, I think. You drank the stuff?” he asked Zebe.

“They made me wipe my face with it,” Zebe said, crouching with them. “The monster did that?”

“Guess he still doesn’t want me to go to Zoo Hall where he is still a prisoner. Gonna be hard work getting me there.”

“Time to go,” Neil said from the door. “Are you coming or do I have to drag you, Tree-man?” 

Tardi chuckled. Neil had to drag him. 


Shad held back Zebe.