Happy Holidays, Happy Life

You know…it really is a wonderful life. 

I wish I had something profound to say, but I don’t.  It’s more a deep feeling that I have.   But I can articulate enough to share what we all know…that this season is a beautiful reminder to celebrate the gift of this shared experience, to marvel at all the things, great and small, that bring us wonder and joy and, most importantly, to cherish and love those who journey together with us.

Warmest wishes for the happiest of holidays, for a continued celebration – in this season and always – of all of life’s gifts.  

Thank you.

 

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The sketch of the forest animals is my rendition of a Lynn Bywaters illustration.  The photos in the video are from the Shengri La, Oubilette, and Wintermute sims, all in SecondLife(tm).  Pssst, Wintermute stays open only until December 25th, and both Shengri La and Oubilette sims appear to be thawing after the holidays, so hurry to see them all.  They are all gorgeous.

P.S.  One of these days, maybe I’ll learn enough in Photoshop to be able to create a card, smiles.

Reflexive Architecture

…by Keystone Bouchard at 2nd Live

Reflexive Architecture at 2nd Live is a fun and fascinating architectural structure that interacts with you as you move throughout the build.  (Utterly reminiscent of something my very very dear and uber talented friend would envision and could create.)  Last night, we explored every aspect of the building, which isn’t large…but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in clean complexity, surprise, and imagination. 

Reflexive Architecture
Reflexive Architecture

It was difficult for me to capture the wonderful interplay between structure and beings (in fact I arrived early to try to do just that)…most likely because that interplay is something begging to be experienced in order to appreciate fully.  (And, no doubt, also because I’m still endeavoring to improve my picture taking skills.  Still takes me forever to set up a composition, so the “aliveness” of the building made the ready-aim-snap process even more challenging.)

In a stream of thought, the builder's rationale behind the build
Reflexive Architecture: In a stream of thought, the builder's rationale behind the build

Perhaps one of the most fun parts is the area where you walk into (and through) the description of the build.  The words literally stream by — and through and over and under — all around you, immersing you in a consciousness of thought (specifically, the builder’s thought process).   Talk about not having a loss for words…there they are, all around, smiles. 

In a stream of thought, the builder's rationale behind the build
Reflexive Architecture: In a stream of thought, the builder's rationale behind the build

But do go and wade through the building.  Along with the river of words, we found surprising corners of interaction — motion and sound and light and thought — that responded to our presence and movement.  (Check out the NPIRL post on this build, a blog that, like so very many, I feast upon for news of incredible places.)

In a stream of thought, the builder's rationale behind the build
Reflexive Architecture: In a stream of thought, the builder's rationale behind the build

University of Kentucky SL Art

Before I write a post about NaNoWriMo, I wanted to dwell a bit on the visual.   But before that, I just have to say that even though I don’t have 1600 words to write today, I’m still very much conditioned into pressing the “write new post” tab, whether or not the words are there to write.   I suppose I could write about the strategy session today at work, which, by the end, resulted in a complete mishmash of terms…but that would just make me want to go sell pencils or paint a wall, or do anything else that is obviously tangible.  (Like visiting SL builds and practicing picture taking.)   But come to think of it, writing a novel can be very much like strategy…you have to envision it all. Sometimes even before the words are on the page.   Oh hey, check this out…the Write or Die writing tool…now *that* little gizmo would have driven me right over the edge, particularly the feature of erasing characters when the writer stops writing.   (Uh…oh my god?)
 
So where was I?  Oh yes, the visual.   Several days ago, dear friend H turned me on to this incredible outfit that she had worn during the AU V fashion show; well, I ran out and snapped it up because the outfit is really a piece of creative expression more than anything else.  So feeling like a walking piece of art, I decided to explore the grid after trekking through fashion blogs and Peace on Earth locations in search of new designers, possible contenders for the Shengri La Vintage Marketplace.  Like everyone, one of the things I have always loved about SL is immersing myself in wonderful SL builds and experiencing the extensive creativity inworld.   Some builds, I visit on a regular basis…to watch as they change subtlely or greatly, but either way to feel as if it’s a new discovery each time.  Along the way, I try my hand at improving (ideally), but more truthfully, practicing (in actuality) my camera skills.  Here are some of the pictures from the AM Radio build for the U of Kentucky.  (By the way, the umbrellas in the picture swirl and blow along the road…it’s a wonderful dance to watch.   And the tree in the air reminded me of the upside down tree in my novel…although this build didn’t provide the inspiration.  The inspiration for the upside down redwood forest came from a little Japanese shop inworld, that had an upside down tree in the center of its shop, smiles.  It is so very cool.)
(Oooo…am struggling through this new WordPress dashboard, which somehow ate the photo captions after plopping the photos in the wrong spot on this post.  Suffice to say, the first two photos are of the Radio build by AM Radio, I think (am not sure) also for the U of Kentucky.)
Radio - AM Radio Build
Radio (at Midnight) - AM Radio build
Beneathe the Tree - AM Radio build for the U of Kentucky
Beneathe the Tree - AM Radio build for the U of Kentucky

 

Beneathe the Tree/Umbrellas - AM Radio build for the U of Kentucky
Beneathe the Tree/Umbrellas - AM Radio build for the U of Kentucky
eneathe the Tree (Umbrellas) - AM Radio build for the U of Kentucky
eneathe the Tree (Umbrellas) - AM Radio build for the U of Kentucky

Iconoclast Rising … 26

 

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” ~ Albert Einstein

 

Ch 26 ~ And the Greatest of them All…Love

 

They made it.

Dryst — with Spence cradled under his arm, dragging him forward with as much speed as possible despite the old man’s sudden lack of physical strength — spotted the way.

They darted quickly into the arching doorway of the great hall and slid quietly into the shadows that had begun to pile onto themselves across the landing.  Immediately ahead outside of the hall, a stairway craned down, awkwardly so, along a narrow tunnel.  It resembled a spiral staircase but it wasn’t as predictable, instead meandering in its curves from left to right, and dipping cleanly straight in some places, only to twist and curl again. 

The two men rambled forward with great haste.  Bloodcurtling screams gashed through the air, their striking bellows punching back the thickening purple-grey mist that persisted and reasserted itself up the stairway, charging into the great hall…exactly the place that Dryst and Spence were fleeing.  The battle raged:  so many voices screaming and boiling over each other that nothing was discernable; so many flashes of electrified light slicing through the air that a blinding glow bounced off of every surface like a strobe.  He didn’t know who had the advantage, couldn’t discern one harsh voice from the other, barely could manage to keep his pupils focused on the perilous stairway, but from Spence’s increasingly lead weight under his arm, Dryst had the unpleasant feeling that Ophania was overpowering the Other.  As if in confirmation, the strands of aura cascading from Spence’s body back into the great hall began to mutate into smoky purple-grey hues. 

It wasn’t the Other in particular who Dryst worried about.

“Leave me, kid,” Spence said with a noticeable amount of effort.  “It’s no use.”

Dryst lifted the old man off of his feet and tucked him even more securely under his arm.  “Sorry, old man,” he grumbled through labored breathing as he carried the man and ran.  “I’m just not hearing that.  Not doing that.” 

“Upstart,”  Spence sputtered and his chest expanded in an effort to chuckle, but instead, his body fell over itself and stumbled into Dryst’s side where Dryst held him steady.

“I’ve gotten used to you, what can I say.  I could’ve done without those other characters of yours back there, but, hey,” the kid grumbled to the rapidly weakening man as casually as possible in between gusts of breath.

An attempt at casual, yes, but he was alarmed.  He had to dig in and mentally will the old man to dig in with him, while they raced down the stairs.  He hoped and prayed Mya was on this path.  A very strong part of him told him that she was. 

He clutched Spence even more stubbornly to his powerful body.  Dryst flung the two of them by leaps over two or three steps at a time on their way down the mountain.  He hoped and prayed he wouldn’t arrive at the end of this flight only to be carrying a dead man walking.  He hoped and prayed that if the Other fell, Spence didn’t fall with her.

“You don’t listen too well — ” Spence’s voice sounded far away “– do you, kid?”

But in fact, he did. And he wasn’t alone.

Mya’s ears sniffed at the air.  The Warriors, the Cyborgs, and she had entered the mountain through a giant ear of all things.  At first, she wondered if they were walking up through the inside of a magnificent creature’s head, but she rapidly tucked that bit of wondering near to her when she heard his voice, and sniffed at the air with her own ears.

“He’s here,” she said as powerful emotions surged and flowed into every part of her being, causing her heart to swell and sing, her legs to buckle and quiver, her torso to bend and release; her hands to spread across her thighs for support, her eyes to flood with tears.  She had heard Dryst’s voice and had felt his essense merging with every part of her spirit, overflowing into and melding with every part of her heart and her soul. 

“Oh my god,” she gasped through a trembling voice that shook from overpowering relief, from so very, very much more. 

“He is here,” she whispered just barely enough to create sound waves.  But create them, she did.  And they rippled.  And they flowed.  And they rode — unencumbered and undenied — on the tips of the purple-grey mist.  And they reached Dryst and he heard her and their whispers — tender and elated, passionate and yearning, relieved and screaming for joy — joining the two of them in their minds, in their souls, in the hearts with such utter completeness and total knowing and endless love that her gasp, his whispers, their heartbeats echoed intimately, privately and at once, unmistakably, for all to witness and for all to hear…reaching throughout the pathway on which they both travelled:  she, while she stood surrounded by Warriors and Cyborgs in a giant canal that bent its way up the mountain; he, while he jumped and flew down a passage way that bent its way down the mountain.  And all at once, as they had always been, they were on the same path, one in the same.

The Fierce One saw his own reflection in the wetness pooling within her eyes.  She smiled without words and without description.  Simply, none was needed.  The Fierce One looked into the mirror she held up with her moist eyes.  He revealed a silent, gentle smile.

“Dryst,” she gasped while looking into those firery eyes.  The Fierce One nodded.  “Always together,” he said as tenderly as a feather floating in the air.

 “Always,” she gasped.

“Always,” the butterfly purred softly in his ear, then spread its wings and stroked them soothingly along the side of Dryst’s head while Dryst — just about carrying the old man who was crumbling over himself rapidly — ran with urgency down the steps.

Then. 

After listening to the unfolding in the Origin, in this mountainside where a battle of the will clashed in the top and the Stream of Consciousness flowed through it all, one voice from two places along the same path whispered with a power more compelling than force: 

“They are coming,” the butterly and Mya said.

Ophania reared her whisk up wildly and angrily, and her Clan followed suit, riding on the coattails of the victor.

She had flogged and pummelled the Other with merciless strikes.  She had delivered them with whipping and crackling electrical jolts.  She had tossed the Other’s meagerly breathing body through the solid mahogany tables until the Other crashed against the bricks and mortars of the back wall in the great hall.

The surroundings of the great hall slowly began to morph, put into motion by the strengthening will of one, as Ophania overpowered the Other.

The Seat of all Knowledge, Ophania spat in her mind and licked her split tongue across the bruisings she had had to endure from her opponent’s hands before Ophania had bested her.

Finish her, her sisters had goaded Ophania, but Ophania retained a sense of focus:  the portal.  Ophania had regained enough of her mind — laying steadily underneathe her fury — to hear the old man on the stairway begging for release…or that was how Ophania had interrupted Spence’s increasingly weakened state.  At least his Other did not beg, Ophania thought to herself with some disgust.  She commanded her whisk straightlong down the winding stairway to…the young fool, Ophania thought…a human, who insisted upon weighing down his flight with the heavy and broken will of an old man.   

The young one will not leave without her, Ophania calculated in her mind.  And at this rate, he will be with me — she leaned into the shaft of her whisk to accelerate her flight — before he is with her.

Mya didn’t have to utter a word.  She stared at the warriors:  one of her being, Locomotive Breath, she knew.  one of Dryst’s being, the Fierce One. 

They were coming.  Ophania and the Clan of Ophania, her sister witches who followed like mindless Zombies. 

And through it all, though she knew they were in pursuit, Mya would not leave without Dryst. 

Her eyes just barely began to pierce out their intended meaning, compelling the Fierce One and Locomotive Breath to punch another hole into the Origin, to surprise time and space in order to bring Mya and Dryst together before Ophania and the Clan reached him…when…all at once the the two warriors and Mya flew into the air.  They surged so rapidly in a whirlwind as to be moving in slow motion.  Their beings transported by a rush of sparkling time and space and thought and place and heart — a rush brought about by a soothingly powerful air, glistening and dancing and that happened to be adorned with the slightest hint of cigar smoke as it flowed up from the Stream.  

In less than the pre-thought of a heart beat, they were together, Dryst and Mya.  The warriors and the butterfly magnificently released their forms, their particles rushing breathlessly home into Mya and Dryst, who blended in an all-encompassing manner through and with each other; enveloping together completely, feeling and knowing the truth and reality of each other together since before the dawn of time…their spirits and souls twining within the stream from that point forward and flowing through their physical hearts and bodies into every now of every moment.  It was as if they were flowers or fireworks that breathtakingly erupted into an endless renewal of unfolding light and color and beauty and life smiling for all the worlds.  And they breathed each other deeply to the shared knowing that was oh so achingly simple and clear and oh so breathtakingly magnificent and huge.   Air and time and space and matter and spirit combined, as if together they were the very fabric of meaning, flying in the air rapidly, swirling through all eternity, gently soaring to the edges of the universes, beyond, and to the core of it all. 

And what of Spence through all of this…he slipped out from under Dryst’s form, which now danced and joined, now mingled and united with Mya.  Spence slipped and floated like a ragdoll, sinking slowly until the energy caught the old man and held him cradled by an all-encompassing light that smiled for all the worlds. 

A breathtaking light that radiated through Mya and Dryst combined.  A brilliant light that connected a parent to a child.  The eternal light of being, of unending love.   

The air comforted.  It smelled like cigars as it swirled around Spence’s nostrils, as it carried him into the heart of the father, Danny, and into the heart of the mother, Eleanor, whose voice quietly murmurred, “Everything will be alright, honey.”

Her tender smiles floated before his eyes. 

“Love.  Love is all there is.  The greatest of all things.  Love is so very, very much.”

And as she spoke through all dimensions, the Other rose, her hair unwound, her collar undone.  She blossommed into brilliant particles, her aura threading and lacing itself back to Spence, returning light into his eyes, color to his skin, a return of pieces of himself.  At peace and whole.  He sighed and smiled, his heart releasing the grief, replacing it with only…Love.

Ophania and the Clan burst into dust, their grains scattering to the corners of time and space and dimension…but never quite escaping all light.  The chase through ages of light and dark, yin-yang, good and not so good.  And all that always truly exists and forever remains:  love.

They flew.  Gently, they flew, through the dimension and space, giving way to the whimsy and moods of the morphing house of the tropical desert. 

They spilled out softly onto the patio and landed quietly on the leaf chairs, which pulsated calmly through a serene color sequence.  

Dryst could have sworn the place was now much more abundant and plush and full of life and happiness than it had ever been before…as if it was the first time he had laid eyes on it, even while knowing all along that it was so very much here.  And he could have sworn he heard — somewhere off in the distance — a joyfully less than stellar rendition of Flight of the Bumblebee.”  He grinned at the hearing, but even more deeply, he smiled at the seeing and knowing, at the feeling right in front of him.

They stared at each other, Dryst and Mya, with smiles so wide they thought their faces would split into two. 

After a long while – that felt like mere seconds – of just gazing, after a long while – again seconds – of travelling together with their feelings to the edges of the universes and back, Dryst softly asked, through nearly a chuckle, “Did we end up finding what we were searching for?”

Mya grinned as big as the sun.  “Oh yes,” she said softly, gazing tenderly with him.  “Turns out, we never needed to search in the first place.” 

She paused and chuckled lightly with his joyful laugh. 

“Turns out…it’s always been…”

“…right here,” they whispered to each other.

 

 

National Novel Writing Month (even though Nov 30th has come and gone):  Chapter 26 total wordcount:  2100 (not including this notation).  Final total count:  50,720.

This has been an incredible process.  And I have a great deal to say about it, but I’m, frankly, at a loss for words at this point, laughing.  What I can say, however, is those persons — those rare, extremely talented persons…specifically, D — who actually do National Novel Writing Month from November 1-30th and also work full-time in important positions that carry with them great responsibility and seriousness and who also have families and mulltitude of friends (and so very deservedly so)…I am greatly astonished and greatly humbled by your awesome – truly *awesome awesome* – talents and gifts.  I began this two days before November 1st and I completed the story (such that it is) three days into December.   I don’t have the degree of high-level responsibility to juggle with this, nor do I have the utterly immense reserves of talent and brilliance to bring to this.  D, I am forever, utterly…yes, well you know, smiles.  Speechless.  I have alot more to say about the nanowrimo journey, and I will.  But for now…like…wow…

Iconoclast Rising … 25

 

Ch 25 ~ The Way

 

“Try losing someone, kid, before you go thinking anything is over the top,” Spence said with a mildness that was completely contrary to his current state of mind.

“What do you imagine you’ll do?  What’s left?” Dryst asked.

“He didn’t mention,” the Other asked.  “He didn’t tell you along the way?  Why, he intends to change the course of time and of events.  Ironic, really.  My intention as well.  Just for a different purpose.”

“Spence,” Dryst whispered, ignoring the posturings of the Queen Witch, Librarian, the Seat of all Knowledge or whatever she/he/it was (Dryst was never entirely convinced the being itself had a gender to begin with).   He realized he should have been more afraid of her than he was at this point, but now that Dryst knew Mya was alive somewhere in the mountain (even though he was greatly distressed by the fact that she was in the mountain and worse, in danger’s way looking for him…but somehow he knew that she was safe), he sensed an energy about the Other that he found less fear-inducing and more perplexing. 

She seemed to feel a need to be right and in control at every turn…just because?   Dryst detected a false note of bravado.

“Let him rest,” he softly said, turning to the old man.

The two men looked at each other.  For once, the old man looked, well, truly old, more ancient than dangerous under the current circumstances.  But the most odd of all things was that Dryst had noticed something in the room that he hadn’t noticed before.  An aura threaded itself between Spence and the Other.  Connecting them, Dryst wondered, or existing for some other reason.  Was she a shapeshifter, a body snatcher, a control freak, an Eternal bent upon absolute power and control over all of life?  Or was she more directly knowable, not quite as mysterious, not quite as over-the-top while still being mysterious only in an entirely different way. 

Was she, in truth, an extension of Spence?

Dryst tended not to read into things, but it was staring him straight on, and in this case, she happened to have her hair pulled back in the tightest bun he had ever seen, yanking her eyes into slits that tugged themselves away from her face.  With hair like that who needs botox, he thought, but more stubbornly continued to chase after the puzzle:  was she an overly-amplified physical manifestation of Spence’s feelings surrounding the loss of his father?

The expression in Spence’s weary eyes clearly said yes. 

Dryst’s broad chest heaved just a bit, stemming from relief, worry, astonishment?  He didn’t know.  All that he suddenly knew was that this entire Event appeared to be all about the old man’s grief and his willingness, or not, to believe in the goodness that still remained in life.

Much more, the butterfly purred seemingly out of nowhere. 

Dryst heard the creature but glossed quickly over his words, teasing out answers instead to questions of Why are we here, why May, why me?

All about so much more, the butterfly persisted, its voice bubbling up into a gentle song that only Dryst could hear.  Hear Dryst did, knowing that the meaning behind those words would make itself known when it was meant to be known.

“The Clan of Ophania?  Also you?”

Spence shrugged.  “I’m not entirely sure of any of this, but if that’s how you want to see it, then yeah, kid.  Not exactly one of my better sides.  They have a bit of road rage in them.”

Dryst nodded, and the Clan of Ophania and the Other and Spence quietly closed circle around him.  But really, Dryst knew, it was mainly Spence — it was only Spence — claiming ground, putting all of this in motion.

“The Stream is real, kid,” Spence said smoothly, his weariness battling on and off of his face.  Dryst could see deep gashes around the old man’s eyes from the strain of wanting so badly to have the power to undo the past.  How long had he carried this burden around with him?

“When I first came across the Stream, I held the key,” he continued, and cast his focus around Dryst’s pocket, apparently knowing where the portal lay safely tucked away on his person. 

“It brought me this far.  Surprising as that was.  And then even more surprisingly, it seemed to release these parts of my energy.”  He tilted his head in the direction of the Other, who stood by studying her fingernails and smoothing every last tight strand that wrapped around her head.  “Funny,” he laughed in quiet amusement to himself, “how some of my thoughts look when they’re personified.   The good, the bad, the all.”  He motioned his head, then, in a broader sweep to indicate the Clan.

“Like I said…not too sure about them, but, hell, in this place? It wouldn’t surprise me.  Besides, they seem to know me too well.”

“Perhaps you’ve said enough,” the Other interrupted, behaving in a slightly more aggitated manner, and Ophania snorted loosely, watching the Other with keen interest…watching her even more closely than she had been watching Dryst.  Dryst thought the Other’s bun might pop or her collar snap open from the unease she suddenly seemed to be battling.  The Other and Ophania seemed to be at some kind of opposition for the first time since Dryst had encountered them.

The air grew thick with tension with no sound except for the tree roots in the sky coiling around each other and spreading against the backdrop of the purple-grey sky.

Between snarls from Ophania to the Other and back again, Spence wearily eyed the younger man.  Oblivious to the two Eternals – or whatever they were…the two strands of his thoughts – Spence narrowed his voice and said, “What’s it gonna be, kid.”

“Not what you would have it be, Spence,” Dryst said with tenderness.  “You won’t have the key by way of my free will.  And you won’t have it by way of force either.”  He paused, while secretly marshalling his adrenalin and readying his muscles.  Something was about to erupt.  He didn’t know what or how or where.  But even if it didn’t, Dryst was getting Mya and they were going to get away from Spence’s ill-intention.

“The girl is weakening,” Ophania suddenly hissed, looking squarely at the Other, making it abundantly clear that the ‘girl’ she was referring to – perhaps all along, Dryst realized – was Spence’s Other.

“You don’t really want this,” Dryst said in urgent tones, winding his voice between the sparkling energy that began to build from Ophania to the Other.  They were locked into some kind of battle, oblivious to Dryst and even, by all appearances, even Spence. 

She cannot hold.  Her will has usurped my authority for all this time, but she cannot hold.  Ophania muttered in her mind, not caring if the Other could hear the witch’s thoughts because the witch knew it to be true that the Other wavered.

Spence wavered.  He seemed increasingly worn.  Dryst studied him carefully, following the threads of the aura that reached across between the two, hearing the threads bristle from strain.

“Spence,” Dryst called his name urgently.  The old man hunched over against the desk, caught in the middle of indecision.  He looked at the kid from under his eyebrows, and when their eyes made contact, Dryst whispered, “Give up the ghost.”

At that moment, the Clan of Ophania slithered their focus upon the co-mingled genders of Ophania and the tightly wound Other.  All in the room seemed to be oblivious to the two men.

“You never belonged here,” Ophania growled between here teeth and seared her gaze between the Other’s eyes.

A slightly forced cackle broke into the middle of the room.  The Other adjusted her hair and clawed at the buttons that looped her collar so mercilessly around her neck.  “And you,” the Other said, with a show of balance and a display of unsteadiness that equalled the impasse Spence found himself at within his own mind, “You are but a wisp of thought brought to life not by your own doing but by all of life’s creation, the very place you seek to deny.”

The edges of the collar of his worn jacket chafed at Spence’s throat.  His fingers pulled listlessly at the fabric to open up a passage, to air his insides out, to breathe.

“You made it this far,” Dryst said to the old man, as he moved rapidly toward him and grabbed him around the back of his arm, pulling Spence — weary and heavy as if overloaded with burden — to his feet…away from the desk, away from the unfolding clash between parts of himself, or between only one part of himself against some other essence (the Clan and Ophania) that had emerged from the Stream at the same time when the Other had been released from Spence’s mind and become manifest.

Dryst ran with Spence, dragging him and nearly carrying him, as fast and as he force his powerful body to physically haul them off.  His words ricocheted out of his lungs when, under his breath, Dryst said, “And you’ll make it back with us too.

Humhaaa, Ophania exalted, “enough words!” and she lunged forward into a raging battle with the Other.

 

National Novel Writing Month (even though Nov 30th has come and gone):  Chapter 25 total wordcount:  1550 (not including this notation).  Total total count:  48,620.  

Iconoclast Rising … 24

Revisited:  “‘Since I am just a piece of code, I would be on very thin ice to speculate,’ the Librarian says.”  (Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson)

 

Ch 24 ~ The Librarian

 

“You should have a seat,” the Other said softly.  She managed a smile.  It seemed nearly genuine.  Dryst didn’t trust it.

“Please,” she insisted.  “Truly, there’s no need to do away with all sense of manners.  What good would that serve.”

His surpressed chuckle had the effect of slightly rocking his shoulders.  He managed a half-smile, and it was completely genuine.

“Funny you should talk about ‘good,'” he said through the corner of his mouth since the vast majority of his teeth were clenched on top of each other.

She tilted her head.  Her eyes danced.

“This surprises you.”

The butterfly on his ear had folded its wings tightly together and slid them underneathe a layer of Dryst’s hair.  He was nearly invisible, but Dryst knew the beautiful creature was still there.  Watching eyes…listening silently, the butterfly said in a voice so low that only Dryst could hear it.  And Dryst did the same thing — have watching eyes…listen to things said and unsaid — just as he knew his many captors were doing right now with him and Spence.  

Dryst nodded slowly to the person in front of him.  He locked his stare onto her without missing a beat of anything happening around him.  A large, open room, with five-story high walls, ornate moldings, stained glass windows, and slithering treeroots mangled together to serve as the ceiling.  There were rows of leather-bound books and plush seating and reading areas scattered about.  Finely carved mahogany tables and tastefully elaborate yet polite light fixtures rounded out the appointments and harkoned back to another time and another place, creating an atmosphere that lulled one to believe in its gentleness, refinement…that threw one’s memories back to the idea of a gentlemen’s den, or a smoking lounge.  

Except for the witches, Dryst thought and studied them carefully.  Somehow they didn’t fit in with this picture.  Several perched themselves from under flowing robes that whipped in the wind inside the balcony in the tower.  They peered over the ledge in watch and in wait, Dryst knew, with their heads buffetted by long, gnarly twisting and lofting strands.  Others stood or hovered with a smugness, as if bored, on either side of the great expanse of room, the center in which the two men found themselves standing.  

The Other’s movement, quiet though it was, nudged into his assessment of the place.  She walked casually, cutting a path from behind the writing table around to the front of it.  She leaned her nicely formed shape onto its edge and straddled her hands on either side of the desk.

“Surprise me…yeah,” he replied slowly, still surveying the room.  “It must have been when you shifted out of the form of the man and –”   He stopped abruptly.  How he hated what these creatures had done.   Spence shifted in his feet at this moment, as if awakening from a deep slumber.   He had been unusually quiet, Dryst noticed. 

“And?” she said with amused inquisitiveness, knowing full well what he would say, but poking more at the embers of hatred that were erupting within him.  Anger is good, Ophania spoke silently to the Other.  How ironic, the Other replied and smirked with some amount of cruelty that was glazed over with the pretense of decorum.

His eyes snarled as much as any pair of eyes could snarl.  They bore into this woman, standing overly confident, punishing the desktop with her tight ass.  Her clothing — pencil skirt, jacket, vest, blouse with a high buttoned collar that wound itself around her neck more like a tourniquet — severely wrapped around her form…a form that in any other circumstance any man other than Dryst might have found pleasing but in this circumstance with her grating and oppressive personality no man would find the least bit attractive.  He looked down the length of her stockings to her black patent leather shoes that looked as if they had just been pulled out off of the store shelf and out of the shop box.  He was grateful her skirt was too tight to allow the shoes to reflect up.  He didn’t want to see it because he couldn’t believe, even in this short amount of time, that this was a woman.

“Nice shoes,” he snarled as much as his eyes had snarled earlier.

She leaned further back onto the desk and sighed a smile, then patiently coaxed an answer to her previously stated question by repeating it again with an even more pleasant tone, as if in an attempt to placate him but that was hardly what she was up to.   And they both knew it.

“And…” she repeated with slow and sugared deliberateness.

“And the woman,” he said at last, looking directly into her eyes but protecting Mya’s name within his heart and refusing to toss it out into the open in this place.  He wouldn’t tarnish it so in this vile mountain with these unnatural and evil beings who played at civility but intended only destruction.  At least the witches were transparent, he thought, but this one…his mind scowled at the Other.

“Kid…don’t get into a conversation here.  It’s of no use.”  Spence hadn’t moved, except for shifting his weight slightly, as if readying his center of gravity for something yet to come.  But even in his speaking, he hadn’t moved, instead keeping his focus straight ahead on the tightly wound person at the front of the room.

She smiled a bit more, and it seemed a bit more pleasured.   Tight ass, she read the expression on Dryst’s face but this was no unnatural act.  Anyone could plainly see what he thought of her.  She laughed inside before sliding her vision back to the younger man.

“She, the woman of whom you speak, was…oh, how shall I put this,” — she paused with some amount of dramatic flare — “delicious to plunge into.”   Dryst clenched his forehead with his eyebrows.

“Do you know what a priviledge it must have been for her?  To be consumed by the likes of me?”

 “She is not consumed by you,” he growled menacingly.  “Whoever the hell you think you are.”

“Oh?  Oh, right.  Perhaps true.”  The Other said casually, then with her mind pushed a reading chair into the back of his legs and again with her mind, shoved him down into it.  She liked standing over him.  She didn’t much like his defiant attitude.  Ophania and her sisters turned their heads lazily to gaze upon him as he sat in the center of the Library.

“And it’s not who I think I am…it’s quite a matter of who I, in fact, am,” the Other sneered ever so slightly, briefly cracking through the veneer of politeness that had coated each of her words. 

“She is the Other, the Keeper of Knowledge,” Ophania hissed.  “And you should regard her as such.”

“Yeah?” he managed to sound casual, not knowing why he had been forced into a seated position and Spence had not.   “Looks like a librarian to me,” he continued.

Ophania glared but the Other laughed quietly.  “Oh yes,” she said through her chuckles, “I suppose that is one way of thinking of me.  Another way to think of me is the way that Mya now knows of me.”  And with the mention of her name, Dryst’s muscles contracted, his body flinched from an overwhelming urge to lunge at the laughing Other and strangle her.

Oooooooo…good, good, the Other said with a great deal of self satisfaction.  He believes her to be defiled…or possibly worse, Ophania said.  You can read this to be so, the Other asked.  No no, Ophania, relunctantly admitted, but his reaction is telling.  The Other dismissed the witch’s commentary, displeased that Ophania could not hear Dryst’s mind, but equally displeased and loathe to admit that she herself as the Keeper of Knowledge could not hear Dryst’s mind either.   He was unusually obstinate and proving to be difficult to penetrate, the Other thought to herself with a high degree of annoyance that she refused to convey.  It was a blessing, the Other thought with some distaste, that Ophania could not hear her mind, as well.  The witch would have been at her throat eons ago if she had heard weakness in any second of any moment.  And in this moment, within this second, as she studied Dryst, the Other realized he was anything but weak…which enraged her silently inside and threatened her, both.

“Perhaps,” the Other said as she slid her backside forward and lifted her weight off of the edge of the writing table, “Perhaps…Mya…” (she paused to study Dryst’s reaction, which he cleverly concealed even deeper, she noted) “perhaps she is not yet consumed by me.  Not totally yet.  But you must know, young man, that each time I possess her being, I am taking parts of her will.  And eventually,” the Other continued in a methodical fashion, “eventually, I will consume all of her.”

“The girl is weakening,” Ophania lied, slurring the words as if her tongue was that of a snake.

“You see?”  It is already begun.” 

And with that, Dryst thrust his body upright, bullying the chair back from under his arms and sending it flying across the hall to careen into a reading table.  He lunged forward toward the Other, who smiled with a quizzical pleasure as she sat back down on the edge of the table, waiting for him to throw his anger upon her.  Ophania and her sisters hissed in excited anticipation, their eyes and skin coiling and bleeding over itself with rapid color changes.  Then, all at once when he was in the full heat of his fury and his anger had nearly descended upon the Other, Dryst stopped completely in his tracks, panting angrily and wide eyed a mere inches in front of the Other who snarled at him.

“Do it!  You can’t stand that I have taken her from you…do it!”

Listen silently, the butterfly suddenly purred into his ear, listen deeply.

And Dryst had heard.  His mind had opened in a fleeting instant and Mya’s voice had rushed forth, filling his lungs with the sweet sounds of her calling his name.  She was here.  She was whole and complete, inside the mountain, making her way in a throng of people, he thought, through what looked to be a passage way of some strange shape.  He squinted as if trying to see her location more clearly and when he did, he held her face within his eyes and gently touched into every part of her soul and knew, so completely knew the trueness of her, the trueness of them…and that this power hungry Other or Librarian or ultra bodysnatcher who stood before him was lying through her teeth completely.  

Dryst pulled back.  He bared his immense distrust and dislike of the Other with his eyes, with his breath, with his stance.  But he held himself back.

“You can save her.  You can save, Mya.”

It was Spence’s voice, now, coming in low and for the first time in what seemed ages, coming in calm and relaxed.

“Strike the Other down,” Spence urged the younger man.  “And save the girl.”

“What?” Dryst’s voice skipped out from his throat carried on the winds of confusion.  He stared at the old man, who stood with his face in between theirs.  He spoke in hurried tones but was far too relaxed in this setting, Dryst realized.  And the Other merely gazed at Spence, in amusement not with any degree of threatening or commanding…almost with a knowing.

“I should have finished you off completely,” he said looking past the glasses of the Other and into her eyes.  She laughed a taunting but gentle laugh.  Too gentle, Dryst knew.  Too familiar. 

“You could have saved your father,” the Other rolled her words out like a poisoned honey, “But you didn’t have it in you, did you, dear Spence…”

“What…” Dryst’s mouth moved slowly, jarred by the closeness, almost tenderness shared between Spence and this Witch.  “You know this witch,” he finally said, feeling suddenly like the floor had completely fallen out from underneathe him.

Spence rolled his gaze away from the Other and looked into Dryst’s face.

“She’s not a Witch, Kid,” he said, “You’re right…she’s a Librarian.  She knows everything.  And, yeah, I know her.”

“He came here to kill me,” the Other said.  “Can you imagine.  What a courtship.”

“For my father,” Spence said with some amount of remorse.  “To save him.”

“Yes, yes,” the Other patted the old man’s arm tenderly.  “A terrible disease.  The cigar smoking couldn’t have helped any with avoiding the finality of it all.  But,” she smiled grimly and returned her gaze upon Dryst, “your friend, here…my lover…”  Dryst’s eyes jumped out of their sockets momentairly before he could retrieve them.  Ophania cackled; the Other continued, “You see, now, yes?  My lover…who brought you here so easily, so readily to me.  He couldn’t quite do it, when he was here not too very long ago.  You see, young man, the portal claims its owner.  And for reasons I will never understand –“

“It is of the twisted sickness in the Eternal Light,” Ophania spat.

“Hush, Ophania, hush,” the Other reprimanded mildly, then continued, “The portal rejected Spence when he came here to kill me…but of course, silly thing, he wouldn’t truly kill me.  He would have been killed in the act, and I…I would have gained all of his energy, including the key.  And he thought it worked the other way…that if he had killed me, he would have had all of the power of the universes and somehow would have saved his father.  A noble thought,” she said, mockingly, then squared her intention directly onto Dryst.

“The portal seems to have claimed you and your Mya as its owners.  The fool of a being seems to have entrusted two mere mortals with all of the magnitude of all of life’s knowledge and all of life’s creation.”  She nearly choked on her words, finding them so replusive to say.

Listen, the butterfly urged him, calling deeply to his core.  Dryst found his hand by his side, tingling with an energy from his pocket where the portal was kept secure and safe, but suddenly alert and readied for something, but what exactly Dryst wasn’t sure.  And while he listened to the Other drone on in her self-indulgent explanation, he shuttled his anger and surprise away and felt such a huge disappointment and near sadness for the man that Spence had been to the man that Spence had allowed himself to become.

“Well,” Spence said with no small amount of sarcasm, “since you let the cat completely out of the bag, the kid’s not going to kill you, now.”

“No,” the Other considered, “I expect not.  Not that impulsive and reckless, eh?”

“Not nearly,” Dryst growled in a low tone.

Spence chuckled mildly but with a tinge of sadness.  “No…no.  Can’t say that he is…even if he did punch through dimensions to save the love of his life.  Not at all unsimilar to what brought me here myself.”

“Oh so true,” the Other slurred through her response, “except the love of your life wasn’t capable of punching through dimensions to save you.  But that hasn’t stopped Mya from punching through our dimension to slip into the center of the Stream itself to save the love of her life.”

“Touching really,” Ophania snarled, “very quaint, I’m sure.”  And her sisters cackled and chortled with mocking laughter.

“But fear not, loyal Spence,” the Other said calmly, as she straightened herself up and adjusted her overly buttoned, tightly wound self, all the while eyeing Dryst as if sizing him up.  And all the while Spence nodded his head in small movements, his eyebrow lifted, his eyes heavy as if to say Kid, I’m sorry…it can’t be helped.

Dryst heard Spence’s thoughts and smiled with some pain.  “Yeah…”

“If,” the Other interrupted, “if he won’t willingly allow me to consume him – because that would be what you would be doing, blindly giving up your will and the portal, then we will remove it from him by force.”

“This is all a little bit too over the top, isn’t this?” Dryst asked and he wasn’t kidding, before adding “Sorry old man, witch, Librarian…it can’t be helped.”

 

 

 National Novel Writing Month:  Chapter 24 total wordcount:  2700 (not including this notation).  Total total count:  47,070.