Friday, November 17, 2017

Gathering Strays

Somber conjured a light and said quietly, "Don't attack," before he stepped out of the doorway and into the hall.

He'd been listening to the sounds of the approaching group: soft footsteps and quiet whispers, the rustle of fabric, the occasional soft thunk as something shifted in a pack. Now they stopped, blinking nervously in the dim light. "You have to go back," he told them. "They're waiting up ahead."

The man in the lead was older, respectable, and scared out of his mind. Something about the whiteness around his eyes and the way he held himself told Somber that he was only barely hanging on to control. "We have to get out before..." His voice was a little too loud for a whisper, and the woman beside him elbowed him sharply. "Listen to the young man, Rabius," she said, and Somber decided that she was probably the man's wife.

"There's a warehouse two block over," Somber continued quietly. "It's still safe. We're gathering people there." He paused, but Rabius had settled back and looked less inclined to break and run. "We can get there, but we can't use the stairs."

"How...?" The woman shook her head. "Lead the way."

Somber motioned past them, and they stepped to the side of the hall to let him pass. One or two reached out to touch his robes, which would have bothered him under more normal circumstance. Now, he didn't mind.

He led them back up the corridor, noting again the broken doors on either side. Some looked in on empty rooms, but others showed shattered furniture and other wreckage. At least one held a pair of dead bodies, fresh enough that they hadn't yet begun to stink. Somber checked the doorways until he found the one he wanted, then turned left into it. There were a few concerned whispers, but he thought the group was still following him.

It wasn't an especially large group: four adults, two children, and an infant who was carried by the youngest of the three women.

He crossed to the door on the far side, stepped through it into an untouched dining area, and continued to the window beyond. It was still open, the glass pane in it wooden frame raised to let in the night's breezes. Looking down, he saw Maija standing below, waved, and then held up seven fingers. She waved back.

"Here," he said.

"Here?" asked Rabius, sounding as if he were starting to choke. "You expect us to--"

The oldest of the three women elbowed him again. "He expects you to stay quiet, and not bring those things down on us." Her voice was a whisper, but it was vehement.
Somber nodded, and she stepped up beside him. "I am Vara," she said.

"I'm called Somber."

She glanced at him. "That's a terrible thing to name a child."

Somber shrugged. "That's Maija, down there."

"Ah," said Vara, and turned back to the others. "There's a peacekeeper down there, and she has a sword."

Rabius straightened, while the two women behind him exchanged a glance. One of the children tugged on the sleeve of his robe. "How do we get down?" she asked.

Somber knelt down. He was taller than anyone in this group by at least a full head, and it didn't seem fair to make the child crane her neck. "I'm going to put a word on you," he said softly, "and you're going to drift down like a feather, slowly."

"Oh," she said. "What about Pulous?" She touched her jacket, and Somber suddenly found himself eye to eye with something that might have been a snake except that it had legs, and might have been a lizard except that it had four legs on either side of its long, slender body.

"Just hold onto him," Somber answered quietly. "I'll make sure the word covers him, too." He studied her a moment longer, then asked: "Are you two going first?"

"Yes," she said firmly.

"Good," he said. "Step up onto the windowsill, and let's get started."

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Exhaustion and Self-Care

I'm having (I've been having, actually) one of those weeks where I'm just tired -- and I seem to stay tired, no matter what I do. I don't think I'm actually sick, though it's the sort of thing where I could easily get sick. I've been trying to be good: drink less, go to bed earlier, that sort of thing.

I've also been trying to eat healthy, though admittedly this past weekend I cooked up A Whole Bunch Of Bacon, and I've been snacking on it ever since. So, y'know, not exactly unmitigated success on the healthy food front. There's also a weird feedback loop - what we used to call a vicious cycle - where the more tired I am, the more likely I am to eat crap food, and the more crap food I eat, the less likely I am to have the sort of energy I need...

I don't think I'm sick; I think it's a combination of things. The end of Daylight Savings Time means that it's suddenly very dark out, very early. The weather is weird -- it's mid-November, but it's sixty-eight degrees outside, and I sent the boys off to school in shorts this morning -- and that tends to throw my sinuses off. (And yeah, I have been pretty stuffy - I think I'm allergic to my workplace, or at least parts of it.) Some of it may be work-related stress, too: our whole department is still very much in a state of chaotic transition, and I'm still stuck in a weird position of having two bosses. (Which is kind of my own fault, but this wasn't how I intended for that move to shake out. Hindsight, though...)

So, with all that, naturally it's a busy week for both the Beautiful Wife and myself. Monday was gymnastics; we missed two different events yesterday night (book fair at Secondborn's school, something my wife was supposed to attend - oh, yeah, and there was going to be a mid-week DnD game, but that got cancelled). Tonight my wife has another event that she was supposed to attend, but the boys have more gymnastics and her parents can't cover it for us. (Which happens -- my in-laws are really great, but they do have their own lives and schedules and social activities, as they should.) Tomorrow night, one of our old college friends is in town and I'm going to try to get together with him for dinner; Beautiful Wife has cancelled out of that one, because we're just too close to the end of the semester. Oh, and Thanksgiving is coming up, after which Christmas is scheduled to fall on us like a ton of bricks.

Honestly, the only thing I can see to do it keep working my plan: little or no drinking, watch what (and how much) I'm eating, make sure I'm getting at least eight hours of sleep per night, and don't try to Get Things Done unless they're really necessary.

TL/DR: I'm tired, there is way too much going on, and I'm just going to take care of myself and cut my activities down to the essentials.

But before I go back to that, I'm going to add a piece of music here, because I think it really captures the spirit of the season:

Friday, November 10, 2017


No, I don't need another writing project - and I'm not starting one. This is related to something else.

Jandra stands in the open door of her prison and watches the last traces of the greenish mist recede. She is hunched, old despite her relative few years. This place has aged her, sickened her, broken her. Far away, in the last shadows of the trees, she can hear the giants moving away towards the marsh beyond. She does not know what they are. They are a product of the mist, or a part of it, and like the mist they do not come to the strange, empty stone buildings here at the center of the trees. Jandra, for her part, does not leave the buildings when there is even the faintest hint of mist in the air.

Jandra fears the mist.

She does not know where it comes from, or why it avoids the derelict structures. She only knows that she is safe here, save that she must venture beyond the stone structures to gather food, firewood, anything she can scavenge. In the trees there are beasts that hunt, and carnivorous things that might be plants. These are dangers, but after years -- or longer? -- she knows them, knows their shapes and their smells and their ways. There are worse things in the marshes, and those she only knows in part. She does not venture into the marshes willingly.

The mist is something else. It comes when it would, lingers for hours or days, departs without warning. It brings things with it, things from marshes and perhaps from other places as well. It does not enter the rounded, lobed stone shapes of the buildings, but when it comes Jandra can only wait inside until it passes. Her world is tiny then, only a few paces across, with stone on all sides except for the open doorway, where the mist hangs in a filmy curtain.

Jandra has given up all hope of discovery or rescue. There is no one else here. Nobody is coming. There are only the structures, and the woods, and the mist, and the marshes beyond.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Owning a house is like

Firstborn, conversationally: "You know, I think having a house is like..."

Me, under my breath: "Hell. Purgatory. The abyss."

Firstborn: "Owning a giant baby that eats money."

Me: "Owning a giant baby that eats money."

Mommy: "Only you don't really own it, you only own like half of it."

Just make it a priority

A rant on Twitter: