American Plain Views


I currently live and work in Minneapolis as an educator in an Americorps program and freelance writer. Sometimes it is peculiarly pretty here. It is pretty in a way that’s as much a sensation as a view. These little snippets will hopefully let you in on some of those American plain views.

View Heading Down Penn from Olson:

Olson Memorial Highway pushes out in both directions like big tar rivers and the grey-black backs of big straight serpents swimming into and out of center city. If the light allows, you can ford it all at once and if it doesn’t you are in an island in the middle watching the rust and the shine of cars sprint like metallic fish up and down stream. It is dirt, mud clot, and trash spotted right by Olson but further on past is the Harrison neighborhood where things get cleaner, greener, squarer and on with lawns and their houses. A little black girl cast in bronze statue welcomes you. Here the hills rise and sink slowly as the gentle undulation of a half-urban half-suburban dragon. The way the road stretches, the way there are no trees to block the skies or the hills as they rise, you can see right down Penn as it weaves up and down and up until it is too high to see past; just from seeing how the sky goes and goes and the earth goes and goes you’d guess there wasn’t any end to it. But then, eventually, you’d hit the highways and the interstates.

View From the Back of the 19:

Metro Transit buses have big windows to soothe you that bit they delayed you when they came late. Metro Transit buses are blood capillaries that pump in and out of the downtown heart where folks are moving but not wanting to be seen. Uptown, Northeast, by lakes and by campuses and by dive bars on rise is where people tell me you want to be seen. Metro Transit buses have big windows where these thoughts float out of sight and mind like clouds in the wide sky.

On the good days it feels like a Venice high in the sky. Your four wheeled gondola shared with a smattering of other people goes sailing down the light blue sky; your four wheeled gondola gliding on heaven to get you to the next earthly mess. The 19 – my four wheeled gondola – goes under the dark arches that connect concrete block buildings stretching out over two streets, making Hennepin Medical Center. Sunlight peaks out from the Hospital’s shadow until the 19 plunges fully into the bright light. It weaves up to the long and grassy green lawn in front of the Government Center. That building splits into two dark pillars wrapped together by a glass midsection and pulled tight by heavy black cross-lines so it looks like the corseted back of a boxy, cartoon-ish dominatrix.

After that the 19 comes through downtown where things look new and glassy and the construction turns everything to congestion and tightness. When it pops out into Hennepin it looks like one of those true downtown stretches full of bars and avante-garde buildings twisted up into modernist shapes. When breezes by the stadium, passes the brown and flat Transit Center, and leaks into Olson, it is just apartments and peaks down long and short residential roads.

On the bus a woman – White or Latina – sits and babbles brightly to her child. Another mom – Black – comes on and her toddler rushes up to the other kid and they seem to just stare before the parents direct them away, smiling and managing awkwardly. People come and people go. The driver lets a man know where to get off. The child leaves and the toddler cries for bit. Another mother and her kid – elementary age – comes on and picks up the transparent green binky the toddler dropped. The two mothers talk about the wide blue sky and the hot sun and the children all wrapped up in it; they talk on and past when my stop comes and I go.

~Austin R Ryan

Pointless Stories: Reflections


I have never lived in a rainy city before, but now I am in a rainy province. So far it is mostly drizzly and each time I go out I am not much inconvenienced. It is deceptive, where if you disregard it the water really builds on your skin and then you are flooded.

I like to go out for a walk every day if I can because my apartment is all white plaster walls and white tile floors and it is a claustrophobic aesthetic that starts off empty and ends up dirty. There are art posters and all sorts of picture frames in my home though, because I had already known of China’s odd love of pale patterns. I’ve flecked it with color for a homier vibe.

Usually when I go out it’s not very far because for whatever complaints I have of it, my home has all my routines and my business inside of it. It is warm and has everything I need. That’s probably something worth mentioning too. When I go out on one of my evening strolls it is often to scavenge for a supplement to dinner, or some kind of thing I need for teaching or living, or both. During the weekend going out’s a bit more pointed. The school’s cafeteria closes down and there’s no work tomorrow so that’s when the long journeys into town for food, drink, and company happen.

Last routine weekday step-out I had bought a mop and a trash bin with a pop-up lid. Well, I think that was the last time I stepped out – actually reflecting on it the last time might have been when I went to KFC. I specifically wanted to order an intriguingly odd looking hamburger meal that came with what looked like a giant strawberry red pizza roll and some sort of hot drink. The pizza roll was actually a super sweet kind of jelly pie thing that tasted better than the burger. The burger itself had a layer of dried noodles on top of it and loads of sloppy applied sweet mayo. The hot drink was corn juice, which I guarantee tastes exactly the way you imagine it.

Anyways, the events blend. I can’t really remember the sequence, but there are a lot of small discrete motions that stick out from the continuous motion. The pity I had for the trash can I was buying sticks out like a wave in the humming sea of consistent motion. That trash bin had cost a surprising amount and I bought it explicitly as a used a toilet paper container. This was a premium trash can – I am telling you – and it must feel like it got a raw deal literally pocketing what my body wouldn’t! Its stainless steel exterior shines underneath the dim lightbulb in my bathroom right now and I still feel the pity I had for it the day of purchase. “Hey, sorry,” I’ve maybe even said aloud, “but you were the only thing with a lid, and honestly you are doing a swell job keeping the smell in.”

I am getting off track. In Changzhou it rains a lot and there a lot of reflective surfaces. This is probably my favorite thing about the city. The reflective tiles of the sidewalks are mostly that strange kind of grey with different tones and shades inside it, with some different colors patterned in here and there. All in between the grey there’re are thin lines of deep black tiles containing the smoothest reflections and in them I can see the glimpse of the grey and black Midwestern skyline designs of Chicago. When the rain really falls it is easy to get caught up in the city and its reflections. Sometimes when the night sky is really clear the outlines of the buildings become stark underneath the wide open. Then the rigid design of this rain slicked little city expands and if my eyes spiral inward, they are plain caught to it and beholden for a little while. Each upright slab sits equidistant from its neighboring building, and if the neighbors are a part of the same apartment complex then they’ll have the same facades too. The angles are equal and the balconies jut out in sequence like the arms of swimmers popping up from under drizzly rain curtains. For a while I was catching single swimmers out and watching their simple motions but with that kind of approach I was missing the way the whole show comes together.

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This last night I went out the sky was not too clear, I think, but even on the smoggy evenings all that’s up comes back down in reflections. The rain was going in the same light drizzle it has had for the last few weeks and all along the ground there was the slick veneer of water on smooth surfaces sticking face up and looking. What they saw is marked right there in the rain pooling on top of them and for some time I’d just stare at my feet stepping over puddles and catch a single heavy and stout piece of skyline quivering porous underneath me. After a while treading the same paths there were certain moments where I found that reflections convened with the images gazing into the watery mirror, like reality doubling up. It was probably a good number of patterned walks ago when I noticed how this long stretch of wide tile cut down the middle by three green reflecting pools ran up to a reflection that always catches me now. It comes along through this little back road a friend taught me to take to that is a bunch of passages that lead to a circular plaza where old ladies like to form up and do square or pair dances. The passage that leaks out to a main road goes on for a bit and about midway through its distance the flat, tall, and wide face of a white building with thin veins of multi-colored neon lights reaches out at first only in reflective rainwater pools. It pulls at my feet and as I follow it the long white thing slinks into a normal shape while the base of its reflection joins to reality and points straight up at the sky. The building and its mirror image both sit blinking multi-colored, probably wondering why I eyed them up top to base to base to top. If I was untoward to the tile and the concrete, I apologize.

On the main road all the reflections are still there and sometimes even clearer in they way they form buildings up into massive straight lines, all standing at attention in perfect rows that shoot to the sky and into the Earth. Wherever I go, KFC, Burger King, a restaurant, it is bright and warm and the servers somewhat know me. In each place I mostly want silence or to talk with a friend in English, but I’ll try to order and do the necessary interactions in Chinese. People will likely watch me eat and at this point I don’t even notice peering eyes much anymore. The days reflect each other like this. An experience at one nearby place reconstructs down from its top to its base to the base of another nearby place to that other place’s top. It is why it is so hard to pull the days apart and I stick to memorizing the things that send a brief ripple through the puddles over the steady fall of rain.

There’s no absence of those kind of ripples. Once I was deeply curious about the old ladies dancing in the plaza an how long they want on for, so I joined in on the whole duration. It was really long, maybe an hour and a half of aerobics set to Chinese “Cha-Cha Slide”-esque music. By the middle I was into it and by the end I was exhausted. “Are you tired?” asked an old man in Mandarin. “Very tired.” I replied back.

Another time maybe two or so weeks back I met a college age girl who spoke great English – or rather she met me. I had sat down at Burger King and she came over to me with such a genuine zeal I couldn’t let it go un-reflected, even though I wasn’t looking for a conversation. She had a very warm and low-lit buzz about her, like the café lighting of the Burger King (US brand fast food joints have nicer design in China). Apparently she had a foreign teacher at her university but had never found one roaming in the wild, feasting on its very own imported native fruits. She was in some kind of business management end of the textile industry and was thinking of going abroad so she plied me with fairly deep questions about how living away from home feels. I kind of liked that because it was unlike the average conversation where I’d say for the tenth time where I was from, what my work was, how much I was paid, and how long I had been here. In the end she got my WeChat (a poplar messaging app) and we sped off to separate places. I haven’t heard from her since, but that’s normal and it does not make me sad anymore. I don’t think it is just because I expect it, but because now that I have seen the first be the last so many times, I don’t think the lack of a sequence colors the one-time-things any worse.

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Then I’d go back home. Sometimes some drivers mulling about by their parked cars will stop me and talk for a while. They have some pretty fun banter and seem eager for me to find a girlfriend. Just this last time I stopped for a coke at a nearby convenience store and chatted with a middle aged couple who run the place. They have a black and white cat patterned so it has a thick mustache. I had met it before when it was a lot smaller, but it remembered me when I took my hood off and started playing with my hand like it had before. I spent a bit spinning my headphones around for it to paw at while I pet it, so of course the owners and I talked about cats and the pets I had back home. Then I waded back in through the crowd of parents looking to pick up kids and exchanged quick hellos with the gate guards.

Past the gate and in the courtyard there’s this massive, red, abstract star. When it rains water pools around its circular base and the star shines once up and once down at every angle. Then there’s a brief walk where the school buildings rise up to each side and things feel a bit more cluttered before everything falls to wide and open as the basketball courts come in on the right and the student cafeteria on the left. The basketball court’s a solid green surface that extends all the way to far outer wall of the school. Not too far off, there’s an apartment complex of similarly styled beige buildings with jutting strips. They stretch down and leak into the reflecting green surfaces of the basketball courts until the top of the reflections feel in reach and the summit of their tangible bodies feel out of touch.

Finally there’s the last few strides home. The dormitories are way in the back of the campus and they sharply cut off the wide open plain made by the expansive basketball courts. They are flat but for iron frames outside of windows where kids hang sheets and clothes. Two of them squeeze right up close to each other, maybe only fifteen feet apart, and fence off the teachers’ apartments where I live. Each building is about four or five stories and they make a thin mountain pass that the plains filter into – a dark little channel covered up top by a tin roof. Looming right behind them are the apartment complexes that reach up at least twenty floors, speckled on each level with intermittent light. Straight forward the road is gravelly and crooked, creating for imperfect reflections. The dorms and apartments lean into the water on the ground but rugged and rickety terrain turn their blocky bodies splotchy. As I near the pass the apartment complexes lean in closer, breathing over the neck of the dorms. The peaks of mountain ranges mark the instant end of the reflective plains as the darkness of the pass swallows me up and the pitter patter of rain drops clapping cold tin blend seamlessly with the hushed murmurs of students and the distant drone of cars. When I step out of the pass, the dorms circle up behind me and the humble hill of my apartment complex sits just beneath the twenty-something story apartment building and the speckled lights that it thrusts upward into the starless night sky.

It took me a while to realize it but much of the campus is designed to keep people out of the rain, with tin roofed corridors nearly always connection to overhangs and tunnels. There are corridors of wavy tin roofs that cover lanes leading to the area around my apartment – which has stone ping-pong tables, a parking area, and a small building for holding trash. I can rarely smell the garbage but it draws in all sorts of noise and excitement. In the nights the wild cats of the campus sustain themselves off this garbage and argue over it fiercely and in the mornings Chinese people also argue at least around it but for reasons I can’t discern. When I hear the cats I laugh, but when I hear the heated Mandarin something in me gets a bit angry too and I am not sure why.

Crossing past the garbage there are parked scooters and cars lined up neatly before the wall of the campus. At first it startled me to see security cameras and sharp glass shards lining the top of the wall near our apartments. Now I don’t even catch their reflections. I suppose that’s the sign of a good security measure – present to outsiders and subtle to insiders. It is interesting though,, that once I get close enough to see those glass shards I can also almost glimpse into that high-rise community sitting right behind me and looking straight over.

When I step into the narrow space that leads up to the door I can hear the sound of rain hitting tin now overwhelming everything. For a bit I listen for the scraping sound of dirt falling off my shoes and onto my red, improper English adorned doormat. Opening the door, the fluorescent lights are already bounding out off of white surfaces to greet me. Inside the blank sea swallows up everything and I am almost sleepy underneath the fluorescent lighting, the warm air, and the vibrating hum of the heater producing it.

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~Austin R Ryan

Lively Seasons Part 2


Their heart began to pound, filling her chest with fire. They stood up sharply. They turned and searched for the tree. They canvassed the land again and again with their eyes, but saw only a pale white hand rising from the ground where the tree once stood. The skin of the hand barely covered the bone, and clung to the joints. The lines in the palm were drawn in faint red, along with the veins of the wrist and the forearm that constituted its trunk. Suddenly the blackness crept over. A ringing sound fell into her ears. They stared down as it coated their small, frail frame, until it slowly encircled their eyes, and pushed inward, until they saw nothing but reflections of small birds, dogs, horses, men, women and children. They recognized them all, knowing them as well as they nearly as well as they knew each other.

They woke up facing the wide blue sky and wondered if they had returned. If she was he, or whatever it was, she began, or he set out to be. They stretched their hand out, displaying it to their eyes and saw a pale white palm. The wrist looked slender and the palm wider. They stared down at their frame, and it seemed to be human, not much more than that. It stood up and ran its hands along its pale white skin. It felt up to its neck and then to its face, to find it had nothing more than nostrils, eyes and ear holes. It went to whistle, and found it could only blow through its nose. Finally, it pulled itself up, towards that blue sky. When it stood upright it took notice of what cradled it. It sat in that giant hand. This time, the skin coating the palm and fingers seemed tan, healthy and thick. Beneath the palm stood an array of tree tops, the vast canopy of a jungle. The white being, impressed by the splendor of the jungle, made its way to the edge of the hand, and leaped from the palm that clutched it. The fingers closed slowly, and the hand formed a fist.

As it descended through the air, the sunlight faded with its fall. The moon’s glow hugged the land tightly. The air rushed against the face of the being as it plummeted. The air started to mold the soft pale flesh as though it were clay, parting the skin beneath the nose. The being felt a new orifice form. It earned a mouth to scream in exhilaration, and take one large breath before splashing into a pool of perfectly clear water. Its eyelids peeled back and the water splashed an ocean blue hue into two empty pupils. It felt weightless floating beneath the water. It lingered in the pleasant chill of the water. It sank down further, feeling the weight of its body slip away. Suddenly it felt a fire in its lungs. It gasped for air and found none. It flung its legs about in furious effort to propel itself forward. It could feel the burning pain creep across its body. It saw blotches of blackness encroaching on its vision. It kicked so fiercely that the water pushed away the soft clay at the end of its blocky feet. Toes formed from its shapeless feet. Its head peaked out of the water, and its mouth sucked in air.

It gripped the grimy shore. It slipped and slid against the mud. The mud pushed against its palms, and forced five fingers out of the slabs of clay on the ends of the arms. It jabbed its fingers into the soft ground and hauled itself through the shore line, until the terrain seemed steady enough to stand on. All around the pool were varying shades of mud, some yellowish, others a sort of tan, another of a pinkish variety. All of the pallets of mud blended together around the edges where they met. Its newly formed mouth felt empty, so it searched for something to fill it, and found small pink fruit dangling from the branches of stout trees. It reached up, pulled one loose, and started to chew on it. The pink fruit tangled up along the edges of its mouth, and formed out a strange layer that let it know the taste of its saliva and the feel of its breath. It reveled in the novel sensation of lip smacking as it walked a dirt path flanked on both sides by trees full of all sorts of fruits. Long and forked red fruits dangled from some trees. In bushes it saw white, serrated vegetables with sharp curves. It spotted a crunchy looking bunch of white blocks. It pulled loose a bunch and eagerly munched on them. It hurt its moist mouth, but soon the white cubes jammed into the sticky pink residue of the fruit and formed two layers of something as strong as bone. It shifted its jaw about and bit at the air and clacked the cubes together. It kept down the road, wriggling its fingers and observed the bounty of the land. There were fruits and vegetables of all shapes and hues. Suddenly, it found a wet looking fruit with a scratchy, wide surface. It grabbed it and shoved it hurriedly into its mouth. It bit on it at first, and formed a slight depression in the middle of the strange shape. It curved the sides of the fruit with its mashing until the fruit fit sat snugly in the mouth. The fruit slid into the film of red that held the fine row of strong white teeth in place. It waggled the new device around the mouth, and ran it along the pointy undersides and smooth surfaces of the white bones in its mouth. Suddenly, it let loose a little squall. It laughed high and childlike at itself. The laughter settled and it formed its first smile. It took a lot of exertion to stretch its mouth at the corners and reveal all of those square white teeth, but something made the whole endeavor feel effortless.

The dirt path that stretched before it started to form into large and wide rocks packed roughly together. As it walked the road, it noticed some loose stones. It grabbed an interesting shaped stone and eyed it as it walked. Suddenly, it met a crag in the ground and fell face forward, holding the stone up to its face. The stone jammed into the malleable face right between the nostrils. It felt a mass of pain wash over it, and clear blue tears began to slide down its face. It felt the misery of pain, as the flesh of its face vibrated. It flared its nostrils, now separated by a mass of throbbing flesh beneath its eyes. It made small sniffles in response to the harsh feeling fire that burned across its face.

The darkness started to spread as the trees obscured the silvery moonlight. Drips of light only fell through chinks in the massive leafy armor above it. Suddenly, the area felt humid, damp and unpleasant. Tears poured from puffy eyes as the being cried out for some anonymous force. It could feel the sweat run down its skin as the heat draped it. It heard something from the trees drop in loud “plunks”. It started up into an awkward run. It ran and stumbled and then ran even more. It started to tire. It could not make its way out in the darkness. An utter emptiness in its chest forced it to a halt. It sucked in the air around it. Its breaths came to screeching halt when two plunks slid right in next to its ear drums and rattled its head. It rubbed the sides of its head and found mounds of waxy substance near those ear holes. It rubbed the sides of its head in small circles to try and ease its pounding headache, but only melded the wax into the flesh of its face. It could hear more now, but the noises simply compounded in its head until started to weep at feeling so overwhelmed. It heard barks, chatters, hisses, all sorts of strange noises. Smooth and harsh sounds came from every direction, but it could see nothing in the dark. It heard a massive beat beneath the very earth. It led a hand up to its chest, and felt the beat of the earth synchronize with something within it. Yet worst of all it heard strange chants, murmurs, strings of deliberate sounds that had no discernible pattern. It heard screams coming from all directions. It sobbed and walked wearily on through the darkness, with high pitched screams echoing all along the tree line it could no longer make out.

The rocks started to smooth out and become smaller now. The path became easier, but no less distressing. The moonlight only re-entered for a second, to reveal a fork in the road. It sweated so much that the skin at the bottom of its torso became wrinkled and shapeless, like wet and unformed putty. It stared down two paths, but saw only darkness in each. It shut its eyes and ran down one path. It could feel the heat intensify incredibly as it ran through a blinding ray of light, causing the sweat to make the runny skin at the bottom of its torso smooth out until it formed into a wrinkly rod and two bubbles. The path grew cold, and the putty formed solidly. It cried out wildly in bewildered and resigned confusion. It slid into the earth and shut its eyes.

When it awoke it looked down at itself. It seemed fully formed. Suddenly then the chants started to form into sensible things in its head. The sun started to shine overhead. He started to stride down the road. He saw things that were strange, but the chants, the voices, the words overhead explained the slithering green creatures and the large brown trotters that heaved chariots of men. He felt his feet adjust to a smoother path. He strode very confidently down the road for a while, encountering happiness when he heard voices, or mustered the courage to find silence somewhere. He spoke with sorrow when he felt guiding voices leave him, when he felt his path diverge from familiar sights and sounds.

He felt the heartbeat of the earth stop permanently once, and grief overwhelmed him but did not keep him from moving. Even without the beat, he knew how to guide himself through the periods of darkness. He walked for a while, until he found a garden full to the brim with thorny flowers, none of which he could touch without drawing blood. He tried many times to pluck a flower until another like him came a long and plucked one for him. She had a wide white smile and beautiful fair hair. They walked together for a while until she grew thinner and frailer as they slept and rose. The cobblestone road became populated with carriages too, of people who passed through. They would wave at the carriages. He came to know what shook her world, and he felt the tremors too. She understood the sense of his sighs and felt the breath leave her too. They discerned the sweet anatomy of each and every shoulder brush as they leaned on one another.

His heart beat again in unison with others. This time, his pulse guided their teary eyes past terrors. He felt them separate from him, and felt their heartbeats start to fade. He accepted it grimly. He steeled himself, remembering how inevitable it was that paths would diverge. He still felt one pulse tying him to all of the flickering shadows and rumbling noises.

One day he woke up, and that pulse went cold. He knew that his path had finally narrowed to the point where only he could cross. He felt oddly astray and did not wander long down an increasingly windy, sloped walkway. He stopped his stride when he met one final sunny road. He did not care to lean on anything else. It was a warm sunny day. The winds carried a fine summer’s radiance. He shut his eyes and reopened them. For a moment, he seemed ready to rest. He wanted nothing more than to sit down and observe all the things he ran through, when his legs permitted him to bound down slopes and his hands let him scale mountains. His smile grew weary. It seemed less novel than he remembered. His bones eased him down slowly. They shook more than he remembered. A wave of careful hands dressed him in a three piece suit finer than any Sunday he’d seen. A man with eager eyes, a black hat and a knowing smile ushered him into a carriage. He leaned back now and took a moment out of his long journey to just observe. Horse hooves clamored across the cobblestone crosswalk.

~Austin R Ryan

Lively Seasons


Horse hooves clamored across the cobblestone crosswalk. The pleasant wide blue sky stretched out into an endless expanse filled with the heat of an unbridled sun. The wind rustled the leaves in the trees just slightly. The trees flanked the carriage pulled slowly down the road. The white wheels rattled forward. The fine white paint adorning the carriage glowed in the sun, as a figure dressed in his black tuxedo steered it onward. The figure abandoned a smiling man at the side of road. The figure fingered the rim of his hat, pushing it further down his brow, and flashed a knowing smile at the man as he flowed free from the chariot.

The man heard the reins snap and the driver call to his horses in a hiss of cold wind that rattled loose form the slight gaps in each of the driver’s bone white teeth. The man gnawed at his fingernails as he watched the rider and his chariot turn into a distant shadow. The man came to this place in the finest threads he ever wore.

The man felt the smooth lining of his suit coat. He hooked his thumbs underneath his suspenders and pulled them up an inch before letting them snap back to his shoulders. He rubbed some crust loose from the corner of his eyes and stretched out his arms. His eyes darted left and right before his hands started to wiggle his tie loose from his neck. He squeezed the top button of his shirt out of its hole before moving to his cufflinks. He slid his arms out of his suit coat and slung it over his back.

The man eased himself down onto the cold soil. He leaned against a tree at the side of the road, taking in the sweet summer winds. Small blue birds frolicked through the sky. Their swift wings pitter-pattered against the pale blue sky and the puffy white clouds. The blue birds docked, and other birds rose. Red cardinals burned their path through the air. Little yellow birds swayed through the sunlight likes sparks flickering free from the massive orange sun that hung in the air. The man fell into an easy state. He leaned back against the tree, and felt his eyelids grow heavy. He felt the sweet syrupy darkness encompass his bright hot world. A blanket of warm summer air formed around him. He felt weightless.

He dreamt of a fair haired woman. He knew her as she knew him. He knew of her ungraceful twitches and throaty coughs. She seemed to shine in the sun, offering a smile full of imperfectly aligned teeth. Her pink lips pursed slightly, and she formed a string of words, though he heard no sound from her. Her features were smooth and thin, almost frail. She smiled wide and he felt as though he were staring into the sun. He had to shield his eyes, until she gave an open mouthed chuckle. He heard only the memory of laughter. How he longed to manifest the memory in this reality. The sight of her consumed his vision. His eyes started to search the expanse in quick darts and glances, hesitant to leave her. He saw nothing but a blanket of pure white that extended for miles. He felt a slight caress on his shoulder and stood up sharply, twisting around. A frail orange leaf perched itself on his shoulder. He eyed it for a moment before looking up at the tree.

This tree towered over him. Its auburn leaves parachuted slowly through the air. The brown and orange leaves descended from the branches in massive heaps, like clumps of hair falling loose from a scalp. They formed large clouds of oranges, dark reds and browns. He saw the roots of the tree push into the foggy white about his feet. He reached down to feel the ground. He felt something very cold to the touch, and his gashes of white and black cut his vision to splinters. A wash of frost coated his skin and caused him to tremble. Waves of fluffy white embraced him. It fell loose from the never ending, cloudless sky. He shut his eyes and the cold faded. The warmth of spring encompassed him so quickly that he felt his head grow numb as it tried to process the shift. The white mounds that clung to the massive network of gargantuan branches blossomed into a massive berth of colorfully hued leaves. He heard children cavort and carry on. He felt he knew those kids. Some of them were distant smiles; others were eyes he had breathed vision into. He wanted to rush his hand through the hair of those young souls and shake tangles into a brown mop of hair. He felt a tear trickle out of his eye. His soul swam in the salty water of that tear, and he felt himself spin away from spring. His head stung as he staggered down to his knees. His skin felt numb. Intense winds beat flakes of frosty white against his red and raw ears. He crunched down in a mound of snow and shut his eyes.

His eyes shot open, and his breathing became heavy. He found himself sprawled on his side in the midst of a dusty plane of cracked ground. He could see the woman out in the distance. She was a shadow beneath three massive suns beating heat into the earth. Mechanically, she moved her legs. Each step seemed out of raw obligation. With each step her leg would wobble and twist. Her hair thinned out into individual strands. A hoarse whistle trembled out of her throat. The whistle swept up into the air, fraying and cracking as it approached the higher notes. She broke into cough that shook her whole body. The cough startled sensation back into his legs. He stood up wearily. He tried to shake loose from sleep. If this was a dream, it rung of reality and he would not escape it with a pinch. He started to make his way towards her. She had his back turned towards him. His feet nimbly skipped across the cracked earth, which spit up dust wherever his foot fell. The brown flecks licked at his legs. He could hear the suns churn and spark out in the distance. They groaned beneath their continual effort. The woman whistled once more. She started to assemble her steps again. They were slow and stilted still. He started to lose his patterned footfall. He shambled together an awkward gait. As he neared her, he could feel the heat of the suns. He wanted to say something, just give her one word, but the letters cluttered around his tongue. The suns sapped the moisture from his skin. He watched as the skin on his arms turned dusty and dry. Cracks and scratched began to glide across his arid skin. He gazed at the thing cracks in the earth. He felt himself swelter with the torn earth. He felt the chalky sensation in his mouth. His throat grew hoarse and he attempted a rough whistle, which quickly corrupted into a rasp. The suns pressed down upon him and he stumbled. He caught himself. As he gaped at the ground, a crack tore open in the earth beneath his eyes. It stretched out wide and looked empty. As he crawled towards it he realized that a clear black liquid stirred within. He saw his reflection in a black fluid.

He stared in awe for a moment. He bore the reflection of the woman, smiling wide. Her face was all a mess with wrinkles, and dry, cracked skin. Her smile only held crooked yellow teeth now. He watched in the pool as his hand caressed the dry cracks on his face, and felt the smile he never meant to make. She never meant to make. Her hair was thinning. A wild wind flew across the plain. The cracks of dried skin flaked and splintered off. They started to peel and come loose. Small bits of agitated red rose to the surface, as though her face had been scuffed against gravel. She looked at the earth and saw chunks fly by, to reveal reddened soil. The smile started to splinter. She heard the words stumble out of his mouth. She felt him finally come with her. Perhaps she finally came with him. She could not remember who the late arrival was any more. Still she felt him smile. They smiled.  They reached out to run her fingers across the water. It rippled and splashed. It crawled from its splashes, up onto the cracked, dry land. It started to worm and drag itself across the terrain. In twisted fingers and writhing hands, it began canvassing the earth. It stretched around her now. They could feel it coming to surround the land all around them.

(End of part 1)

~Austin R Ryan

World Untitled, The Finale


The massive bird landed into the grove. The small opening in the trees could hardly hold it. The irate beast yelled out at the bird. The bird stood stalwart and stepped forward, causing the beast to step backward. The beast let out another war cry. Unabated, the bird spread its wings out in full. A massive shriek formed from the loose opening in that curved maw. The war-cry tore through the air and forced the wind to turn on the beast. The beast stepped backward and blinked in the face of the torrent of wind. It shook out its disorientation and started to scrape the ground with its hooves. The bird fluffed out its wings. It stretched its mighty golden wings around the entirety of the beast. Now a fine dome of gold and purple feathers eclipsed the beast. Then Trot heard a noise so intense that his hands ran to his ears without a second thought. The noise became the very air. He could not hear anything aside from the incredibly shrill whistle that reverberated out of that dome of feathers. They shut his auditory nerves off from the terrifying, air splitting sound. The bird’s feathers returned to their normal state, as its wings receded. The Beast swayed drunkenly back and forth as though it could hardly stand. It let loose a hoarse cry. A small, continuous trickle of dark red liquid eked out two circular orifices on the side of its head. It moaned slightly, and then fell onto its side. Its chest swelled massively as it sucked in all of the thin mountain air its lungs could find. Trot could hear his breath grow heavy with the beast’s. Trot managed to adjust his backpack with his tremulous hands. He never wanted any of this.

The bird positioned itself underneath the tree, and looked up at Trot. The Powerful Aviator’s gaze seemed softer, almost apologetic. Trot crawled down roughly from the branches, just barely managing not to simply descend from the tree in a painful tumble. He made it to the Powerful Aviator, which dipped to the earth before him, and lowered its head. Trot did not understand at first, but then he recalled the Bark-backed Whistlers and climbed on to the back of the bird. He gripped the powerful aviator’s massive hunched shoulders as it shot back into the air. Trot’s hands enjoyed the feel of the feathers. They did not feel scratchy like the bark of the wood. The feathers felt smooth and soft to his hand. The Powerful Aviator moved gently through the wind. Trot looked down. He could see a number of those little beasts, just like the one he turned over, surrounding their immobilized mother. They let out high pitched, despairing bleats. The bird flew to the very summit of the mountain. The bird descended sharply, but it fluffed out its feathers to lessen its momentum. Trot felt the sweat peel from his brow as the sky’s breeze caressed his face.

He saw it now. He saw what Scamper wanted him to reach. He smiled faintly. “We are here,” he said to Scamper, “we are finally here.”

Trot stepped off, having now regained some strength in his weary legs. He stood on a small plateau high above the earth. Around him he could see for miles. He saw massive mountain tops blanketed with shining snow. He saw slopes that rose and fell. Some rose even higher than this mountain. He saw red cliffs racing alongside massive coursing rivers. He saw out in the distance a forest composed entirely of bright white leaved trees. The trees themselves looked like bone. It felt like a dream to him. All the glory and bounty of the land stood before him. Yet the most important piece of all surrounded him now. A large grove of beautiful golden flowers swayed in the wind. They glowed brilliantly, as though each one contained a sun. He could not look at them directly, even viewing them in his periphery left a blotted imprint in his vision. He could see the silvery press of the light whenever he shut his eyes. He reached down and scooped up as many as he could and placed them against Scamper. He knew where they needed to go. He returned to the back of the bird. He pointed towards the slope of the mountain, near the base, and the aviator glided down towards that direction. Trot felt the sensation of flying through the air. He felt the breeze cool him as the bird descended towards the base of the mountain. Sometimes he worried that his arms would not hold against the forces of the sky, but even the feathers seemed to cling him tightly to the massive winged entity. Trot pointed towards the shrine. Seeing the shrine from above made it look small. The Powerful Aviator must have viewed everything like this, as simple small pieces of the world. The bird swooped down and landed just beyond the shrine. This forest was not meant for such a gargantuan animal. Trot heard twigs and sticks snap and crack as the Powerful Aviator landed. He even heard a few branches creak indignantly. Two massive talons dug into the soft dirt around the shrine. The Powerful Aviator regarded its feet quizzically, surprised by the softness of the terrain.

Trot stepped off. He wanted to watch the bird for a little longer. It looked a little out of its element, its head darting around sharply. Occasionally it whistled a leaf that fell near it, causing the leaf to surf away on a tide of air. Trot knew he could waste no time. He could feel each step towards the shrine. He wanted to run, but he knew he would fall if he tried. He reached the large oaken doors of the shrine and sighed. He placed the flat of his hands against the smooth wood doors, and with all his might shoved. He could hear them creak slowly as his arms extended fully until his shoulders were flexing and his head pointed towards the ground. The doors swung open, and he felt triumphant. He ignored that shiny, noise making plate in the corner, stepping hastily towards the small shaft. Getting on all fours, he climbed through the small shaft. He emerged in that small secret room. He could feel the presence of all of those sick, shriveling beings. Their bleats were appeals and questions. He wanted to answer them, speak to them. He almost felt that he could. He grasped the cool golden handle and creaked open the casing on the giant lantern. He placed his backpack on the ground, and removed Scamper from it. His arms could barely lift Scamper’s heavy iron body. He felt water trickle down his face. His vision grew blurry and his eyes curled into themselves.

“See?” He spoke through sadness, “We made it. We made it back.” He felt as though he were choking on each word.

He shielded his eyes from the glowing flowers, as he placed them into the lantern. The flower wove into the lantern’s very framework. At first its light dimmed, and he saw the shifting golden strands on its petals shift and move as though they were fiery specks on top of a sun. Then, the flower shined so brightly that Trot had to shut his eyes. His hand swam desperately through the air, until it found the edge of the golden handle. He shut the lantern’s case. The whole room lit up, and those grey insects began to shimmy loose from their stale groaning. Their shells started to turn orange and red. Some bore stripes or dots. Scamper still sat perfectly still. Trot saw just how wide that dent in his armor was. Trot moved Scamper closer to the light.

“Come on, Scamper.” Trot pleaded, “Come on. I know… I know you are not…”

Scamper’s body remained limp. He felt the cold of his shell press against his hands now. Trot ran his fingers across the dent in Scamper’s armor. He felt the twist of that metallic shell. For a moment, he felt as though something cut him deep, and the blood would pour from him at any moment. Trot lowered Scamper to the floor. Scamper’s insect brethren surrounded their silent brother. They lifted him up, and moved him outside. Trot followed them in solemn procession, picking up his backpack while leaving the remaining golden flowers in the shrine.

A part of him remained curious even through grief. He wanted to turn away from Scamper, to try and forget, but he needed to watch. He needed to see what they would do with him. They placed Scamper just outside of the shrine. They all ran off into various directions. Trot watched them, as did the large and mighty aviator. Now it even bent its head in grief. Perhaps it remembered how Scamper chattered. Maybe it heard Scamper, understood him. Maybe it could only understand those sharp whistles its brethren made.

Scamper’s brethren returned with a number of those fiery red flowers. They placed their flowers against Scamper’s shell. The glow of those flowers intensified. Trot ran his calloused, dry hand against his wet face and puffy eyes. He knelt next to Scamper, and removed a red flower from his pack. He was going to keep it for himself. He extended his hand, and placed the flower on Scamper’s shell.

“Goodbye friend.”

The flowers vibrated. He heard them hum. A flame erupted from the pile of flowers. The flame was a pure and ebullient white. It engulfed Scamper, and then dissipated. The smoke dissipated. Trot saw a solitary, gorgeous white flower with a golden center. The flower made Trot smile begrudgingly. He saw the attention of the bugs focus to him. He paused. Hoping not to offend them, he reached down, and picked it up. He felt overwhelmed. He could feel Scamper’s spindly legs in the stalk, and he could see the shine of that untended armor in the bright petals of the flower. A rush of emotion overcame Trot. He clutched the flower towards his heart. He held it against his shirt and it wove into the fabric. He felt it fade from his hand. A beautiful white flower sowed itself into the pattern, just next to the roots of the tree.

The Powerful Aviator let out a small caw, getting Trot’s attention. On the shoulder of the massive aviator stood that little glass eyed bird from earlier. It chirped lightly before it returned to the air. The Aviator seemed to nod at Trot as it shot into the air. He heard more branches shatter against the wings of that behemoth. Trot felt lighter and heavier at the same time.

He smiled and tried to fight off further tears. He tried to fight off the sleep beleaguering his weary state. He dragged himself into the temple and lost both fights.

 

This is the end of our tale, though I think I’d like to squeeze more from this world. Hope everyone enjoyed the story! If not, tell me what made you disinclined to it. Criticism is welcome.

~Austin R Ryan

World Untitled, Part 5


Another entirely distinct Powerful Aviator stood before him. It stretched its wings out to a full fifty feet. The jungle hardly seemed capable of containing it. Scratches and wounds decorated its mighty wings. A number of scratches ran across its white stomach, marking patches of wounded skin where feathers no longer grew, yet its metallic blue crest remained perfectly intact. In fact the crest was larger and shined brighter than the crest he saw on the other Aviator. Its massive red beak curved into a sharp point, and on the crown of the Powerful Aviator’s head was a thick golden ring with not only red dots, but purple ones as well. Those dots shined brighter then gems. Those dots shined like sunlight. Streaks of purple ran down the back and across the golden wings of this monarch of the sky.

It released a massive puff of smoke and a commanding whistle from its nose. Trot felt the steamy breath of the bird encompass him. Trot could not look away from the incredible Aviator. His lips formed a weak little smile that trembled at the edges.

“Hello. I am Trot.”

The bird twisted its head quizzically. Scamper sprinted up to the massive talons of the bird and started to chatter furiously. Its antennas gesticulated wildly, but the Aviator disregarded it. It leaned in terribly close to Trot, who only narrowly managed to summon up the courage to stand his ground. It twisted a feathery neck around the boy’s sides. Trot could feel the steam being released from its nostrils as though the gas were solid and touching him. Finally, it extended its wings fully. The flowing gold and purple feathers vibrated to life in the sunlight. He felt their impression and could do no more than stand in awe as the Aviator looked directly upward. It pulled its head downward. Trot felt Scamper crawling about him, but he could not focus on anything beyond the magnificence of the bird. Every scar told a story. Every rip and tear, he knew, came from a challenge, a war even. The aviator’s head shot forward, but stopped abruptly. Trot felt his breath pound out of his chest and collide with the Aviator’s steam. He looked down, and noticed that Scamper’s torso covered his chest. He felt Scamper’s legs grip his back. The bug squeezed so hard that Trot could already feel the bruises developing. The Aviator’s beak lightly tapped Scamper’s shell, but the force was enough to force Trot to stumble back a step. The Aviator let loose an incredible whistle that sent many of the animals fleeing, but Scamper and Trot still stood. The Aviator hopped back. It surrounded the two with its wings, encasing them in gold and purple. The blue emblem on its chest illuminated. The pure colors of that bird filled their eyes.  The gold, the purple, the blue and the red formed a candescent glow that nearly overpowered Trot’s eyes. He managed to keep them open. The Aviator pulled its wings back, and the sunlight flooded back into view. Suddenly, the massive bird shot up into the air with incredible force. The wind of the takeoff nearly knocked Trot over. He watched as the bird stormed off into the sunlight.

Trot looked to Scamper, “I think you just saved me. Thanks friend!” Scamper scurried off of Trot’s chest and the two proceeded up the mountain eclipsed in mighty jungle. As they proceeded up the mountain, the beasts got bigger. They saw stout, clawed mammals with wide heads and armored backs. The animals did not bother them. They even got to see some ram sides with one another. They would wrestle and scratch at each other’s armor. They saw nimble and long bodied furry creatures with spiky spines on their backs. The spines extended when they got close and the animals hissed at them, so they made their best attempts to move around the furry creatures. Soon they encountered large creatures with slender builds. They stood about two feet taller than Trot even. Each paw had six claws and each mouth a full set of large teeth. Scamper neared a few of them. Two instantly stood on hind legs, and began to roar, slowly approaching him. Scamper shrunk bag in panic. Trot quickly ran over to Scamper, lifted him up, and jogged away from the beasts.

Again, Trot and Scamper found themselves feeling as though they were alone in this sprawling jungle. They could see no other animals, none even poked out their heads. Scamper and Trot started to quicken, hoping to reach the summit soon. Trot found company in the trees at least. They rose up to highest heights, branching out into so many directions. They created a sea of green leaves flowing through the wind, with occasional amber and red specks. Scamper started to slow.

After a while of walking alone, they spotted a creature about five feet long and three feet tall. It had fallen on its armored back, its unguarded stomach faced the open air. Its large hooves thrashed in the air. A low cry echoed from the mouth of the beast. Its body connected straight to its head, and it had a mouth full of sharp teeth. Trot looked at the beast a moment. Scamper strayed away from it. Trot followed Scamper shortly, but the worry welled up in his eyes. He doubled back. Scamper followed after him hurriedly. Trot ran back to the beast lying helpless and placed his shoulder against it. He heaved and pushed. It did nothing as he could not rock the heavy thing over. Finally, he stepped back and charged, planting his shoulder into the armor of the beast, now forcing it back on its feet.

It instantly ran off in the opposite direction. Trot scratched his head after stretching out the sore sinews in his shoulder. He looked down to scamper, “Oddly ungrateful, don’t you think?”

Scamper pulled at Trot, tripping him a little. “Alright, alright, I am going.” He started to walk off with Scamper. A tremor tore at the earth. A cascade of healthy leaves flew off the trees. They braced themselves against the shock. Trot turned around and jogged backward, looking towards the direction of the shaking. Scamper ran towards the shaking ground unabated, but Trot placed his hand on Scamper’s shell, stopping him. Trot paused for just one second as he saw two trees stammer in the air. The very wood seemed ready to split apart at the vibration. Something neared them. Something with a faded yellow shell marched their way.

A massive beast burst through the trees. It let loose a loud growl and shook its head with rage. It stomped the ground with massive hooves, four feet in diameter. Spikes jutted out of its yellow armor, and four massive horns adorned its head. Saliva flung out of a teethed maw. It gnawed and gnashed at the very air around it. It looked to be twenty feet wide and thirty feet long. Trot saw the family resemblance now. He pieced it together, seeing the similarities between this beast and the little one he encountered earlier. Suddenly the white forests flashed before his eyes. He felt the touch of the serene, and the heavenly glow. He knew now how he must have got there, and he knew he could not let himself go back.

(The Climax is just a post away now)

World Untitled, Part 4


He suddenly realized that he was tumbling rapidly on the white ground. He could not tell where he was headed. He could only see dirt and sky in brief flashes. He started to claw at the round and bury his feet in the soil. That slowed him enough so he could see a giant black pit in the road, and pushed out his hands. His arms felt sore from colliding so harshly from the ground. He felt them shake, and wondered if they would hold. He could see the black hole nearing as he slid along the ground.He screeched to a halt at the very edge of the hole. He stared into its depths for a moment. He briefly peered into the depths. White roots squirmed and twisted around in lethargic and worm like motions at the bottom. He flipped himself onto his back and started to pant. He sucked in as much air as he could. He loved each breath more now than he could remember. He heard scamper chatter. Trot stood up quickly. He did not care to spend any extra time on the path, immediately entering into the thick of the forest.

Trot ran through his memory to puzzle out what occurred, he could not recall the details, but he knew that crimson ball he saw must have been Scamper. Scamper tried as he could to get Trot to move out of the lane, but he couldn’t understand anything the bug said. Scamper sprung off of a tree when Trot entered in full stride towards the hole and slammed into Trot to knock him of course. Scamper wondered if he hurt Trot, but Trot just smiled wearily, “Thank you.”

Trot wasn’t sure what Scamper had done, but he did not care to know what would have happened if Scamper hadn’t intervened. Trot weaved through the thick of the forest. His fluid motions slowed as each step needed to be considered more carefully now. He tripped a couple times at the beginning of his run through the forest. He felt as the roots and trunks were practically grabbing at him. Gradually became all the wiser, and found proper footholds at the end of each step. Their progress slowed, and Scamper often paused to wait for Trot. Finally, Trot emerged from the forest.

Suddenly the land stretched out into the farthest reaches before him. At this height he gazed at world, seeing mount caps, jungles and waterfalls all out in the distance. Each breath of air felt like unbridled freedom. The wind poured over him as the very sky opened to reveal the coloration of the sun. Beautiful rays of sweet orange poured out in wavy motions and bathed the world in warmth. Patches of green and brown interwove on the vast plains where various undefined creatures roamed about. He looked upward, and saw that they neared the summit. The incline was perfectly vertical and smooth. Trot could not find a single hand hold in the rock wall. Even if he could find one, he could not say whether he could use it. His arms were feeling weak.

Trot looked down at Scamper and frowned. Scamper chattered a little and shifted his antennae about before starting up the cliff. Trot shook his head. Scamper hissed a little and slid down the side of the mountain. A small pool of glimmering water sat between them now. Scamper’s antennae pointed towards the water. Trot looked downward, now entranced by his distorted and wavy reflection. The borders of his body shook in that mirror. He smiled ridiculously at his counterpart, who repeated his every action. He frowned, and then flexed his muscles ridiculously. Continually the clone followed his moves. Scamper wiggled his antennae and dropped them into the water, causing a ripple of waves to shatter the mirror. Scamper raised the antennae out of the small pool, about seven feet in diameter. Little glistening drops of water fell off of his antennae. Scamper suddenly scurried straight into the pool of water. Trot’s eyes widened. He placed his hand against his shirt, where he imbued the firestone earlier. He pulled the roots of the golden tree on his shirt back gently, and the fabric loosened the firestone. He placed it back in his bag, and then produced another circular stone, this one imbued with the image of a wave. He placed the wavestone at the bottom of the roots, and they sowed it into the fabric. He felt his body react to the stone. He felt hot underneath the sun and his legs felt strange having to support his body. The air felt heavier and standing how he did felt unnatural. He shook out his limbs, and then dove into the pool.

He entered into a deep basin of water. He could see the light radiate in from various holes that connected the basin to spots of dry land. He opened his eyes wide and watched the majesty that was the brilliantly colored fish swimming in the deep reefs of the massive, unexplored basin. A glinting fish with silver plated scales flashed by. It’s scaled shifted outward, sending the beams of dancing sunlight out towards the edges of the basin. He gaped wide eyed at the blue eels that stretched in between networks of coral reefs. They flowed seamlessly with the water. The basin stretched out into the very corners of his eyes, filling his brain with visual sensation. He shook his head sharply, remembering Scamper. He searched for the bug, finding it crawling along the wall of the basin. He was crawling towards one of the holes that led into the basin. Trot swam through the temperate water. A school of thin fish with large emerald eyes darted alongside him. They swam in unison, as though they were one being. Trot reached the hole leading out of the basin. It angled up sharply.

His head burst out of the water. He spotted a number of rocks in the tunnel leading out of the basin. He grabbed the small handhold and began to carefully ascend the tunnel. His arms were shaking, but he felt they could hold so long as he had a leg hold too. He saw Scamper’s strong spike like legs slam into the tunnel walls. They quickly carried Scamper upward. Trot needed to move at a much slower pace. Trot’s eyes squinted as he tried to speed up. He started to push himself hard to quicken his pace. He felt the heat of the tiny tunnel bloated with sunlight. The beads of sweat dripped down his arms and along the back of his hands and feet, until they caressed the fingers and his toes. He reached for a high rock, and both his feet slipped from underneath him. Miraculously, his left arm held long enough for the right arm to quickly lunge out and grasp another handhold. He repositioned himself and proceeded more carefully, the pounding of his hear reminding him of his nearly fatal folly. He pulled himself up out of the tunnel after some time. First he saw Scamper staring right at him through small black beads. His eyes adjusted to the marvelous sun that bathed the land in golden rays. His hair dried nearly instantly, as he felt the heat touch his very core. It was the simultaneous advantage and disadvantage of the wavestone. He decided it to remove it from his fabric, and place it back in his bag.

Now adjusted, his eyes feasted upon a new landscape rich and loaded in design and beauty. A veritable jungle encased him. The canopy of trees stretched widely out along the mountain. Massive trees towered over them. They grew perfectly circular fruit colored by splotches of red and purple. Each fruit had a different pattern. Such a sight overwhelmed his pupils. A giant T shaped tree looked as though it were shot full of holes.. It seemed that the bark of the tree swam about and danced in odd motions. Trot strained his eyes and saw that the motions of the bark were small furry creatures with stubby tails and backs marked with elaborate forms of camouflage shot out of the holes, weaving tiny patterns across the true bark as they chased each other. They cavorted and carried on in rapidity. They communicated through hasty whistles. A mighty bird swooped through the canopy, landing on a branch. Its massive outstretched wings spanned 30 feet at full extension. Its golden feathers lit up the air with their shine. Two holes in a beak of faded red shot off two streams of smoke that emitted a high whistle. A large blue crest on its chest began to glow in a nearly metallic fashion. Its five pronged talons clutched onto the branch with such great strength that it looked as though the bird could lift the very tree off the ground. It flapped its wings in three great motions, generating a flustering torrent of wind that had Trot bracing himself. It flung some of those little mammals off the tree. Its fine white feather stomach puffed outward as it released another steamy whistle. It lowered its head, scratching it with a feather. Trot caught a glimpse of a little pattern at the top of its head, which resembled something of a golden circle, spiked at intervals with little red spots that sparkled like gems within spiky golden circle. He saw the very soul of power in that bird.

A gaggle of the mammals sprinted across the tree to the bird. They carried small pieces of fruit and carrion in their mouth. They dropped it before the bird, which devoured it in quick and fierce pecks. Satiated, its wings curved inward. A number of the little mammals climbed on the back of the bird. It flapped upward and ascended into the air, flying off with the mammals clinging to its back. He drew a quick illustration of the tree, the mammals and the bird. He called the tree A Hollow Home Tree, the mammals Bark-backed Whistlers and the bird The Powerful Aviator. Scamper grew impatient at Trot’s dumbfounded attention to the nature, and started to poke him lightly in the leg. Gaining Trot’s attention, Scamper ran off into the jungle. Trot ran after him. The creatures watched Trot with a nervous anticipation. Many retreated into their hovels when seeing that he noticed them. They knew of Scamper’s kind, but not of Trot’s. He saw turtles that looked as if they were rocks, and rainbow colored salamanders that basked in the sun while they sat on the back of those turtles. He saw small birds of pure purple with long forked tails weave through the skies above him. One landed on his shoulder just briefly and rested its tail on his head. He did not disrupt the bird, but it flew off anyways. Red mice with yellow feet scurried away from a large vanilla cat with two long, puffy, multicolored tails. It pawed at the mice until it saw Trot. Its piercing emerald eyes shot out at him for a moment. Then it ran off.

Scamper continued to lead the way. On occasion it would stop, and try to approach one of the animals, but it was to no avail. It chattered at them, but they would not listen so long as Trot followed him. A few did not mind Trot, but they knew why Scamper was up here, and they did not want to hear his chatters. They did not care to help him venture deep into the forest. Scamper eyed the trees. They did not help either. Scamper held a vain hope in its body that it could somehow bring back fruit to its people. It knew deep down that any fruit it would retrieve would not be edible or sufficient.

Trot gradually noticed fewer animals populated the area. He only saw the bright green leaves of the jungle. As he spritely maneuvered through the roots and the bumpy earth he noticed the presences abandoning the place. It was then that the two reached an open area, a plain of grass left in the full embrace of the sun. Half of the blades of grass shined blue, while the other half shined crimson. They were fully integrated into one plain where the colors intermingled to create an imperfect yet exemplary tapestry. Trot stopped as he exited the jungle and entered the crimson and blue plain. He looked to the sky to see glinting gold shake the sunlit air. He looked back, now seeing a number of the emerald eyed cats leering at him. Little purple birds sat silently on the branches. The glinting gold figure descended from the very direction of the sun, blinding him as he attempted to gaze upon it. It landed before him, its mighty wings pushing the blades of grass backward as though they were caught in a gust. Trot’s hair peeled back from his brow. The wind forced him to shut his eyes. When he opened them he saw two massive eyes staring into him. Those eyes were pools of black, with drops of deep red forming a circle at their center.

World Untitled, Part 3


Without warning it detached from the ceiling and started to fall to the ground, its back on a collision course with the floor. Instinctively, the boy leaped forward, dove out and extended his arms. He caught the creature before it touched the ground. It was heavy, and very nearly slammed his hands against the floor. He rolled it back over onto its feet. Without any delay, the creature crawled over to the large lantern in the center, and pulled open its hatch. It pulled itself inside while avoiding the water collected at the bottom of the oversized lantern. It extended one of its legs, and tapped a pedestal in the center of the large lantern. The boy moved in for a closer inspection. The creature pointed towards a hole in the pedestal. “It’s missing something.”

The creature scurried out through the wooden paneling. The boy followed after it. They returned to the first room. The creature waited for him at the entrance of the temple. “If I am going to travel with you, I’ll need to call you something. Skittering Red Back?” the creature’s antennae stopped moving. He sighed, “That is terrible. Until I can think of something better, I’ll call you Scamper.” He shrugged, “Not very creative, but it will have to do for now.” He caught up to the creature. It looked at him with black eyes, antennae circulating about. He stepped out of the building, but the creature did not follow. It gazed pointedly at him. “Well I don’t know where to go.” he remarked. “I assumed you did.”

He paused. “Um, is there- are we waiting for something?” The creature’s antennae stuck out sharply now, pointing towards him. “Me?” He smiled, “Oh. Would you like my name?” The antennae pulled back, forming eased, half formed loops. “My name is Trot.” Scamper started to move. It moved rapidly, Trot had to run to keep pace with it. Trot progressed with great strides, while Scamper’s six legs moved with small but very rapid motions. Scamper led him through the large forest. Trot ducked and weaved through the branches. He crunched through sticks and stones. He ran across the ground colored in beautiful leaves, when he saw a row of low set branches, which rose up to his upper leg. He slid and leaned backward, using his momentum to swiftly undercut the row of branches. He could hear the air squeeze between the small distance that separated his head from the hard branches. He stood up after the power slide and fluidly resumed his run. After a while, the path grew straight and Trot gave a sigh of relief. He felt confident now, and started to appreciate the light wind whipping against his face. As he galloped his foot dragged against a large rock. He flung forward, surprised to feel his steps pulled up beneath him. The light wind turned into a roar as he saw himself rushing towards the hard ground. He threw out his hands, his left catching the dirt hard and keeping him up, his right pushing him forward so that he stumbled back into his run and preserved some his fluid momentum.

The air thinned as they exited the colorful plateau and started to scale the mountain. He felt the humidity increase as well. The increment of the slope expanded gradually. He felt his ligaments pull as he stretched his legs out into long strides. As he ran, little green stems peaked through the dirt. The green stems stood up, and red petals bloomed atop them in sleepy circles. The red flowers sprung up in the fertile grass near where his foot struck the earth. The wind pulled back his hood as he rolled up his sleeves. He could sense the heat increasing now, the warm rays of the sun cascaded down the side of the mountain. The slope steepened further, and Scamper slowed down for Trot, who now had to bind up the steep mountainside, compelling his feet to launch him upward. Scamper’s sharp legs allowed it to dig into most surfaces and climb at the same speed it ran. Trot felt his breath grow heavy as he pushed it past his lips. The air felt even heavier when he pulled it into his mouth. Each step made his lungs pull harder at the thinning air. The ground flattened briefly, only to reveal a large knoll. Scamper crawled atop it and waited for trot to reach him. Trot shut his eyes and felt the sweat run in drips down his forehead. His felt a fire in his legs as he ran his feet along the dirt and pushed himself forward. He ran up the curve of the knoll. His lungs could not pull the air in fast enough, and his legs started to ache. He saw the top of the knoll, and lunged forward in one massive stride. He reached the top and collapsed on all fours. Trot’s heart slowed its beat and its lungs fetched more air. He regained composure and sat down properly.

A sprawling waterfall fell into a giant pool of glistening water. He saw a couple fish leap out of the water. Their tongues extended and caught flies as they took flight then plunged back into the depths. He walked over to get a closer look. Two fish engaged in some sort of ritual. They jumped from the water and slammed into each other in the air. The display of violence startled him. He could see their glinting scales fall lose with the loud “cracks” and “whacks” that erupted from each collision. He cupped some of the water in is hands. The water slid down his throat as he sipped it slowly. After the knifing dehydration in his throat calmed, he took wide and slow gulps, and let some of the water dribble down to the tree on his chest. After a few drinks of water, he stood back up and dusted himself off. Scamper called out with a loud chattering noise, and Trot looked over to see him sitting atop a curved slope. It rose out of the ground at a very high slope. The cliff had to rise at very least fifteen feet from the ground, if not higher. He sighed, and took a couple steps backward. He placed his hands against the ground, and sprung off to an unbelievable sprint. He ran up the curve of the steep cliff side, and skyrocketed upward, just narrowly catching the very edge of the top of the cliff. He adjusted his grip. Straining his arms intensely and trying to find a use for his feet now rapidly cycling against the air, he pulled himself upward and heaved his body onto the top of the cliff.

Trot clapped his hands on his knees so he might keep himself standing, “You are killing me here.” Trot stood up fully. “Hold on just one second.” Trot gazed at the waterfall, and the lake with the long tongued fish. He drew a scroll from his bag and opened it. It was a map. He traced out the lake area, the base of the mountain, and gave particular notice to the temple at the base of the mountain. “Alright, let’s go.” He had no idea if the bug understood him, but he knew it would not proceed without him. Besides, the joy he received from the simple one-sided conversation could be heard distinctly in the outskirts of his voice.

Scamper scuttled in towards a dense forest. Large white wooded trees with green leaves arched into one another, their leaves broadcasting a nearly fluorescent purple glow. They stretched upward and formed a straight lane to pass through, their branches intertwined, fusing the trees in arched unions. Trot ran through the lane. Outside of the lane, the trees were so intensely grouped together that they grew in union, sharing branches and roots. The ground could hardly be seen in the land beyond the lane. Scamper only cautiously entered the central lane, preferring to weave through the impossibly dense system of trees, by climbing in between the trunks. Trot traveled through the lane with. He felt faster running on it. He ran for a while, then noticed that Scamper started to chirp and whistle loudly. “I…” he paused, “What? Uh I don’t know what you are saying.” Scamper kept running with Trot.

A gentle hum issued from the atmosphere, riding upon the wind into his ears. He started to focus on that purple. It swirled and danced. That purple, its patterns kept changing and shifting. He liked that purple. Giant archways of purple cascaded around him, shifting in different shades and hues. The purple issued out in waves, like a concentric circle giving him a signal. He was having a conversation, and he smiled wide. Suddenly this odd hissing pushed at him, but the hum issued from the rustling of the leaves drowned such distractions. He could not leave the conversation, and he did not want to. He felt the world fall away. He only had the lane he ran in, and the miasma. Suddenly an impact blasted through the barrier, a fiery ball of crimson penetrated the purple glow, crashing into the lane and bashing up against his right arm.

World Untitled Part 2


A small bird stood on him. The bird’s silver chest puffed outward. The rest of the plumage bore the neutral green color of dark grass. The tips of its wings and its tail feathers worked like mirrors. They reflected the light in all sorts of directions. He looked over to it and its color shifted to a paler green as it hopped backward on his shoulder. He noticed now that it stood on three legs. It gave a cock eyed stare back at him. The eyes were two clear orbs. The orbs looked almost too large to fit within its eye sockets; they rolled around loosely, spinning in various directions. He could not make out a pupil, just foggy orbs serving as eyes. He reached out; the bird lifted its head to watch his hand. He glided his hand across the top of the birds head. Now it turned a cool blue that ebbed like an ocean wave to the edges of the feathers. He smiled. The bird then began to beat its wings rapidly, they blurred, and the mirror tips caused the light to glitter about frantically. It fluttered and maintained itself directly in front of his face. The crystal eyes suddenly ceased their rolling. He peered into what seemed endless. He saw within the eyes blood floating in a puddle, trees torn aside in jagged lack of harmony, and claws, strange claws. The bird gave a sharp chirp and flew off. He scratched his head, “What should I call that?” He watched it glint off in the sun. Something about those eyes sowed worry in his heart; it embedded a doubt deep within him. He had something to fear. Just what it was remained a mystery, dark in nature, bloating the imagination with sordid thoughts of misfortune.

The steps of the temple were cut from stone, chipped on the edges. The inside of the temple bore just two rooms. The flooring used to be waxed heavily. In some places it still shined. Little shelves contained various urns, all of separate colors found on those leaves. Of course, the urns were dirty and smudged. One whole shelf must have slanted over earlier, dumping the urns it carried onto the floor. The few that fell on the floor carried the smoky remains of a fire. He wandered over to the others, while peering back over his shoulder. He popped the top off of a few of them; they all seemed to carry the remains of a fire. The temptation to put his hand in one and search it started to overtake him, but for some odd reason he felt such an action would be no less than desecration. He restrained his hand.

In a corner someone attached a large gold disk to a frame with some strings. The gold disk curved outwards towards him. He strolled over, and bent slightly at the waist to examine it. The reflections of his face distorted in the large golden pan. He noticed a large finely cut stick with a fuzzy covering on the top. The covering was white and fluffy, but stained a little with dust. He shook it out, and the dust swarmed him. He batted at it with his hands until it cleared the air. He looked at the fuzzy covering and the golden disk. At first he used the fluffy section to dust the gold disk. Then he looked slowly to his left, then to his right. He pulled his hand back slightly and struck the disk lightly with his palm. A small echo flung through the halls. He shook a little with eagerness. Looking around as if to scout for another that enjoyed this, He brought up his hand again and struck it harder. The noise now reverberated through the temple. He grabbed the fuzzy stick, and struck the gold disk with it. The disk now shouted even louder, but with strange and echoing sound. He struck it again, even harder and it swung back and forth. He beat the stick against it and the cacophonous sounds bounced about around him, making even his head shake.

He clasped his hands together briefly in excitement, then repeatedly struck it to create continuous shattering waves of noise. He slowed then quickened starting to generate connections between the clashes, listening to the lingering effects of the sound’s residue. He returned the fuzzy stick to its spot and moved onward. At the far end of the room, a pedestal held this strange looking shrine. Little squiggles formed together sharply, curving out into patterns. Some of the squiggles resembled other squiggles. The shrine contained many of these scrolls with these squiggles. He wanted to know what all this meant, but shrugged it off. There would be no way to learn it now. The shrine looked nice though. Someone coated it in a deep red layer od paint. A symbol made of gold stood at the top of the shrine, the bottom half of the gold symbol being a simple crescent shape, the top half being a completed circle with large rectangles jutting out at organized intervals. It looked a little bit like a sun, contained in a dish.

As the boy started to make his exit, he heard a clicking noise. A bug skittered across the floor. It scurried up to him. He knelt down to its level. Its antennae shifted up and down. He brought his hand outward and felt its back. It was smooth, ridged, and hard as armor. “You are friendly for being small. Not a lot of your type likes to walk with me.” He said with a small sad smile. The bug rose to about his knee level. “Maybe it’s because you are large for your kind.” he theorized, though to no one in particular.

The bug skittered off a short distance. It turned quickly to look back at the boy. He followed it, and it moved forward as soon as he neared it. He chased after it until it ran off behind the shrine. It stood perfectly still, gazing at him until he got very close. Its antennae smoothed back, and it chattered rapidly. “What?” the boy asked. The creature pushed up against wood paneling behind the shrine, and opened a small concealed door. The door swung shut behind him. The boy pushed the door open himself and crawled along the ground. The tunnel was not long, and ended as soon as he pushed himself through another wood panel. The light spread into the tunnel as he creaked open the exit. He dusted of some light brown chunks of dry dirt as he stood up. There were no windows, it was purely illuminated by four lanterns, like those outside. One giant lantern sat in the middle, but it was empty, save for a small pool of clear water at the bottom that stirred with small concentric circles. The flooring in this room had not deteriorated in the slightest. The wood panels sparkled as if they were recently waxed and maintained. The walls were marked everywhere with little punctured holes. Scattered across the room were smaller creatures like the one he saw earlier. They all lay on their backs, their stomachs exposed. They chirped in a long, extended, excruciatingly slow fashion. Their voices could not muster loud noises like the one he met earlier. They all varied in size, but the one he saw had a finer red exoskeleton, these ones were coated in a splotchy grey color. He counted fifteen of them. He traced the holes upward with his eyes until he stared at the ceiling. That crimson shelled creature that led him here clung to the ceiling tightly to the ceiling, pinpoint feet lodged in those tiny holes.

World Untitled Part 1


Hello WordPress! A while ago I wrote a short story called “World Untitled” that describes a cartographer’s exploration of a vast and uncharted world. I loaded it with imagery and tried to create a fascinating and vivid land where reality became half-formed by imagination and odd twists in perception. However, since I am not inclined to brevity, the story naturally stretches some 10+ pages, so I’ll be posting it in parts. Here’s the first part of “World Untitled”. Enjoy, and please leave comments! I can always use pointers.

 

There was a pristine whiteness, a peaceful immersion. The heart started to beat in that whiteness. The whiteness rippled up with the waves of the beat and faded off. He sat up now, gazing at his hands. He flexed his thin arm for a moment. He stood up and stretched his arms out in wide circles. Looking around, he found himself in a beautiful forest, the trees rose up high around him. They were all leafless. The ground glowed a vibrant green, and the grass rocked with the wind. He peered out into the pure white horizon. Something beckoned him in the distance.

            He sprinted out through the forest. His agility and speed guided him along the way from any sort of collision with the nature. He reached a giant tree with white bark. It extended up as far as his eye could see. “Aw man,” he scratched the back of his head, “How did I wind up here again?” Something hollowed out a part of the tree. A bubbly glowing film covered the surface of the hole. It reflected his face in ridiculous distortions. He smiled at it briefly, and then placed his head through the film.

            He felt a rush, and then a sharp pull from a strange force, and all faded around him in a single moment. He now sat upright on unfamiliar ground, gazing out at a new landscape. This little pool of water glimmered there. It emitted an ethereal shine. His jaw dropped now and he lost his breath. The jagged peaks out in the distance rose and plummeted. They stretched upward and caressed the bottom of the clouds with their spiky peaks. Yet they resembled nothing else seen thus far. A white flurry of snow eclipsed the wide base of the mountains. As they wound upward, pieces of greenery grew upon them. Unreal foliage sprinkled the large peaks and massive summits. He saw a forest that grew off of the side of a cliff as steep as a wall. Distant fluffy white clouds obscured the viewing of the top, but if the trend of growth evidenced by its slope were an indicator, there would have to be a practical jungle at the summit!

            He laughed at his good luck. He grabbed at his sleeves and pulled them forward, so they covered the full length of his arms. Then he rummaged through the pack on his back briefly. He removed a stone circle with a marking carved in the center. It felt warm in his palm. He searched his green shirt. On this green shirt, someone sowed in a magnificent design of a golden tree. The glinting branches extended out through the fabric. They shifted and moved with the light. The branches grew and shrunk, while leaves blossomed on them, changed shades, then fell from the branch and vanished. Currently that tree held a full carriage of leaves, some of which gently floated around the shirt, little flecks of gold pirouetting on the green. At the roots of the tree, he placed the thin stone disk. The roots engulfed it, and wove into the fabric, turning stone to cloth. The leaves turned a bright red; their tips shifted and moved about in flickers as they sat on the tree.

            He watched the display with tireless amusement. Then he reached into the back of his collar, and pulled up some extra fabric, forming a hood around his head. He looked up to the summit of the mountains. He could not decide which to scale. One mountain called forth by issuing a mass of auburn petals carried upon the waves of wind. On a plateau of that mountain beautiful trees full of multicolored leaves anchored themselves into the ground. He watched as the auburn leaves flew into the sky, followed by pink, and then little yellow leaves. The multicolored leaves flew off in mass migrations, riding on the wind. The pink and auburn and yellow all mixed, soon to be followed by arrays of blues and greens and velvets. They spun with the current of the air. He looked upward while jogging towards the base of the mountain. His feet sparked as he ran. The sparks faded off into the air without singeing the ground.

            The boy moved at a frantic pace. Even in a jog he reached high velocities, carrying the wind along with him. The green blades of grass combed over in the breeze. Spiraling off, he ran wildly into the patch of white snow. It felt crunchy and cold, but the sparks made sure his feet did not freeze. The snow stood resilient even in the sunlight, it buried his feet and encased his legs up to the knees. He felt slow in it as he heaved his foot out of the snow, only to plunge it back in. His breaths grew staggered and frustrated. The snow sparkled in the sun, exhibiting the lurid beauty of the shimmering snowflakes.

            The white waves did not yield much space to him. His teeth grit together, and his fists clenched while he pushed through. The fire beneath his feat grew. The sparks turned into flares beneath him. The snow started to melt as he moved, forming a pathway. Striding out, he passed through the snow. His legs started to fly, forming small wings of fire. After he cleared through the snow he turned and fell backwards on the warm grass, inhaling contently. He perched up his head and looked back at the path. The snow parted into two aisles, and in between the two separated expanses of pure white snow, patches of red flowers sprouted. The flowers lit up the air with a pleasant orange glow, which scattered and wafted about until it dissipated gradually. He pushed himself upwards, strolled over, and plucked one of the flowers from the ground. He inspected it. It glowed so brightly that he decided to pocket it within his pack, perhaps to be used for another time. With care, he eased it into a secure pouch along with a collection of other foliage.

            The mountain winded upward now. The air felt smoky around him, wisping about in        increasing thinness. He ran along a cobbled path, paved over with brightly colored rocks of different varieties. The rocks seemed very specifically placed to form a pathway that eased the upward climb. The path led off through the glossy green grass. He followed it straight along. It curved sharply, careening off into the forest filled with those multicolored leaves, shedding from the trees in speckled waves. He rubbed his chin in curiosity then continued onward into the forest. Little rays of light swam through small gaps in the colorful veil of leaves that bunched at that top of the trees, forming small windows of light. The scopes of light illuminated that small dust particles that floated by. Birds chirped out in high pitched cries. They burst out into dynamic motion, flying horizontally and vertically between the branches that nested them. They traveled through the air with a careless grace and ease, wings extended. He smiled in admiration.

            Tracing the cobbled path grew more difficult as the leaves eclipsed it. The leaves shifted colors when they reached the ground. A fresh green gradually painted over the old shade of brown. A pink and white design spread from the middle of the green leaf and crawled to the edges until it fully eclipsed the green. The colors circulated, many leaves transforming in separate and unique orders. A panoply of colors shifted about alongside the walkway. Gradually the colors engulfed the cobbled path with their show, but he combed them off to each side with careful movements of his foot. The stones of the path separated the two ongoing displays of vibrant and shifting shades. The left side turned as yellow as the sun once, while black leaves rendered the right as dark as night. The left and the right unified once, the majority of the leaves turning the color of the sky, while small splotches of leaves filled from the center with a white hue. The white color blotches drifted casually through the see of sky blue, and for a moment he thought he walked on a path in the sky. He wanted others to see such fine pallets of coordinating colors. At very least he hoped brushing loose the path might keep them from getting lost. The duty to clear the path slowed his progress.

            The path winded deeper into the forest, where the deep brown of the soil grew darker as they density of the trees increased. Then, a blaze of sunlight peeked in through a hole in the canopy. He followed it to the end of the path and found a little temple, adorned at the door with two lanterns. The lanterns lit up the air with an invisible fire, a movement of light that flared up and outward, to fade off into sparks. The shelter looked worn down and tired. The thatched roof creaked out, and the red beams of wood on which it stood started to peel and splinter. Someone left the windows and doors open too. The smooth clear material on the windows amazed him. It was a translucent green and blue swirl. The door had no doubt been fashioned of thick and heavy wood. It looked formidable, almost untouched by age. The lanterns gave him the most excitement. They burned out so fiercely, creating a light more radiant than that of the sun. He squinted to gain a closer look. Flowers powered the lantern. Their stems intertwined in a grand cluster, forming roots which fused to the base of the lantern. His pack glowed now too, an orange blaze. Reaching in, he produced the flame flower from earlier. He placed a hand over his eyes to shield himself from the dazzling light. As he moved it closer to the lantern the flower emitted more and more light as it neared the lantern. The door to the lantern opened, and that flower floated out of his hand, gently joining its compatriots. Its stem fused in with the bunch, and the roots intertwined. Just briefly he unshielded his eyes. A burst of gold lit up the entire area. The lantern door shut and muffled the light. Perhaps for the best, it would grow blinding after too long. He felt something touch against his shoulder.