A Day in Yancheng Park: Ruins


The district of the city that I live in is a decent way south of downtown, near an ancient city center formed up in between three rings of water that seem a cross between moats and rivers. Right near that area there’s a Chinese history based theme park called Yancheng Park next to the city zoo.

Just outside of the wide plaza replete with waving Chinese flags that leads into Yangcheng Park and the zoo, there’s a swathe of the city filled with new buildings built to look traditional in style straddling the sides of canals. At the beginning of the canal walk, there’s a faux city gate (with no actual walls near it) that you can walk on top of and catch glimpses of the nearby theme park in form of tall rides cresting up above buildings.

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At the bottom of that gate and inside its crossing, there’s a little door that leads into a who’s-who museum filled with detailed statues of the famous people Changzhou has produced. Further along the canal walk there’s a stout and short museum somewhat resembling something a traditional Chinese palace building like the one’s you’d see in Tiananmen. Inside there are all sorts of old relics dug up from the city center and a large replica of what the old city looked like. I had loomed above the replica twice with other foreign teachers who came to visit – or just lived in – my part of town.

The replica depicted a living village of thatched huts that ran along the edges of the three rivers. In the very center there was a modest administrative building – a palace of sorts. None of the buildings stand very tall, and most of the circles in the diagram are sparse and speckled with more green grass than yellow straw houses. The colors of the diagram are dull and the lighting is low. The fairly humble village feels real. My curiosity’s sparked, and I make all too many notes about how we have to find a way into the middle of those rivers. What’s the modern reality inside all those circles?

Preservation is an incredibly tricky task for any country, but particularly for developing ones. Cities and businessmen want to find opportunities to get the money to keep pushing development along. Saving land is hard, because it is scarce and valuable. Naturally, famous land is even more scarce and valuable. Saving famous land from a factory or farmland might not be too hard, but preserving it’s reality in face of expectation is tasking.

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The exchange for holding up history is not just an abstract cultural reward, but tangible tourist income. In a place like China there’s a bit of interesting history near everywhere so making the history worth visiting can take glossing up – or so the people in charge of restitution and preservation often think. There are a decent amount of historicist horror stories where rare, hallowed Buddhist artwork or feudal instruments are ruined by incessant touch ups that turn them into gaudy over-approximations of a glory that cannot really be kept. To try and lure in customers some museums and cities will destructively lay on gloss until what was preserved in dirt is essentially lost to shine.

This does not necessarily happen everywhere, or even most places, but hearing about a theme park built right next to the old village filled me with a worry that it had happened here. It did not help that a lot of the instruments from the dig site looked so fine and intact (these are 2,500+ year old objects) that they didn’t seem entirely authentic. When the grade three head teacher told me there’d be a field trip to Yancheng Park, I was excited even in the face of having to wake up early because I wanted to see what happened to the ancient place.

At around 8 in the morning I met with one of the third grade classes I teach and boarded the bus with them. The bus ride went quickly and pretty soon we joined a massive stream of students and teachers piling in through the theme park turnstiles. As soon as we got there lines of impressively dressed dancers line up on a raised stage in front of the entrance. Dancers dressed as soldiers surround others dressed as court ladies, while strange shamans swing their arms in circles as an emperor inspects from the background.

I pull myself away pretty early on in the show to go with my students to the entrance of the park. Once we are there, the head teacher tells me I can go along with the students, hang out with the other teachers relaxing in a cafeteria, or just go wherever. Naturally I told her I’d head into that little circle right in the middle of the three rivers.

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The path starts on a sprawling bridge which spans the outermost and thickest river. The water’s got a greenish hue and reflects the sun nicely at the early part of the day. As time goes on and the sun climbs to the top of the sky, the reflection really rises until the sky’s almost right there in the water. The river bend curves off heavy as it moves, and all along its side a wooded platform runs. An old man plods along until the bent branches of willows cover him from my sight. This park seems a sort of walk that’s more a mozy.

Starting on the curve path, there’s three young women in front of me, one underneath an umbrella. White skin is a sign of beauty in China and has been for a while as far as I’ve been told, though that’s not to say most women avoid a tan. It’s just a few who dodge the sun, but the few who do, do a lot of work to. Initially I am not sure which side of the circle to take to the center, but eventually I decide on the one near the city wall so I can stop in for a look at it. The dirt path’s half blended with the grass and the day’s hotter than all the ones in the last week. Dressed in dark red and black, long sleeves and pant legs, I have made a small mistake and the sweat trickling along my skins a reminder of the minor error.

When I get to the wall, it’s not quite what I expect. There’s just a small plaque at the base of a vaguely wall-shaped elevated dirt ring that encompasses most of the outer river bank. The plaque tells me defenders would rebuff assailants here for years. Well, it is taller than me and it does have a rough slope even on the inside. To get on top I take a winding footpath not beaten into the dirt very heavily – still sidelined with high weeds that make me grateful for my stuffy pants. On top there’s a good view of the shiny green river and all the trees along it. It is deep and decently wide and plenty clean sitting underneath an array of tall buildings styled mostly the same. The buildings are grey, white, or beige usually.

There’s a small plot of flat land on top that’s actually tilled and planted with vegetables still growing their bright and shining green leaves. Right next to it there’s a moored boat that’s got a dirty white coat striped with faded primary color lines, mostly yellow. The shallow walls of the white boat are rusted and stained, but still intact and housing quiet life inside. The boat holds a small pool that’s not been emptied over several rains, and inside its murky, rusty green waters there’s algae percolating to the top and green of some sort sprouting from the sides. It’s an interesting thing to see on an elevated strip of land, next to a vegetable garden, surrounded by water and more interesting still to see some little living things blossom inside it.

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Once I have slid back down and walked around some, I have found there’s not much in the first outer ring, but it’s pleasant. The sun’s rays really start to come out and the grass is green in front of me, though some smog’s made the day less clear. The wide road winds on and I take my time to clear the first and largest ring. With no buildings around, the light blue sky looms wide over the circle of rivers and trees that fence the area in. After some time I stumble upon an old altar that looks like a rundown concrete thing from a few decades ago. Thatched roof guard towers cast long shadows and two women sit underneath chatting away from the sun. Over here the plain goes wide and a grandfather, his child, and her child mill about. The baby’s squawking short warnings causing the mom to pick it up and walk it back and forth, while the grandpa stretches out the string of a kite and circles it around in the sky some before it falls. He winds the string back up and starts again each time.

There’s not much other noise in the park outside from some quiet conversations and a playlist of traditional Chinese music echoing out over speakers on light poles. After a while my legs feel stretched and achy and I search out shady bench to sit on. It is across from a statue garden full of mythical creatures and right on a wharf with a great view of the water. The dragons’ in the statue garden have chipped faces, but they are still smiling at something. Maybe it’s just because the sun is shining so much on an October day. Everything really floats by while I sit on that bench munching away at a poorly packed peanut butter and jelly sandwich half crushed underneath my camera. The river curves off into nothing and the whole sky’s reflected in the water.

Past the second river, there’s some more meaty things to see but for a bit I take pictures of the sun crested above the trees caught in the water. I have got plenty of time.

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A Zen garden emerges just past the bridge, but it’s not got a lot of luster left to it. The rock garden itself seems a clump of discolored stones and across from that there’s some oblong paths leading to wooden benches underneath shady trees. Some folk would tell you that’s true Zen right there, but most others would tell you that telling you what true Zen is isn’t Zen at all. I and most folks I know have never fiddled with that kind of stuff much anyways. At least, never too sincerely.

Just a bit further along the same way there’s an old well with a thatched roof – a clearly favored style – that sits outside a small walkway on the water where two legendary lovers apparently first convened. It’s all straight lines out into water crowded with bright, almost sickly green lily pad like plants. If you’d believe it, walk along the left and you’ll find a reconstruction of Sun Tzu’s home. True enough, he lived in the Wu kingdom – modern Changzhou is in the area – but that’s all quite a long time ago to know anything as precise as a wooden shack right underneath a thumb tack on Google Maps. But who knows?

There’s a forest of trees right in between the place where all the famous people lived and thought on warring and loving. The trees don’t look quite real, knotted and made strange with stone insides visible through entryways carved at the base. But there are red lines of fabric for matchmaking that cling to them with characters written in faded ink that looks real in its own right. Crawl inside some of the tree doors and there’s graffiti looking plenty authentic. It is illuminated by slight sunlight of window and door holes. It looked like sometime ago they tried to build walkway atop the matchmaking trees but the endeavor collapsed and there’s only some iron chains and a rusting plankway left to show for it.

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The time’s finally come to cross the last river over the last bridge. The last river’s a small circle clogged up with all sorts of reeds and plants – a good few browning out for others to grow over. This last bridge is not a long walk. It leads straight to a gate kept open with an informative panel outside which figures that the palace, when it was around, probably looked pretty swell. Well, as far as I know how some histories go, I suppose that’s not an unfair thing to say.

But now there’s not much there at all. There’s just an old well off to the side with three old ladies standing in its shade gossiping about something while all that blue of the wide sky towers over a small patch of green grass growing unequal in color and height. Treading along the edges of the final circle I spy a twisted little footpath that I take into a crowded mess of thistly bushes. There’s no seeing any great vista through them, no catching anything but glints of the river outside. There’s some flushed, red-ish pink edged light blue berries growing along with a few tiny white flowers scattered in between green weeds and cobwebs.

When I step back out it is the same old abandoned plaza I’d seen before, though two other elderly friends had come along while I was gone. It’s then that I see I am standing on tiny white flowers. Vibrant orange Butterflies flock to them, but it’s not as nice a sight as you might think. It’s the ugly things that move with grace, and the pretty things that flutter quick and nervous. Vultures – with their fleshy pink necks, rough black feathers, and bent beaks – ride on wind with time to kill, waiting for other things to spoil properly. The colorful orange of the butterflies weave out erratic patterns in the air as they bounce between flowers to suck as much nectar as they can before wilting. I heard when I was young that –like vultures – butterflies came around dead things too. I was told they were attracted to ruin in particular. Looking around at nothing in particular, I believed what I heard a bit more. 2,000 plus years have passed and all that’s left are a few butterflies and some of us still circling slowly around for some spare morsels properly spoiled. I can’t say I left unsatisfied.

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The View From a Train to Tibet, Part Two


When the morning came and I woke up I got right back to my task of trying to write down the scenery. At the time I think I hoped that the brief project would help me understand how to describe complex sights in an understandable way. Now, feeling I may not get a chance to go back and see the same sights, I hope it worked like taking notes in class, each word helping me remember a mountain carried away from my memory by time and space.

The mountains on one side take on a reddish hue. The wide grassy plains look torn from the American West. On the other side bits of shredded white glaze the stony grey or dark yellow mountainsides. Sometimes we pass a truly impressive peak far out in the distance. The huge, awe inspiring peaks strike out from the ground like a massive white tooth. I could see the peak clearly, except for where a veil of clouds covered it. It seemed straight out of a fantasy book.

Power lines trace our progress, sometimes skating alongside the train. No one seems to live beneath us. On the Tibetan plateau near the railroad, the houses sit in isolation. Each one is wide apart from another with herds of livestock between the next home. Sometimes a village comes along full of squatting, single level houses fenced in by short brick walls. Each house looks modest and brown, some have been painted splotchy white.

For a brief moment we reached a high point where I could see a lot of what we passed. Where the mountains swooped down and reached their base formed up great dips and clefts. The light and smooth grassy slopes encircled the mountains. Far off I can see even more clearly the land of pure white peaks that tower above us even still. They form up in a wide range, the white of their peaks pushing toward the white of the clouds. Though today there’s nearly no clouds across the sweeping blue sky.

Not a cloud in the sky to block out the light!
Not a cloud in the sky to block out the light!

The sun beams down on a set of small white houses. The houses sit atop a hill lording over a flat area where a bunch of shaggy yaks graze. On the other side not so far away is a huge grey industrial park full of black bricked factories or warehouses. A dusty fog accrues around the streets surrounding the industry. The mountains rise up behind the park, obscured by a lingering film of smoke. The smoke sits stout and low over the factories, allowing me to only catch the white tips of the distant mountains, gleaming beneath the sunlight all but unfettered by clouds.

The park was at a station we arrived in for a moment. A crowd of people line up at a small shed, maybe to get a ticket to board.

On the side away from the park the sky glows the brightest shade of blue I have ever seen. The park looks empty, but it is still very early in the morning. Only a couple hours have passed since sunrise. I was only half awake to catch the early morning hours. What morning scenery I do remember was beautiful.

A slight crest of light crept over the edge of the mountains. A rim of casual, almost dull light ran across the top outlines of the mountain range until it gradually started to tumble down the slope and illuminate everything else.

Apologies for the odd tilt!
Sunlight’s tint over red mountains

When I woke up fully the sun had risen fully with me. I beheld so many frozen lakes and rivers. Thin layers of icy frost covered some streams entirely. In other areas the sparkling white ice crusted at spots around the shore. The lakes and rivers stretched for a while, some with a darker blue haze of ice over them. They all glinted in the daylight.

Now we leave the station and the factory. The eerie industrial mists contrasted the incredible clarity of the streams and the sky.

Large red mountains miles off in the distance look over great grassland. Little black dots mark out some sort of grazing animal, maybe yaks or goats. Small brown and white houses dot the plains as well. Far beyond the red slopes and grassy flatland, another epic icy peak pierces up toward the sky. Even though it is so distant it sticks out so clearly. A truck runs along an empty road. Gradually a thin trickle of car traffic populates some few roads crisscrossing plains.

The train pulled in close to a small bunch of houses. Most have a nice white sheen of paint on them, though some are brown. None have two stories, but they are longer than I had thought looking at them from a distance. Some rooftops have solar panels on them, and most have a rope decorated with multi-colored triangular flags that leads from the roof to the ground. One area had two small clusters of houses, one with about five and the other about ten. A frozen lake sat dead between them. The houses all had the multi-colored flags, some ropes of them linking one house to another. I also caught sight of some hefty tents and practical motorcycles and mopeds too.

An example of the flags on the bigger buildings in Lhasa
An example of the flags on the bigger buildings in Lhasa

The train leads us near a swathe of behemoths, the icy peaked mountains I saw before only in the very far distance. They are mostly blanketed in snow, the but the grey of their rocky sides show in some places and yellow green grass grows in some flat areas along their base. Even though we are close to the mountain ranges, it is mostly grassy right around the train.

All across the land water floods and freezes over in little divots and streams. Less people live beneath these large white peaks. Still, I saw a large spacious looking town of at least twenty houses beside the flat land running next to the train. When I looked hard enough I caught another pretty large town close to the foot of a mountain. The snow around these villages flakes off before the glow of the sun so that even the village near the mountain has a sea of dry, yellow grass around them.

Some houses seem dirty, somewhat shabby and rundown. The white sheen of these houses cracks and muddies, the multi-colored flags are dulled by stains. Others have a cleaner, fresher veneer, with the white of the paint and the colors of the flags marking their houses brightly out beneath the shining sun. Most houses have at least one motorcycle, maybe as an automated way to stay mobile and keep track of pastoral animals, if not just to cross vast distances like anyone else would. The kinds of motorcycles they have are plenty popular in China’s dense, sprawling cityscapes.

I saw some Yaks up close as well. They look kind of goofy, like big shaky, shaggy masses of messy fur loafing around. They seemed like a cross between a St Bernard and a cow. A Tibetan herded them along, dressed in a dark blue shawl with grey scarves. What looked like a white dog ran next to him or her, helping manage the herd.

Not quite the same site as the sun peaking over the mountains, but its close.
Everything seems a little endless from up so high

I had trouble keeping an eye on the houses and plains since the mountains to both sides of me caught my eye the most. The soft red slopes returned and out of them erupted the sharp, craggy brilliance of those snowy peaks that reflected the sun’s rays. They stretched and stretched until they filled the whole horizon to the brim. The snow caps on top looked so picturesque. One ran like the edge of a serrated sword, curving until it formed a semicircular ring atop a mountain.

Not a shred of air separated the image from my eye. The contrast between that and smoggy Beijing was striking. But the air here seems clear compared to the States too.

It ends abruptly there. If I had my eyes set on putting these little accounts online when I started writing them, I may have written a more satisfying conclusion. The whole trip to Tibet still sticks out distinctly in my memory. Maybe later I will drag my recollections back out into the air and collage them into another article. It could do me good to get some words down before time stretches them even further from the little things they once described.

Looking back at what I focused on, I think I betrayed my own background more than Tibet’s. Growing up in the flat American Midwest, mountains have always impressed me. Seeing something natural go up that high is just plain unusual where I came from. The mixture of snow and grass, cold and less cold, was just as novel to me. Most of all, after spending near all of my life living in cities I have always liked looking out on long rides and seeing some of the countryside.

When I wrote for my journal I was just a step away from glorifying it all over the steel jungles I have come to love and call my own. As lovely as the view to Tibet was, my image could never be honest to it. The literal high points of the landscape probably stuck out too much, as did all the things I made of its rustic nature. Cities wear you down after a while with all their bustle and no cities I had yet seen had the bustle of Beijing. After my tour through the endless modern oddities that are Chinese cities I perhaps saw too much of what I really wanted in Tibet: a breath of fresh air, literally and figuratively.

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The View from a Train to Tibet, Part One


Towards the end of a semester spent abroad in China, our class went on some study trips. After weaving through most of the mainland we got on a day long train ride to Lhasa, Tibet. Trying to pass the time on a long train ride to Tibet, I turned to my journal. However, as I tried to get my thoughts on paper, the scenery got my complete attention. So I chose to write about that instead.

The writing became pretty consuming, and I did not take any pictures. The window’s reflection would have made most of them look pretty bad anyways. Still, to give some idea of what I am describing I interlaced some pictures of the Tibetan Plateau I took when off the train into the article.

The sky looks crystal clear. I did not think any patch of sky could look so clear and empty. White clouds drift in immaterial puffs over towering mountains. The soft trails of white from broken clouds melt into the light blue sky. All around the train a mile or so of flat land spans out into the distance. Scattered settlements dot the landscape and herds of sheep graze at the start of distant slopes. Winding roads punctuate the wide, flat, empty terrain.

At points the grass yields to small streams of translucent water creating dark green swamps marked with little ferns. The water is so clear that brings bits of the sky to earth in form of reflections. The clouds come to the earth in small puddles. Three billboards drift by, the first I had seen so far, though more would come here and there.

I wonder if the CCP will give me 99 cents for posting this picture
Some of the clearest sky I had ever seen

The train started to pass by massive lake Qinghai. The lake spread out for miles alongside us, and encompassed the setting sun. The lake shimmered on endlessly into the distance. The sunlight ran in long golden stretches across the earth. It sat cut in half by the ground, like a sparkling orange mountain rising up from a massive lake. Lake Qinghai carried the sun’s gleam to the shore right near the train. The brilliance of the light bouncing off the water shined so brightly that I could not stare straight into it. I stared instead at the way the bulbous conglomeration of sheer light broke off in pieces at the side. I tracked the light of the lake the same way I would try to look at a burning star.

The bright and endlessly wide, shimmering blue salt lake still haunts me as I write now. Looking at Qinghai felt like staring a deity straight in the iris. Not even words by the thousands can capture the magnificent way the Qinghai reflected the sun’s final blast of light.

The sun looks to visit other parts of the world. It leaves a sublime goodbye through dark orange rays illuminating less and less of the rising and falling knolls, and the stretches of flat lands. Herds of furry yak look to graze on into the late evening. One yak sped off from the herd. The yak’s heavy, legless body bounded across the flat land spread out before the slight slopes of nearby hills. Its fur bounced with each bound.

The mountains in the distance grew dark, and human settlements become more spread out. The splotchy green sides of the not so steep but still tall mountains form up in the distance. Earlier the sun lit up the far distance. In it, I could see steep sloped, towering mountains capped with snow. It looked like a scene wrapped around a bottle of water.

A perfectly lucid gloom surrounds the far spread of land now. Past the mild slopes a massive brown plateau shoots violently up from the undulating earth. It recedes and the land turns back to the rise and fall of gently sloping hills. Some sharply steepen up and form strange crags. We are now so high that the clouds flirt with the mountain tops. My breath shortens as I look at the mountains climb to meet the sky.

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Now the slopes rose sharply and widely up, but still in great circular bulges of earth like smooth waves of dirt. They roll up to the cliff sides that shoot up to touch wispy grey clouds. One hill jaggedly broke into a shorter altitude. The cliff ran along the hill until it pushed into the smoothness of it, creating a corridor of flatter, lower earth within the grassy knoll. The pattern of the cliffs almost looked like a pagoda, wide at the base and rising up thin into the side of the hill. It even had sides that splintered inward, looking like the way the roof of a pagoda pushes out at each floor.

I wish my pen could grab hold of all the wondrous landscapes around me. Some images must slip through. I do not have the time to do all of it justice; I do not have the ability to do any of it justice. The progress I made will have to do fine enough. The night comes soon and the thin light turns all the distant mountains into only rising shadows. The darkness blurs the lines and the mountains all blend into the back of one massive and shifting form. In one big poof the low and high lands merged together. They rise and fall, waving goodbye as night covered the train windows up completely.

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~Austin R Ryan

The Grand Send Off


Bit by bit my travel plans materialized. Each step steepened their reality. At the start of the summer I told people I planned to go to Beijing. I did not feel the meaning behind those words. In life and in travel we head to destinations we have an idea of. I longed for that idea. We do not know the exact of our endings. Rarely do I long for something I’ve never glimpsed.

I remember my beginnings. I hope not to forget them. I began this trip with the summer. I did not acknowledge it then, but I started the trip to Beijing as soon as I got back and got a job. My family could have generated much needed revenue for my living in Beijing. I wanted to contribute. I wanted one less thing to worry about, but I got much more.

The pink and baby blue color scheme helped me find my way back.
My old home

The beginning gave me more to think about than I bargained for. In the first month of returning to my home town of Indianapolis from my university in DC I realized that I would not want to return to my old hometown. DC beckoned with its full list of opportunities and events. I love my hometown but it lacked. No one told me what going to DC would mean. Maybe I ought to have known. I believed it meant space and nothing more. I believed I would return to old friends and family and live in Indianapolis. New friends and interests run deep in DC. They feel like currents carrying me from home. Going to DC meant living far from home and learning to give control to the currents carrying me. Living in DC meant missing friends in Indy. Moving to DC placed me in a tidal flow much harder to enter than to leave.

The idea of home started to shift. Home felt far away during the summer, bottled up in a university and town I knew only for four semesters. Indy no longer meant the same thing to me. My old Hoosier social circles percolated out across the states. I still see many an old friend during the summer but by the day that I graduated less and less people would await me in Indy. Naptown lacked the attractions to keep us entertained in our wild 20’s. We had to scatter to sow wild oats. These Midwestern suburbs raised children. So many of us thought we needed more to become men, be it the distance of an hour or ten.  How it surprises to lose a hometown.

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Early on in the summer I did not consider what going to Beijing meant. The physical distance of my travel symbolized the length of reality that separates the old and new. I would find my family for Christmas again and again. But my time with them dwindles from summers, springs, and autumns to the winters. My family and I would never diverge. My friends and I will. In the limited winter breaks, I never know who I will see and for how long. Lost friends loom like a monsoon flooding out currents old and new.

Just days before departure I dropped by two friends. We headed to my house to relax. Over the years we developed a habit of taking night time walks through my neighborhood. The neighborhood featured three blocks, three esplanades, three large fountains, six rows of houses, one town hall, and a veil of ancient trees. We stepped underneath the moonlight pouring through the cracks in the veil of leaves above us. The fountains poured away as we talked. I wanted to fall fully into conversation and empty every inch of me. I could not. Fear gripped me. It created a harsh irony. I wanted to say goodbye to so many people, but every time I tried the muscles in my mouth froze. I was moving on. I was moving on and I chose every step. Grief and greatness arrive in the same strokes. These steps lead to the edge of a cliff. So we plunge.

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My friends and I trekked to a gas station down the street. We bought unhealthy snacks and soft drinks and ran amuck on sugar for as long as we could. It threw me back to the way I used to be in high school. Looking back could not distract me from the path ahead. Beijing dominated my mind. Studying in such a foreign land felt like distraction enough. I chose to layer it with the thought of slowly shifting into a new life.

The Open sign at the gas station buzzed to life letter by letter. The word tried to flourish all in one glow, but did not coordinate properly. I knew things were still open. I knew I could change paths after Beijing, DC, or elsewhere. The old signs just did not glow with same life.

Perhaps I should look for symbolism in more important places
The old Open Sign

My journey starts with goodbyes. I start with a broken down open sign outside of a gas station and drive to O’Hare international airport. It feels dramatic to me, but I am not putting on a production. This is just what happens. This is how we grow and fall away into new currents and flows. People do this every second, every day. All the while they think as madly as me. Not everyone goes to Beijing, but we all travel and we all reshape ourselves around newer and newer settings. I have got no claim to a great story. Likely, you won’t uncover anything crazy, different, or worth reading here. You’ve only got my eyes here. I will give you what they have to offer as I go. If you truly want a good look, you’ll have to brave the waters yourself.

~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

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 6


He saw the beast careen through the jungle, smacking its armored hides against the trees. It closed the distance between them quickly and placed its massive foot over a paralyzed Scamper. Scamper struggled to stand. Scamper could feel each of his legs ready to snap in half. He could hear his exoskeleton strain against the pressure of standing up to this beast. Scamper could hear the strained cries of his brethren echo through the temple. He hoped he had done enough for them now. He hoped his health would revive theirs. He recalled trying to soothe them, but they could hear little through their illness. Scamper wanted to reach out. Scamper longed to be heard. As he strained, Scamper hoped that Trot might be the one to listen. Scamper chattered out something low and solemn as it readied to give in.

Trot grabbed Scamper by the leg, and snatched him out from underneath the hoof. Scamper crawled onto Trot’s chest and attached himself there. Trot saw the giant beast ready its charge, and quickly rolled under its belly. Trot started to move as fast he could on all fours. He emerged out from underneath the beast. He saw its tail. Realizing he was now behind it, he catapulted himself into a mad dash that set his already tired legs on fire. He ran faster than he had during the course of the journey, perhaps even the course of his life. He heard the breath of the beast as it turned and continued its endeavor to charge him down. He could hear whole trees snap as the massive creature knocked the greenery out of its mistakenly vengeful path. He felt the air around him grow hotter. He knew the beast had somehow closed the gap. His legs accessed strength so primal and intense that it felt inhuman. They flung him off the ground as he raced through the branches and the leaves. He did not know where he was headed, but he knew he needed to survive. He noticed that Scamper had moved to his back.

Suddenly he felt an intense heat at his back. He willed his legs to hasten, but they simply could not carry him any quicker. He heard a loud clang an impact flung Trot forward. Trot flew through the air, and landed on one foot. He stumbled briefly, but caught himself with his hands and continued his frantic pace. Trot saw two narrow trees. They led out to a dazzling light. If the beast could not enter in through the narrow trees, he could still save himself and his companion. With an epic exertion, he pushed himself to the very threshold. He felt his heart pound out of his chest. His lungs lit on fire and his feet launched him as he moved. He could feel his vision fading from the effort. Intense sparks of light formed in the corners of his eyes as his vision began to darken.

He felt the hot breath at his back again. He could feel that horn near the back of his leg. He stood just inches away from the trees. He dove in between the trees, emerging into a small sunlit plain. He rolled into the plain, exhausted. He rose to his knees and turned to face the two trees. He saw the hot breath pour out from the shadows of the trees. He could still see spots of sunshine illuminate the faded yellow shell of the beast. He took a number of steps back as quick as he could before collapsing against a tree on the opposite side of the small plain.

Suddenly Trot remembered the loud clang he heard earlier. “Sc-Scamper.” He said as he stifled a rough cough. “Are you st-still there…” he coughed openly now. “Buddy?” Trot’s body started to shake. He looked down to see the claw like legs still gripping him. He grabbed one, and it fell limp. He made his less wearied arms take Scamper off his back. Scamper’s antennae slowly shuffled in the air. It let loose a weak bleat. It sounded like those ailing bugs back at the shrine. He lightly caressed a massive dent in the iron shell. The massive beast’s horn must have met Scamper’s iron shell.

“No.” Trot’s voice shook, “No, not after all of this.”

Scamper’s legs twitched slightly. One leg swam slowly through the air, as though it might be drawing something.

“I’ll find a way,” Trot said, “I’ll find a way to get what you need.” His cough calmed a little, “I’ll get, I’ll get you something to fix this.” Trot’s muscles resigned, in spite of his words. He went limp against the tree. All he could do was gaze up at the sky.

He then heard a massive knocking.

He looked over to the two trees. Their bark looked splintered. The trees seemed to be shaking, splintering from some kind of pressure. His eyes narrowed as he honed his faded vision. He saw the horn of the angry beast no battering the trees in violent rhythm. He could feel the whole earth shake beneath him. He grabbed Scamper’s limp body in one hand, and pawed at a branch with the other. It was slightly out of reach. He forced himself to rise up to his feet. His legs wobbled underneath him. The two trees wobbled as the beast pushed with all its might. He grabbed the branch with one hand. He clinched his jaws together and shut his eyes. He forced himself upward with just one arm. He strained against his, and Scamper’s whole weight. He felt his stomach convulse, and suppressed the desire to vomit. He pushed until his stomach ran parallel to the branch. He managed to raise himself up to the branch, and sit against it. He pulled off his pack and placed Scamper’s cold body into it. He almost laughed when he realized he could have put Scamper in his pack when he scaled the first branch. He forced his legs to lift him up once again, as he reached for a higher branch. With as much effort as he could steal from his fatigue, he heaved himself and Scamper up and up that tree.

He heard nature let loose a massive groan. The two trees swayed a little, then snapped. He felt time slow as the large foliage plummeted into the plain. His tree shook once those twin trees smacked the ground. He felt himself wobble and stumble. He quickly stabilized himself. The massive beast pushed its way into the small grove. It grunted angrily and scanned the area. Trot tried to steady and silence his breath as he watched the beast through a veil of leaves. It sniffed the air. Then, its eyes started to examine the tree Trot sat in. Its large orange eyes meticulously scanned the tree. Those eyes focused on Trot. He met the beast’s stare. He heard the beast’s breath grow with fury. It let loose a rough, beleaguered cry and rammed the tree. Trot fell from his branch.

He felt himself fall into the air, then jolt to a stop. His feet were treading air. He looked up and realized that he grabbed a branch with both hands as he slipped. The beast rammed the tree once more. One of Trot’s arms flung loose from the branch. He felt his backpack slip from his shoulder. He grabbed it with his limp arm before it hit the ground. He held his backpack in one hand and held the branch in the other.

“No.” He said to himself, “Not now!” His arm burned as he lifted himself up with it. He thought the pressure might break him. He felt the drips of sweat embrace almost every inch of him. He could feel his vision fading. Somehow he clawed back onto the branch and wrapped his whole body around it. The beast stepped back to the very edge of the grove. It scraped the ground, readying to charge, when something shined in the sun. It looked as though the very sun were descending from the sky. Trot felt a familiar gust of wind dry the sweat dripping from his brow. He sat up against the tree, and peered through the leaves. He saw great golden wings grace the grove.

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.