Pee-Paw’s Tater Brain

Heydee-hoo there neighbo! Droppin’ a peep in ta letcha knah you better get yer kickin boots on. Yer Pee-paw’s back at the saloon hooting and hollering at all the hollies and hanks how he seen the legendary outlaws Gosh Darnold and Josh Dammit! Third time this week he’s been tall tale-ing the day away – I think. I ain’t peachy pleased to speak it but his tater brains is really mashin’ up the townsfolk ya know.

~Austin R Ryan

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Malka is Hebrew for queen – some people know that. What most don’t know is that Malka is the best name for fat tabby cats. This is not just because most fat tabby cats look like they have fine black crowns on the top of their heads. In the mind of a fat tabby cat, she is and has always been a great grey queen with a domain of human subjects grateful to witness her royal mouse hunts; so that fat tabby cat is as much a queen as Elizabeth, Victoria, and Golda (Meir, of course).

This is the story of two fat tabby queens and the kitty kingdoms they had. Malka the first, Malka 1, just plain Malka did not accept many of the subjects that came and went through her country. The original empress, she ruled over a small domain – an apartment in Chicago not far from the lake – with just two old folks named Carol and Sheldon as true subjects. During many Hanukkahs and many Passovers all sorts of other big, furless cats would come and go but she did not know or trust them. They would get no dead mice and no affectionate purrs from her. Many of them truly did not deserve it; young and greedy, they grabbed at her with hungry palms that pulled and tugged; she – a proper Malka – deserved nothing less than the best and softest pets and she would come claim them at her own leisure!

Though Malka I was not always a kind queen, she sometimes showed a softer side. Yes, she scratched and she bit and all the vagabonds and trespassers knew to fear her claws; yes, she hissed and howled at clumsy but friendly hands too; but when a child cried on her couches and bedsides she would retract her razors and paw them condolences. Malka I was a strong and mean ruler but she was soft and kind especially to her closest subjects. When she went she was mourned deeply and she left her subjects with a fat tabby cat shaped hole in their hearts.

However a proper queen always has a lineage. Not so long later, another tabby cat – young and without a kingdom – was busy stepping across a dark road. Many other nights she had darted across street and field, deftly dodging coyotes and cars, hawks and Hondas, but this night was different. Small and agile, a natural hunter, she leaped and bounded across that dark road again, but got struck by a passing car and dropped one life of nine. Left along on the road she mewed and cried until some strange set of hands carried her off to a vet before the other eight could slip away. The vet labored on this tabby – hardly even a cat yet – until by the end of the night it was stitched up and saved. However, it was still homeless. The fine folk that saved her could not keep her and instead of a kingdom she found a cage.

Shaved and small, set in a kennel full of bigger cats, she was a queen with no kingdom, an empress in exile. Little did she know, Malka I had come as a spirit to find another tabby cat to grow fat and continue her line. Malka I found the little tabby and told her to keep her shaved side hidden against the kennel wall and mew sweetly for the next old lady that came in. Sure enough, the next visitor to her cage was an old woman named Carol, who had a fat tabby cat shaped hole in her heart.

When the handlers took the kitten to Carol, the kitten she was skeptical at first. Who was this human? Could she be trusted? She shied away but Carol, even seeing her shaved side with all its scars, knew another Malka when she saw one. Carol sat for a while and talked with the little tabby.

“You look so pretty!” She said to give the queen compliment.

“It’s okay, I won’t hurt you.” She said, and kept her distance to give the queen respect.

“We’ll feed you and you’ll have a great big place where you can chase birds and mice.” She said to give the queen a true kingdom.

This little tabby kitten decided to step over and let Carol carefully lift her up and cradle her in palanquin arms. At that moment they both knew she was not just a Malka, but Malka II, Malka the second, Malka two. Carol brought the cat back to Sheldon, who smiled and said,
“Gee well, couldn’t you have got a healthy one?”

All the same they came to love the new Malka. Her fur grew in again, just as lush and beautiful as before she was hurt and before long she was a cat with a kingdom of wetlands out in the country, complete with birdbaths to stalk and gardens to weave through. Malka II had surpassed her predecessor; she had more not just in land, but in kind subjects too. By now the once young subjects had grown and learned how to keep their fingers from tugging and their palms from pulling so Malka II was generous with her affection and let many who came into her kingdom pet her. Perhaps Malka II became kind through being grateful. Her fortunes had turned sharply as she went overnight from losing a life to gaining a kingdom. Whatever the cause was, Malka II became even more beloved and bequeathed than her namesake and in no time at all she had filled fat tabby cat shaped holes in hearts that didn’t even know they had one.

~Austin R Ryan

Pointless Stories: Running

I go out running every other day or so. After a while all of the runs blend together into one stream of pounding feet and burning air. I often run the same routes at around the same time on the same days a fixture. My body anticipates the release of energy.

In each thirty minute bouts a lot can happen and a lot can go unnoticed beneath the drone of sneakers smacking the concrete. Sometimes the sun shines so brightly and the wind does not show up at all. The heat dries out and creases cracks across my lips. The sweat works overtime and comes in smearing lines from top until it leaks to the bottom. On the hottest days it even seeps into the socks. The run becomes longing for the next stretch of shade. Sometimes a penetrating pain roars across one of my sides and I’d like to slow down. When my mind is pliable and my body insistent enough, I do.

There are those few days when it feels like the stare of slick sunrays is a sickness I am fighting. In those stretches I become obstinate. I don’t want to give an inch to the angry weather. The running form I had half learned across several semesters running cross country full unravels. It is raw, repetitive violent movement between me and the ugly muscle cramps the heat brought along. A cramp can feel like so many things. It can gnaw on the side like a wolf deep into the shank of a lamb or it can punch like an embittered rival pushed over an edge. It can even stab with the vigor of a fencer, precise and sharp where each tack lands. There’s no beating it fully. I can only transfer it to the track below and pound out a quicker path.

Running can chew through your deodorant and ruin your scent. It can cut your breath into bursts and kill your sound. It can shake your stomping legs, scrunch up your arms, and bend your back until your stature falls too. Running can make you ugly, but there are days where it is beautiful too.

On the right day, the wind blows merciful and the sun doesn’t outshine the shade. Strides become longer than usual, feet feel lighter than usual. Drips of sweat cool the skin in small doses, and gentle rushes of wind peel back the harder layers of the heat. On those days, I could look up in the sky and not mind my feet at all. I could keep eyes on the treetops and watch sturdy oaks tremble at the extremities. I could absorb the full blue sky and feel like I was swimming through a sea of air. I’d say hello to every neighbor and smile at all the dogs they were walking.

I wonder if it is those days I run for. In the back of my mind a voice tells me I won’t live longer for sucking in sick city air and bashing my ankles up against grey concrete. That voice speaks in harsh whispers of my budding addiction to the beta endorphins spinning across synapses. When I run it’s the sound that twists my daydreams into demons hounding at my heels. And when those words really set in I wonder if I run to dodge those demons. I wonder if I am running to be a better coward.

I don’t think it is as much as that, though it can feel like it is even more. It can feel like each step is over a threshold. When the whole wide sky stares down and bleeds ugly heat into my skin, I’d think it was a forge refining the iron inside me. So many dreams of dramatic action sparkle inside my skull and I’d swear there wasn’t a person in front of or behind me at all. Everything had faded and I finally fought myself into being the person I ought to be. The glowing image of some forgotten glory I could reclaim blasted in the back of my mind. When all that happens I wonder if I am chasing and lusting madly for something. I wonder if I am running to be a better person.

All that droning noise can drown out a lot of what happens in those thirty minute bouts. In all the wondering it is easy to miss the slick and neat trim of my shoelaces gliding along the edge of my fingers as I pull the shoe to fit my foot tight. The burning sensation of stretching hamstrings, calves, and quadriceps can fly under the radar. So goes the scratchy inhales and exhales of all sorts of air from the free and clean to the gaseous exhaust exiting cigarettes and tailpipes.

There’s a deep and resounding language in all that physical motion. Give your breath enough attention and you can catch blood cells oxidizing every step. Tuning into each step, it becomes clear how well your form fits your body and your shoes fit your feet. Falling completely into the sound around you reveals the power of the uptempo in your music, and the draw of the downtempo of city streets and sleepy neighborhoods. When I lean into every breath, step, and sound of a run, I don’t think I am running for the language in my head. When I am running, I don’t think the pontificating means much at all.

~Austin R Ryan

Pointless Stories: Whispers

Did you miss me? Well, I haven’t been gone for long and I have got places to go so listen in for a few whispers I have of my spooky old home. It’s short, I promise not to keep you too busy.

I grew up in an old house that speaks in creaks. It whistles little secrets through air vents and tells tall tales in drafts. Every time I go away, I drift far off and forget about the whispers of an old home. When inevitably I return, the noise always catches me off guard.

Underneath the dim glow of the living room and the kitchen addition, the ceiling fan shakes at its base so hard that it clicks at me. The bathroom has an AC fan and it hums heavenly. Five years old, I stumbled down our rickety stairs. Half the steps are sturdy underneath the press of pounding children. They don’t complain much. The other half groan with a love for the melodrama of their lives, spread on longer than any of their residents’. It is dawn, maybe 5 AM. Young and up too early, it feels like a dream but I’d always swear it wasn’t. A voice radiates from the corner of the living room. At that time the ceiling fan did not shake so hard. I chase it down out of a half awakened hunger. It seeps out from the almost closed bathroom door, the sonority of sweet hums layer over the AC units breathing at my back. In the silence between falling beats, the wood planks creak. “Mom?” I ask the voice to identify itself, but it just keeps humming. Our family is so tone deaf, even at five years old I found it hard to believe it was one of us. “Mom?” I ask again half in disbelief. I pull open the bathroom door, nothing’s there and the voice is no more. Just evidence of how an old home never empties.

The memory entered in through my ears in whispers. I stayed up late that night not minding the slight sound one bit. The groans of old homes have the stuff of half formed urban legends told by anxious kids. Little bits of lore form up in the etchings on walls, words leftover from former tenants. It’s a narrative waiting to be made. Boy, did we make something of it.

My mother tells us – when the topic of ghosts are broached – that when she and my father thought to move, the house made quite a racket. Cupboards closed hard on their own, doors slid shut without a nudge. My second sister and I grew up afraid of the dark. She said once that a little girl popped up and looked at her when she was in the bathtub. When none of my sisters owned up to it, she refused to take baths alone for a while. On my end, I just had a rash of nightmares, saw strange shapes in trees and turned the formless noise of those whispers into something sinister. I had a dream once where a little girl who looked similar to what my sister described, forebodingly demanded I go up to the addict with her. Both of us thought she looked like my youngest sister, if we had seen the same girl at all.

Once two wild wiccans came to our home and said they sensed a spiritual energy. They whipped out a Ouija board and asked to phone home. My sisters obliged, finding something funny in the odd fancy. I would too. The wiccans felt a foul energy on that board and fled. Depending on who you talk to, the Ouija is an ancient occult board game gateway to the ethereal or a cheap piece of wood given a ghostly narrative to spook up sales. Either way, we still recall the odd incident and laugh about it.

When my friends would head over I’d unleash all the stories I collected over the years. It was a means of bonding them to me and my home while adding a luster to this slice of Middle America. Sometimes I did it just because I loved the paranormal. We used to have this old pullout couch crammed tight with a terrible mattress. When I was small enough to fit in its unfolded cracks, I’d climb under with my childhood friends, cover the entrances with a blanket, flick on the flashlight and read something from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. The pictures in those books looked too surreal and wild to be for children, which was why I loved them. Friends, relations, and in-laws that visit say they feel something off, but everyone admits it may just be that we’ve given these whispers a booming voice with all our stories. Who knows?

When I got older I wanted to know. I have always been a night owl. I like the quiet when everything but the house and I have retired. In the dead of the night I’d feel cold sensations sit on the small of my back and spread up across the shoulders like the sweeping of hands and I always wondered if it was just the draft. When I went on the internet for answers the search results were inconclusive. Paranormal forums and boards had plenty of stories but not so much insight.

Years later in college I would sleep in brand new dorms and apartment buildings low on cracks, creaks, and speeches filled with the wisdom of age. At first I did not sleep as sound, but maybe that was just because I was settling in. I felt alone for a few months. Sophomore year was not so bad, save some episodes of sleep paralysis after some between-class cat naps.

When I returned home around Sophomore year the house was full with the components of our growing family, the husbands of sisters. As the youngest people make so much of how you grow, but time seems to work faster for your elders. I was back in the tiny room I had slept in as a kid. In those days I did not get along with that room. The feud went on for longer than I like to admit, pushing me at first to sleep with my parents and then with the couch and TV downstairs. What riled me up, I think, was how small it was (no bigger than a garden shed) and how far down the hall it was (all the way the opposite to my parents and the bathroom).

I had revisited the room a few times before Sophomore year, but not often and not when I had the choice. Bygones had gone by, but I still preferred something more spacious. The night I returned to the room had been cold and I came to bed as late as 3 or 4 AM. I pulled the full set of sheets all the way over my head, balled up, and fell into deep sleep. An hour or two later, heat punctured my whole body and made me shove off the blankets. Then came a burst of icy feeling bubbling in my center and pushing out toward extremities. The heat shot back again as soon as I grabbed for the blankets. The hushed murmur of voices entered through the slight opening of my door. Thinking them to be from family up early, I rolled over and did my best to get back to sleep. Then the murmuring grew louder and louder, voicing in the tones of people I did not know. The whispers packed themselves in denser and denser, each word scrambling faster as time wore on until the air around me felt crowded with conversation I did not opt in to. It burst my tired eyes open and I flew back to the couch in the living room without much hesitation.

I have come back to that room plenty of times when the house got crowded. Ever since then I have hardly heard a peep, at least nothing past the usual hemming and hawing of the old abode. Truth be told, the room I count as my own is much noisier. Various woodland creatures have set up shop inside the walls and some nights they scratch like crazy until you smack a surface and tell them to stop. It drove my second sister out of the room once, but I mostly find the animals funny. In the room across from mine, there’s always a bird nest right next to the window-installed air condition unit. Ours is a home for more than humans and their ghosts.

This time I have moved back in, though again not for long before I am off to a foreign shore. I am back after bidding goodbye to my college life and looking on to see what’s next. By now, I have come to love the little whispers of my old home. I settle in at night, later than I should be up, and I hear the familiar history of this place. The same floorboards greet my feat even as I try to step softly. The same steps crunch and crackle at my approach. Cars whizzing by our dark neighborhood pull apart the night air outside. Sometimes I even think I hear a voice. As I strain to catch it, it slips my grasp like an auditory sleight of hand. It was probably never there, but I don’t mind wondering.

When I go to bed with my fan and my TV blasting white noise, these little whispers comfort me. Sometimes they bring me back to the narrative I have always treasured. Other times they assuage the kind of loneliness that even seeing friends and family can’t resolve. Mostly they remind me that – transitory as things are – they don’t disappear, they just fade.

Thanks for listening in, and sleep tight.

~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.