Surreal

A Brief Encounter with Madness

Joe Therasakdhi/Shutterstock.com

This post was originally published through Patreon on April 3, 2018.

Can you hear it?

That sound, just over there. A hum. No, a buzz. Like something vibrating. A machine. Yes, a machine. Please, sir, tell me you can hear it, too.

Are you sure? Yes. No, I understand. It’s just— Never mind. But are you sure— Yes, all right. Don’t look at me like that. I’m not crazy. Mad, perhaps, but not crazy.

There’s a difference, you know.

I suppose it was my fault. I chose to live here, though Earth was never my true home. Back home, I was a knight. No, a king. I could have had anything I wanted. Then I decided to become human. I took on flesh and blood, and agreed to be bound by the laws of the material universe.

But the universe and I don’t get along. I tried to play by the rules. But the cosmos is cruel, that I learned soon enough. And that sound, that awful sound—the galaxies as they hurtle through space, the planets as they orbit their stars—like rusty iron gears, squealing through time and space.

No, don’t walk away. Won’t you humor an old man? I know how I sound. I’m human, too, even if that hasn’t always been the case.

All right then, go. I’ll just be here, waiting for my time to run out.

Life, after all, doesn’t last forever, and neither does madness.

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Laura

Inara Prusakova/Shutterstock.com

This post was originally published through Patreon on April 17, 2018.

Laura gazed into the dark midnight sky, where the moon beamed down on the world below. The luminous light was warm. It soaked into her skin, replenished her weary, weakened reserves. She could hold a lot of energy inside, but even one as ancient and powerful as herself had to recharge now and again.

Things began to stir within. Her face flushed, and she threw back her head in a state of sudden drunken revelry.

Once, the world had belonged to those like herself, creatures of strong elemental magic. They built it out of nothing but star-stuff, and when it was finished, they stayed behind to care for its future inhabitants. Now, they were so tightly bound to the Earth that they couldn’t leave even if they tried.

When Laura had taken her fill, she turned away from the sky and started to walk.

It seemed walking was all her kind could do these days. Long ago, they’d bonded with humans. They’d shown them how to live, how to care for the Earth as they themselves had done. And for a time, the humans had revered them. They’d worshiped them as gods and goddesses, sparking world religions that lived on even into the modern age. But humanity quickly devolved into brute savagery. Something in their evolutionary path had made them stubborn and aggressive, and they quickly turned onto a dark path.

There were still those who remembered the Old Ways, tiny patches of light in an otherwise dark and primitive world. They still prayed to their old gods, still reached out for help. But Laura and her kind had decided it was best not to interfere. Let the humans live or let them destroy themselves, what should they care? It was the world they loved, and if humanity wanted to destroy itself, then in its ashes, they would sow the seeds for a gentler, nobler race.

Perhaps in time, if the humans inclined themselves toward purer pursuits—if they laid down their weapons and returned to the ways Laura’s kind had taught them—they would reveal themselves once more.

But given the state of the modern world, Laura thought the odds were slim.

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Genevier’s Special Power

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The angel Genevier stood with her back against the engraved cathedral wall, eyes wide. She could hear the demon approaching, could hear its wet chuffing breaths, its low malicious snarl. Like a lion stalking a lone gazelle, it followed her scent, and though she couldn’t see it, though the expansive cathedral lay blanketed in near total darkness, she could feel it closing in.

It was no easy feat to kill an angel, but this particular demon was strong, and Genevier was still young.

Her chest heaved with the effort of breathing. In and out, in and out. Sweat popped from her ebony skin like tiny sequin pearls, contributing to the scent that drew the creature closer.

The demon’s snarl rose in volume, and the cobbled floor began to tremble.

This is it, she thought. Just shy of a hundred years old, she hadn’t yet discovered her special power. Every angel had one, a defense mechanism that kicked in whenever they were at their most vulnerable. If she’d waited to enter the world until she was ready, if she’d given herself time to grow into her abilities, then perhaps she wouldn’t be in this position now.

A side door shattered in a spray of wood chips and metal. A moment later, a pair of smoldering red eyes appeared, flooding the abandoned nave with an unholy light. The demon’s breath hitched, then deepened, a sickly, baritone rumble that shook the stone walls, sending portraits of long-dead saints raining to the floor.

“No,” Genevier breathed. “I will not let you take me. This is holy ground.”

But the demon paid her no mind, only crept forward toward the altar, anxious for the kill.

Genevier tipped her head toward the arched ceiling, not wanting to look that horrible creature in the eye, and closed her eyes to pray.

All at once, a quiet stillness filled her heart, carving out a space where she could take refuge. Within this unexpected sanctuary, Genevier discovered something she hadn’t experienced before, an interior light that, once seen, could not be unseen. It smothered the darkness, and though the demon was nearly upon her, she couldn’t help but marvel, fascinated by the power she perceived in this otherworldly glow.

Tentative, not because she was afraid but because the noble light demanded reverence, Genevier reached out to touch it.

That was when the song overtook her.

Genevier had no idea where it came from, only that it took shape within the deepest part of herself and radiated outward like the astral light of a star. It flowed through her heart, her mind, and finally through her lips.

Transcendent. Unearthly. Beatific. The sound was like nothing Genevier had heard before. It was all at once a part of her and not, a composition of distinct selves that shook the foundation of the cathedral.

The demon stopped inches from her face, cocking its grotesque and bulbous head. Its noxious stink rolled over Genevier like a poisonous cloud, but her song cut through it. Rising in both pitch and volume, the cathedral was soon trembling not only in time with the demon’s fetid breathing, but to the empyrean strains of Genevier’s song.

A dialog took shape between herself and the world surrounding her, an imperative that neither the living nor the non-living could ignore. A melancholy twang, and the stone cobbles rose from the ground to bind the demon’s feet. A desperate trill, and a series of pews flung free from the nave to form a makeshift cage.

The demon roared in a feral rage, but no matter how hard it struggled, it was stuck and couldn’t reach her.

The song reached a passionate, Earth-shattering crescendo, and with it, the most potent of commands was formed: a summoning.

Where there had once been only cold and lifeless stone, there was now fire. It surged into being inside the demon’s prison, just as hungry and eager to feed as the demon itself. The creature cried out, no longer out of rage but out of a blind and animalistic fear. The hunter had become the prey, and as the fire grew, as it made a holy sacrifice of an unholy beast, Genevier could only watch with mute astonishment.

Genevier had found her special power.

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