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An End to It – LD

Listening to: Sufjan Stevens – In This Temple as in the Hearts of Man for Whom He Saved the Earth
via FoxyTunes

They broke through the last barrier of trees, Luther’s broad shoulders parting low branches of excess foliage, like a large, oddly shaped hand brushing dandruff off an even odder shaped shoulder.  The light accepted the two of them with easy grace.

Out in the open, Margaret appeared to be less subdued.  She was as silent as she ever had been, but the rubbery sheen was gone from her complexion.  As if a layer of transparent wrapping paper had been peeled away from her.  She wove her fingers together with Luther’s, allowing her features to slide into a serene expression to replace the blank starkness he had become accustomed to.

“Where are we?” he asked her.  He could remember the field of heather that had surrounded the crash site, had half-expected to see its furtherance, or perhaps the crash site itself.  They had left the forest with no sense of direction that he was able to divine.

Instead of heather or a broken airship, he saw a lake and a great expanse of green.  It was manicured and perfect, a landscape worthy of words like ‘lawn’ and ‘grounds’.  It led up to a grand house, with an a-line roof and a porch that wrapped around it like a possessive granny hugging a family member.  It seemed at once far off and very, very near.  Details winked in and out with the rhythm of his steps, as he wobbled onward, still allowing Margaret to lead the way.

For a few moments, he had the strange notion that she was going to point out the lake and the house and explain them in a tour guide’s droning, cheerful cadences, but she did not even raise her hand.

As they approached, Luther saw that someone with a good deal of obvious dedication and time had planted an elaborate garden.  Bushes several times taller and wider than he was crept round to watch them, blossoms clinging to waving branches in a sweet-scented wind.  A few petals broke loose and blew towards him.

They fell at his feet, caught there by the ridge of his boots.  He paused, stooped to retrieve the petals, and then looked up at Margaret.  She had stopped with him, but almost too far away from him.  Their connected arms were pulled nearly taut, with very little slack in the middle, where their hands met.

Looking at the fraying of their joined fingers made Luther think of a cable about to give up and snap free.  He thought of tightening his grip and pulling her back, but he let his hand hang limp as he stood upright again.
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Frayed Edges of Grace – LD

Listening to: Pieter Hellendaal – Concerto Grosso No. 6 in F Major, mvmt. V. Minuetto (Bohdan Warchal, Slovak Chamber Orchestra)
via FoxyTunes

He was aware only of the oppressive weight.

No other sensation, that of temperature, space, or even texture, punctured the foggy cover of the rock weighing down on him.  He did not gasp for air.  There seemed no need at all for it.  Some part of his mind, refusing to give in to this world of one single sense, clawed desperately in its prison, but his body remained static.

Not one muscle twitched.  He was as compact as food inside a tin.  His brain slowed to a crawl, as if he were approaching a very long doze.  Even the scrabbling thoughts dropped and fell away from him, incomplete and short of breath.

A sound rent the air.  His tiny world gave up some of its press as the weight lifted, and he could hear birds, see and feel a small measure of weak sunlight.  He told himself that he could smell the heavy wetness of mud that would not soon dry to dirt.  He opened his eyes, and then blinked against the light.

He was back in the forest.

There was rock everywhere, as if a nearby mountain had suicided, leaving a rockslide as a corpse.  He rolled his shoulders, realised that he was fully clothed, with a distinct absence of holes in his garments.  Nothing was broken or torn, from his shirt to his limbs.

Something golden flashed past, and he blinked against the speed.  Margaret peeked out from behind one of the thicker trees, her small fingers clutching the trunk.  The sight put him in mind of a smaller child hiding behind a door, awaiting the judgement of a parent on whether or not she could stay up just a little while longer.
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Running Out of Fuel -LD

Listening to: Malice Mizer – ILLUMINATI
via FoxyTunes

Now I can finally go to bed.  Whuf.  I want to type what’s in my notebook at last, and also talk about an OCB quote, but that always has to wait for later.

//

Sense flooded out of Luther’s body, evaporating along with the moisture in the air.  The fire spread as if they had been transported to a summer-dried forest.  He could barely glimpse the walls of the labyrinth through the raging waves of fire.

He ducked his head and ran in search of the way he had come in, but he could not pass through the barrier.  The terrible heat pressed him back.  He could almost see the way, but then the flames would bend and twist to show that behind them was only more stone.

Again, he ran at the vague point he must have come from.  His hair curled and pulled away, and his clothes nearly ignited.  Where his hands passed through the fire, he met only the searing agony of boiled stone wall.  He reeled back, coughing too hard to swear as a pillar of smoke enveloped him.

The smoke pushed him back.  He felt the rat’s tail around his wrist again, could not remember if he had kept it, lost it, or imagined its existence entirely.  It felt wilted and damp against his skin, but the sensation took his mind off of the room and the pain of new skin popping out of his arm to cover and erase the burns.

Somewhere, the monkey was howling.  The intensity of its pain dug into Luther’s bones with a volume that nearly had him convinced that the monkey was behind, next to, and inside him all at once.

There was a roar, and he felt the smoke wrap itself round him once more.  It drove him back farther, opposite of the way that he wanted to go.  Although he still could not see past the angry whipping of orange, red, and yellow, he had the vague sense that the way back, to the rat, or to the dragon, was not where he was heading.

Nor could he head there.
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Turnabout – LD

Listening to: Kay Kay, Shreya Ghoshal – Kab Tujhe (Hindi Radio – Mera Sangeet)
via FoxyTunes

It’s been a hectic week.  I have something else to type up and post, but I might not get time to do it until tomorrow.  Barely time to write Luther today. *collapseofexhaustion*

//

Luther’s muscles tensed to the point of contraction.  His jaw fell open, and the shock of seeing the monkey betray its neighbour nearly set him up for an attack on himself.

He snapped his mouth shut and strafed to one of the near-corners of the circular room, holding the tail so tightly that his wrist hurt.  “You killed him…!”

“Finally.  You have no idea how utterly dull that dog always was.  Smelled to blazes whenever he got wet, too.”  The monkey sneered at the corpse, aimed a kick that died of boredom halfway there.  “Had it coming.”

It appeared to purse its lips to expectorate, but Luther let his rage guide his movement.  He leaped towards it in a few slaloming strides, then flicked the rat’s tail at the monkey’s face.

Lightning crackled, and the stench of burnt fur filled the air.  The monkey cried out in rage.

Its attention diverted from the dog’s prone form, it squared on Luther.  “You won’t do that again,” it said.  Less like a prophecy, most like a threat.  Its shoulders were drawn up so high that it seemed as if it might let its head drop free of its body and pursue him like a nightmare.

Luther bent his knees, preparing to strike again.  The monkey had the dagger, still clutched almost carelessly in its paw.  It held it as if it were no more dangerous than a spoon, belying its knowledge of the blade’s lethal ability.  “Wanna bet?”

“I never bet.  I just win.”  The monkey jumped into the air.  It scrabbled for hold on a stalactite, and then let go almost as soon as it had gained purchase.  It dropped down, holding the dagger’s point poised to pierce Luther’s skull.
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On No Account But – LD

Listening to: Lifehouse – Crown of Scars
via FoxyTunes

The face that greeted him was long and dark.  A warm, wet muzzle, flecked with angry spittle, snuffled in an almost warlike fashion.  He had been tackled by a great black dog.

Luther shoved at the dog automatically.  There had been on one the ship once, a pet or pseudo friend/partner of the cook.  It had been a friendly old thing, well-meaning and brighter than it behaved.

This dog was nothing like it aside from its Newfoundland size.

It responded to his attempts to push it away by bearing down even harder.  A rough, annoyed bark emerged from its throat like a cough.  “Hold,” it growled.  “Attack my neighbour, would you?”

“He attacked me first,” Luther said, pushing the words out past his constricted chest and throat.  Breathing was becoming difficult.

The dog made a sound akin to a menacing whuffle.  “The monkey would not attack anything unprovoked.”

“That’s right, I wouldn’t.”  The air of injured pride was so sour and unfeeling that Luther nearly gagged.  “Thank you, neighbour dog.”

Luther’s vision clouded once more.  With the dog’s weight in front of him and the press of the wall behind, he could feel himself turning into a human pancake.  “Let me go…!”

There was a brief pause, and then the monkey laughed, high and long.  The dog paid little heed to both the laugh and Luther’s plea.  It pushed harder against him, and then eased up.

But only just.  It fixed him with a disturbingly intelligent gaze that reminded Luther of the rat.  “Why are you here?” it demanded.  “There should only be one of your kind, and she belongs near the cave’s top mouth.”

“Margaret,” Luther said, the name he had given the little girl coming as automatically to mind and mouth as if it had actually been hers.  As if she was actually his somehow.  He cringed at himself suddenly.  She wasn’t really ‘Margaret’, he had only dubbed her thus.  “What is she called?”

“Called?”

“Her name.”  Air came more readily to Luther as the dog eased its weight off even more.  “She must have one.”
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Heat of Battle – LD

Listening to: Boys Like Girls – Heels Over Head
via FoxyTunes

There are four major events left after this one, and then Luther will be over.  Just a head’s up.  :)

//

Instinct told him to dodge, but he steeled himself against it.  He raised his arm at the last moment, catching the lash of the tail around his wrist, and pulled.  The burning spread wherever the tail met his skin, ruining and repairing in pico second turns.  But he held tightly to it.

The monkey tugged hard, but it wasn’t as heavyset as Luther.  Its twiggy frame was ill-suited to a tug-of-war match, and after a particularly hearty yank, it ended up sending itself flying forward off the pillar’s edge.

It lost hold of the tail, and its end of the weapon flopped forward.  Luther bit his tongue against the relief, and nearly dropped his own end of it.  The pain receded slowly, leaving the blistering skin to remain in a state of scrubbed fresh repair.  Sweat beaded on his forehead as he knelt to gather up the long tail and retrieve his dagger.

He barely had time to wrap his fingers round the hilt before the monkey chattered something vulgar and slightly foreign-sounding at him.  It was followed by a flung rock the size of his head.

Luther lunged to one side, overcompensating.  Even with the need to accommodate the pillar, the room had not been built large enough for comfort.  He slammed into the wall, and scraped his back against the stone.  Crying out in pain, he felt his grip on the dagger loosen again, but tightened it reflexively.  The smaller rats on the wall had given it to him for a reason.

Hoping this was the last time he would need it, he reasserted his stance and faced the monkey.  Its face, already a grotesque parody of a human visage, was twisted in amused hatred.  Its shoulders were hunched like a furry wrestler’s mantle, as if it were about to shrug them right off and reveal something terrifying and formless.  Like the shadow.

Realisation struck Luther, with such force that it was nearly a physical shove.  “The shadow isn’t a neighbour,” he said in a breathless murmur.  “You made it.”
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Small update

Listening to: Billie Holiday – Crazy He Calls Me
via FoxyTunes

Roughly half of the Fallout 3 GNR radio tracklisting is stuff I listened to before the game came out.  XD  Possibly more than half, but we won’t go into that.

I finished In the Woods last night.  It’s so well-crafted that I almost don’t mind the one part of the ending I didn’t like.  It makes sense to be that way, but it’s still aggravating.  Sometime I’ll have to listen to the next book, even though it follows Cassie and probably won’t reveal what I wanted to know.  But still.  I like Tana French’s writing style, long and meandering as it can occasionally get.

The book itself is well dark.  Consistent themes of lies, psychopaths, malicious secrets, and self-destructive patterns of behaviour on more than one front.  It does offer a pretty interesting way to look at oneself though, and I don’t know how intentional it is.  Are you more like Rob or Cassie? is the question.  I don’t think I could say why I think that without ruining the book for anyone who wants to read it, especially to find out the answer to that question as well as why they would want to.  It’s sort of a post-reading thing to ask, otherwise the answer isn’t honest.

Still, that’s something I want to remember, so there I write it.

Rather want to go back to bed, even now.  But I need a shower and I’m getting further lessons from Jeromy tonight.  Feeling annoyingly apprehensive about it, but that’s normal.  It’s not the kind of thing that one can say, “it’ll be fine” at.  It isn’t a helpful thing to say.  It’s not a problem that needs to be ‘fine’, it’s just something I don’t really want to do.  Never have.  I have to do it, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

To end on a sunnier note, Jonah rescued me last night.  :)  Not surprising.  Oh yeah, and I finished the Geist review on Sunday, so that’ll be up sometime tomorrow.  Can’t remember if I said or not.