Fiction: Avatar Remaindered, 13

Youk’s Plan

Sard dozed in the early sun, picturing how thankful Ahni would be to meet up with him again. He lay still to keep the silk strand unbroken. Something—he snapped his eyes open—make that someone—tweaked his other toe.

“Knew you’d be here somewhere,” Youk said. Full of cheer.

Sard’s heart sank. What could Youk possibly want?

“Aren’t you interested how I know you’d be here?”

“Mmm,” Sard said, meaning whatever, knowing Youk would not be stopped. How was he even out here, with not having Phin now to back him up?

“By hacking into Gammy’s incoming data, of course. Interesting that sometimes you show up as digital input when I assumed that no bots meant no data.”

“So why did you? Bother with the hacking?”

Youk jumped straight in. “I’ve got a proposition.”

“I’m all ears.” Sard tried for his most neutral tone.

“My mastering plan, as I call it.” Youk chuckled. “As ferals we can do the game a lot of damage. You especially, since when you are inside and aren’t wearing a life suit, the minions have got to be told where you are before they can see you.”

“I don’t get what you are on about.”

“I’m talking about the stupid game and doing unto all the others what they’ve been doing to me?”

“The new game, you mean,” Sard said.

Youk took a deep breath. “The game of life, our supposed world, the slavery we’ve had to endure, the boredom, the wasted time because we haven’t had a say over how we’d like to spend it. That game!”

Sard could only think of the many moments he’d enjoyed. “How are these others to blame for your problem with Gamester’s setup?”

“All through your childhood you’re a golden bloody avatar! And I’m just another no-account player when I’m at least half you. So I want revenge!”

“On me?” Sard said.

“You don’t now have anything that I want except your help and I deserve that! I thought you’d want to revenge yourself for the way Gamester turned your life upside down?” Youk watched him intently. “I thought we could work on this together?”

Even Sard parting his lips to begin talking might inflame the situation.

Youk continued, patiently informative, making his objective sound reasonable and sane. “You’re still ignorant of everything that’s been done to your sort. You’ll burn when you read the histories on my standalone. And by the way, my hide-out is ten times more comfortable than this shelter. With me hacking and you wrecking, we can do a lot of damage. How about it?”

“Not with you sitting pretty and me out and about with mud on my hands,” Sard said, letting only a little of his exasperation show.

Youk clenched his jaws on his. “Is that the tone to take with your loving brother?” Still with a hardly-done-by manner he shuffled himself into the shelter beside Sard and leaned back against Sard’s pack. “That’s better. All the conveniences of home, eh?”

Sard rocked onto his knees and out of the shelter. Slipping the silk loop from his toe, he allowed it to slither out of sight. He sat down, in the sun, diagonally opposite Youk, to purposely leave him his retreat. If only.

The suit grumbled. < Proper exchange of heat and coolness cannot begin. >

Because hood still in my neck? Sard teased. In adverse circumstances we have to do the best with what we have.

“Why sit out there when there is ample room beside me?” Youk said.

“Giving my suit a bit of a work-out.”

Youk began all over again, his usual strategy when he didn’t get what he wanted. “I came up here thinking we’d do this thing together, like brothers.”

“Don’t run off with the red herring,” Sard said. “I’m not all that confused by your tactics. What is this brotherly concern about suddenly?”

“I’m Ferd’s genetic son by a desert woman, fruit of the previous cave-wide. And Ferd is one of Gammy’s clones, like you are. So … you and Ferd are identical.”

“Only in our DNA,” Sard said.

Youk surged on. “So-o, half my genes are identical to yours. That’s got to be enough for brotherly concern.”

“My brotherly concern for you, you’re saying.”

“Because you owe me.” Youk maybe took in Sard’s obdurate expression and didn’t wait for affirmation. “After we’ve given Gammy and the rest their just deserts, we can ske-daddle out of here. We’ll catch a ride with the clay faces. They do a circle, hit Sink City. We’ll make a new life, better than we ever had here.”

Sard rose, the better to bring his new skills into play if need be.

“So you’ll come?” Youk rose too.

“No.”

“But I need you.” Youk leaned toward Sard.

“Don’t bother with the intimidation. Besides, you’re off balance. One little push from me and you’re broken on the rocks.”

“Good joke, Sard. Come on, let’s go, my patience is not unlimited.”

Sard stilled his imaginary tai ji horse between his knees. He sat back on air. The suit would know to allow him extra energy.

“What’s your problem?” Youk obviously meant his grin to be endearing. “Srese jumped at the chance to make good her mistakes.”

“If she did, why do you need to try the same garbage on me?”

“Can’t we at least be friends?” Youk reached for Sard’s arm.

Sard allowed his shoulder blade to slide down and behind the basket of his ribs to take his arm out of the way of Youk’s grasping fingers at the same time that he slid his left hand along the inside of Youk’s outstretched arm, and with his right hand now gripping Youk’s elbow, he pulled Youk alongside and down.

Sard stood aside as Youk sprawled.

Youk didn’t get up. Just griped from down there. “Why can’t you see what it’s been like for me, all these years in your shadow? The golden twins! And you not even knowing I existed until I volunteered to be your friend. I’m here now because I want us to be real friends. I need your friendship.”

“No,” Sard said again. “You really don’t.”

“I had a lot of time to study you and I think your thing is to be needed. What could be more fitting, me needing you?”

Sard didn’t answer.

“Your last word, huh? Well, don’t come crying to me when the clay faces put their shackles on you.”

Finally the end of the conversation. Sard looked away to hasten Youk’s retreat. Stuff was happening on the beach. Groups here and there. The sea was back in its place and the lagoon a sheet of aqua. The youngest of the mermen, leading three little boys, approached its calm.

Youk came to stand beside Sard. “Oh, I get it. You’re waiting for the Seapeople, because you haven’t the gumption to go out on your lonesome.” He shivered dramatically. “You’re so transparent, sitting here in your little cave looking back. This whole world, the size of it, boggles your mind, doesn’t it? Fortunately for me, among them, it’s the women who run the show and they are such amazons they’re sure to find you wanting. When they turn you down, mine will be the only option you have left.”

Despite the glare of the sun, Youk bent a wide-eyed topaz yellow stare at Sard. “Even if for some unfathomable reason the Seapeople allowed you to ragtag, you wouldn’t be able to keep up. I bet they tie to a rock and leave you to die courtesy of the sun. The men wear skins of people the women have cannibalised. Can you see yourself lasting in that kind of scene?”

The activity on the beach was not the busy preparation of people getting ready to travel. Sard still had time to get rid of Youk gently. There wouldn’t then be the need to guard against revenge. “Since you have me pegged so thoroughly, you might as well leave me to come at my own pace.”

Youk made like he’d contradict.

“Don’t worry. I’ve been to your hide-out, and I already know about Sully and the rest of my sort.”

“Why not come now?”

“My life-suit needs powering up.”

A desperate lie that Youk took at face value. “That must be one of the earlier models. I’ll look out a better one.”

When he was sure Youk was really gone, Sard backpacked his things to the dip in the desert. At more than a kilometre out he’d be invisible to Gammy’s ghosts, and as the place was lined with clumps of spinifex, the depression made him near to invisible. Tomorrow, in the dawn, he’d practice his kite.

Writing: With What Rules …

Whales by Rita de Heer, embroidered with Colourstreams Silks
on silk scrap background

After I was involved in a discussion on what constituted clangers, and disagreed, I decided to write a story in the mode that was held to be okay. See what it felt like more than anything. See if any sense could result …

Aile cast her eyes across the inn room. Hoping to catch the thief at his work, she aimed them for his face. Twould be good if at least one forced a couple of his teeth to spring for the relative safety of the steak sandwich he’d stolen.

Gusting with laughter, the rest of the patrons sent their hands a-clattering on the tabletops. The applause was that strong, that long, that numbers of armless hands rolled from the table entirely disenchanted.

They had to be rescued, sorted, relieved from dustballs picked up from under the furniture, and restored to their rightful owners. The work of fae. Lordy lordy, do expect a few misses. They’re not paid near enough.

The thief laughed unbridled and so lost his gains … a sandwich that was still only crammed into his gob, not swallowed, not masticated, not yet bitten off or even partitioned. Fearing his pretty teeth might lose their battle with Aile’s eyes, he sent her a thought by way of his ear-jacked aerial. Would she hear his by talk? The way his eyes talked of love with his eye lashes batting shyly and his head cocked just so?

He got his eyes at the smithy, cheap rubbish his mother said. How will you ever get a girl’s unbridled interest? I need you off my hands. His eyes took offense and went back to where they came from.

His second set he worked for all the night hours of six days at the dove house. The girls, as always, were utterly enamoured with his technique. But their hearts were not what he wanted, he told them. Go on. Out with the rubbish, said the madam, throwing her eyes after him for she enjoyed a strongly-built back.

He tried his best to make her eyes work for him. But his lashes would’t have her lashes, and those eyes ended up being glanced back into the dove house, through an open window, for old time’s sake.

His third set must be made to last, he knew. Everybody in the town had lost their patience, lots of broken bits, patents, patterns, cowpats and patty cakes to fall over if he wasn’t careful. Being eyeless as well, don’t you know? He applied to the cloisters with his desperation in tow, having had to dig deep within to find it.

With him wounded in mind as well as body, the monks laid him in a cell to be assessed by the head himself. Calm yourself, oh sightless sinecure, they said. The head has worked here many a year without its body incorporated. It’s a choice you too can make though we will find it difficult to perform our miracles from a blind. Still, we are a charitable institution and will always work with a given.

Meanwhile, back at the hostelry, Aile reeled in her eyes by hand. Their thin-stranded wires coiled by her feet. She fished their control unit from a nearby soup. So much for their reputed flight. Of steel and ebony her eyes were made in a cave where the dwarves weren’t all that fussy about their justified desserts. They cared more about how they were paid.

That ‘how’ became Aile’s target. She grabbed an ill-conceived idea, with wings barely longer than a falconet’s and sent it to the breakfast table to sort her thief’s unregarded losses. Fleeting back to her in numbered send-packets, she swept them into her snood and slipped out the door. The monastery stood downhill, a slide not too hair-raising.

Her beloved thief heard her coming, glorious, victorious. I’m on my way-ay-ay!!!

Would he welcome her with a hair-flick tossed randomly into the crowded cloister for every mad monk to scrabble up from the floor or would his cowlick long enough to torque around her finger do her justly?

I don’t know, he cried. I suffer from malaise, inept-time-management and lassitude. I wish she would just carry me off. The sunset beckons for it captured that clause. Different to when the red coat lived in the Arctic and it still had ice and he still had his elves and missus. He gave out presents when you needed it and I’ve run out of mine. First I lose my eyes, then my nous, then my presence. What will I do?

Yoo-hoo, my love. Let’s be about it, thief of my heart. Aile waltzed into the cell and sweeping the thief from the bed—she plucked a round-eyed gaze from the attendant—she set her lover on his feet. Come with me my torquing clown my glaze-eyed gorget glass-eyed geegaw. The world is oysterishly beautiful.

The monkish eyes fit the thief remarkably well. He stared owlishly into the future she described so eloquently. Oysterishly? I think not, my aileron. My work is here, with my ineptitudes taken care of by management. I understand that they will whip me if I so much as drop a bundle. Apparently, I’m better at cards than every-other sharp in residence.

My new home’s clangers will control my torpors, lassitude, laze and make them episodic. Permutated with episode, epistle and episo they will finally give me an epilogue. Look for me in the cemetery, my love, on the day when you too come a-burying.

.

Writing Part 2 of the Doomed? Trilogy …

This knit-metaphor illustrates where I now am in Meld–modeled in this way I can see a few changes need to happen

… is my daily grind. I’m laboring somewhere in the middle of the middle book, writing and rewriting the same chapter. It’s new, recently inserted. Zebe, seeking revenge for her twin sister’s misfortune, needs more time than the main plot can spare to put her conspiracy into place. Hence, her own POV chapter.

But will she/won’t she achieve her goal? I’m finding that the original problem will not go away. Zebe’s sub-plot is too strenuous and intricate in its early stages to seamlessly be integrated into the main plot immediately before its stated take-off.

All it needs, you will be saying, is for the one plot-line to be stretched and the other to be shrunk until there is integration. That’s a paper and pencil task. I’ll keep you posted.

My second concern is that Meld is far stranger than Mongrel. A large party of alien ladies must be accommodated in Meld–Tardi Malko, protagonist extraordinaire, is the one in the picture to carry them–at the same time that he lives his life?

Because, while the alien ladies impinge on TM’s life big time, there are other things going on in it. How to do them justice, I’m wondering.

Then I wonder whether I’m being too optimistic? That I’m trying to stuff too much into the novel? I’ve already moved the end of Meld to the beginning of Part 3, Morph, where it might work better.

I feel like I’m having to learn to write again. My normal prose seems not strong enough to carry the weight of meaning the characters in this book will need to carry. So far this weekend, I’ve been re-reading How-To books such as Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass.

Wordsmithing

The excerpt below is written in a fictional, grammar-based dialect. It has one word I made up … skanzy … and some that are used in different ways than you might be accustomed to.

Watercolor painting of what one of the characters described might look like.
A typical skanzy is hard to see when you’re
trying too hard.

“A skanzy by kind and a skanzy with aptitude is what I am, though I’m quite long-winded as well. The bottom falling out of the bio-engineering market left a lot of us product scrabbling for a living. Cities wouldn’t have us, or anywhere you live. You who are not mis-made.

“Down to the rivers is where we drifted, and where we now live in permanent river-camps, despite floods and melting floes. The some of us what hold down jobs support us all. The jobs never notice there’s an unending succession of us—seen one, you say, seen us all—so when one of us is too sick to get out of bed, injured, or arthritic of a morning—someone else will turn up.

“We can’t afford to lose any of the jobs so we have a rota and a job school in every camp where we all learn all the jobs.

I’d love it if you leave a comment on how well you can understand it, and would maybe like to read more by this character?