Bone Deep, Arc One : A Preview

23 May

Huang Shen ascended the scaffolding on the legs of a mortal. Finger by finger, he peeled the black leather glove off of his hand and caressed the face of a god. Its skin was parchment brittle, so he took care.

“What was your name?”

These lips had peeled back in a grimace eons ago. He imagined with pride as being the first to return the smile. Shen knew so little, but his mind already raced with the fantastic possibilities. Could this be an ancestor of his? Coyly, he pushed the thought from his mind, but it returned again and again, waiting in the periphery of conscience only to creep back in when he wasn’t looking.

It was in the realm of possibilities, wasn’t it? What a tempting, juicy destiny to possess, to be descended from a god. To have this as a birthright.

And his hands wandered to the bones on that once shook the realm. The skeleton of a god. Upwards and upwards they glided on each side of him, the coldness seeping in through his palms, until the smooth, ivory beams arced in ascent beyond arms’ reach. The scaffolds creaked and wobbled while he lifted one leg over the railing, then the next. He leaned out over the emptiness, suspended by his hands on the rail behind. He wasn’t afraid. Only lesser men fell.

He let his forehead come to a rest against the colossal rib, then let go of the rail. His body rocked perilously, balanced soley between his head and his toes. The ecstasy prickled his every hair. He was so close to it now. He listened to it. He imagined his chi moving in and out of it. He lifted his chin towards it. He kissed it. He licked it. The god tasted salty and acrid, like a white wine that was once good.

He took that moment for himself, as long as he could. Then he climbed back down.

The chamber was magnificent now that it was fully illuminated. The walls were plastered with silken robes and bronze plates embossed with ancient scenes. Jade figurines as tall as living men were ensconced at regular intervals, standing watch. In a corner, men in yellow, plastic suits were zipping up the last pieces of the deceased Americans into yellow, plastic bags.

A man seated in a camp stool before a wide-band receiver stood abruptly to salute.

“General Huang. Still nothing from the detachment that took the intruders captive. We’ll keep scanning, but I recommend we send out a search detail.”

“Send everyone.”

“Everyone, sir?”

“I have reason to believe the Americans have stolen something very precious from this chamber. A great treasure that belongs to all of China.”

“The Americans, sir, they should be dead. Captain Long’s last orders were to dispose of them.”

“I have a strong feeling they’re very much alive and well. And make sure the new orders are to take them gently. We wouldn’t want to damage our cultural inheritance.”

“Understood, sir. Shall I inform the Ministry of Culture of our findings here?”

“You will inform no one.”

“Yes, sir. No one.”

Huang Shen pulled a black leather glove back over his hand, meticulously tightening each finger. This moment, and all the moments soon to come, were his alone to savor. He alone saw the truth of what happened here. He alone had the vision to master it. This was his destiny. He snugged the last bit of the glove around his wrist.

“And Sergeant,” he added, half turning, “make sure a detail is dispatched to take care of everyone in that village.”

Boned Again

22 May Normal Bone Tissue
Read the first chapter, Bone Deep, here.

Jim drove while Chuck napped on and off in the truck. Jim was exhausted as well, but he was too restless to do anything about it.

He shook Chuck’s leg. “We’re coming up on the village now.” Chuck made a smacking noise with his mouth and stretched his feet into the passenger side footwell.

“We’re not going to the University first?”

“I changed my mind.” Jim turned the air-conditioning down a notch. “I need to see this place first. I need to know what we can expect before we start poking our noses into Willy’s office.”

Continue reading

Bone Deep

4 May Oracle Bone Script from the Shang Dynasty period.

“What do you see?”

“It looks like bone. But it’s perfect bone. Too perfect.”

“How do you know what perfect bone looks like?”

“I don’t. I mean, there’s no such thing. At least there wasn’t ‘til you. I mean look at it. The fibrous structures are arranged… in such a… I don’t know. A perfect way. Almost mathematically, it seems. Come here and take a look.”

“I can’t. I’m stuck in this machine, dummy.”

“Oh, right.”

“Can I come out now?”

“Gimme a minute.” Continue reading

A Second Exercise in Love Letters

6 Mar

Dearest ——

This could be a love letter. Or it could just be a writing exercise. Whichever you want it to be. Either is fine with me. I don’t love you, of course, not in the love-letter sense of the word. But I do feel that you are a love-letter-worthy person. I hope you find the contents of this letter entertaining, flattering, and light-hearted, and most of all, I hope it helps you pass the time during your day.

It’s been a strange position that I’ve been in, and from what I hope I may assume, you’ve been in as well. I’ve certainly been dodgy and fairly lackadaisical in my communications with you. I want to assure you it’s not because I’m at all ambivalent towards the thought of you – quite the opposite – it has more to do with prudence, experience, and a fair bit of dread.

Prudence, because in all honesty, I don’t expect to clash with you like the wakes of two boats; first as a spray of dazzling violence, a second surge, then a gradual consolidation. Experience, because such a clash has never happened to me, at least without a satisfactory result, and I expect it never will.  Dread, because the thought of clashing with you terrifies me to the very core, and I can’t help but think of all the terrible damage that could be wrought if we were to upset each other’s still waters.

Would it be good? Would it be worth it? Each time I see your feline smile, I’m tempted – to broach a subject, any subject; to give into wild abandon; to jump clear of the mast to which I’ve nailed all my rules, wisdom, and caveats, and into the sea.

But for now, I’ll sit in the crow’s nest and watch. Mayhaps I’ll watch you sail clear over the horizon. It will have been worth it. Knowing there’s someone like you out there in the same sea as I has done much to alleviate my burden of pessimism and hermitage.

But mayhaps, and I hope it just may hap, that you’ll keep sailing alongside in a parallel course, and one day our wakes will hearken to an appointed hour unknown to you or I, and swell with purpose, and crest towards each other like mad leviathans, and as an effluence of countless drops of the sea burst skyward and glitter in the sunlight, those wakes will rise against each other in force and foam and formidable felicity, and cause every shore on earth to tremble.

Of course things of that nature only happen in stories. And love letters. Which this may or may not be. I have only the most realistic expectations of everything. And while I sometimes allow myself to dare imagine, those imaginations do not blind me to the fact that you are very happy right in the course you’re on, and the wind is full and heavy in your sails. My own tack fares quite fairly as well, and I count myself fortunate for the current to carry me close enough to such an admirable vessel as yourself.

I certainly hope this letter does not alter our professional or platonic relationship, but if it does, it was a risk I understood full well before I sent it. I hope you take it with as many grains of salt that lie suspended in a handful of seawater. I hope it finds you well, and if it is not too much, I further hope it serves to brighten, enlighten, and inspire.

Yours truly, ——

Eulogy for a Princess

28 Feb

I didn’t know her.
I once saw her in a parade down the boulevard though:
Her nose was Greek,
Her eyes were kind,
And though I couldn’t hear her voice,
Her lips moved like nightingale wings.

She smiled at the man next to her,
But it wasn’t him that made her smile;
She smiled in joy at the all the world,
For all the world was at her leisure,
And to please such a nymph so,
The world recieved its own.

I didn’t know her,
But I’d heard stories of the grand parties,
Of tides of mirth and fascination
That were only murmurs until
She poured down the stairs into the room.

I heard from a friend of a friend
Of how she’d speak of art, love, and science,
And how between the art and the science
We only needed love to conciliate the two,
And even great masters would listen as students,
Their knowledge not renounced, but never learned.

I didn’t know her,
But through the world about me, I knew she lived.
The day she was born, a drought was ending.
Through her childhood, the groves bore fruit
Unprecedented in size and color,
And tasted of brave new knowledge.

Through her adolescence, the heavens bloomed.
The sun shone brighter, yet the rays were softer,
And the stars took to dancing in strange new circles,
And we consulted our almanacs, but they were no good.
Each year we’d draw up new ones, but they were vain,
For when she became a woman, the moon grew full
And from then never waxed and stayed through the day.

I didn’t know her,
But I’d have like to, and liked to know why
She laid down one night and left us this way.
Why she took a fever, and let her hands grow cold.
Why she would let all the beautiful color leave
In elegaic procession from her beautiful face.

Why, we ask, why, would she choose
To slip from her frame,
And slide out of bed onto ghostly feet
And haunt the halls of our corporeal plane
In a castle with far too many stories already
Of ghosts that weep and moan.

I didn’t know her,
But I like to think that she won’t.
It wouldn’t be her to be a grieving ghost
With all the joys that attended her and us in life.
I like to think that the laws of life could contain no more
And sent her packing, lest she thwart nature’s core.

The ghostly chores are ours to perform today,
And every day after, with no end in sight,
Until we’ve forgotten the sound, the feel, the smell
Of the true joy she brought, and every gray day
Becomes the life we know and trust.

Bad Djinn

2 Dec

O company of jinn and mankind, if you are able to pass beyond the regions of the heavens and the earth, then pass. You will not pass except by authority [from Allah ]. So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny?” – Surat Ar-Raĥmān, 55:33-34

Zbara says to follow mother’s instructions. And I do. I fly and flit above the road, out of sight until I’m needed, but I start to wonder why. Why does Zbara have a name and this one does not? Who is mother, and why must I call her mother? When I flit here just under the stars in whichever direction that pulls me without reason, I start to think.

Am I supposed to think? I don’t think so, but I do.

Continue reading

Boxes of You

22 Nov

Paper is for jotting down notes
Notebooks, reciepts, backs of envelopes
For phone numbers and reminders
But your stained, yellowing papers
Sit in organized piles, and I could never
Jot, tear, or even touch without kit gloves
No matter what was on them
They are relics of laughter and broken hearts
And my box of you is a museum


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