Impeccably Salvaged

Originally published on State of Liberation

Sure, she didn’t get to study any of the subjects most deem important. Her family was too poor to let her study law. She was too weak to advance in physical areas. Not quite clever enough for technological work. Too high in status to dirty her hands in the farmlands.

In the oversized room, golden with the light of a thousand candles, an exciting atmosphere breathes comfortably, like a tamed animal. At the center of an unwound cornucopia of luxury, she is the mistress of the event. She watches the calculated sparks of laughter rise across the musical landscape. Guests have been fed and befuddled with drink enough to dance attractively on the shining marble floor.

A long and tedious learning process has made her the administrator of an evening such as this one. The privileges earned were well worth the time, even if her role is underrated. Dressed in fine emerald green silks, decorated with metals, stones, feathers and lace, she is as though elevated on a puffy cloud, reaching with ease those typically unapproachable in regular society. The powerful and the rich tend her a trusting ear, or bow down in respect at her passage.

Suddenly, a commotion in the south end of the hall breaks the festivities. The room has gasped into silence, alerted by the sound of breaking wine glasses and sudden raised voices. Two men seem to stand a few feet from one another, weapons drawn.

She glides across the room, the smile on her face unaltered. She steps between them, her presence peculiarly compelling despite the tension.
Not a bad education at all. The kind that gets somewhat unnoticed, that makes difficult things look easy and that require unexpected levels of discipline. The kind that saves men from one another.

“Gentlemen,” she says with a perfectly conjured chuckle.

Her imperative tone, though polite and inviting, lets the rest of the guests know that the situation is being controlled; timid comfort spreads among the witnesses of the scene. As she turns around, she nods at waiters and guards in a subtle manor and each finds the strength to shake up and carry on. Some conversation is resumed, food and drink being once again consumed, musicians start playing again, two maids flutter by quietly and clean up the broken glass. The evening is impeccably salvaged, as though nothing has happened at all.

The two violent men seem embarrassed; they casually lower, and put away their armaments. The schooling she has received is often overlooked. Yet, she has learned to be the one with power, among armed men. Each is charmed by her strong presence, her control over the airs around them. Soon they are individually introduced to skillful hostesses, who guide both in separate directions with refinement, towards interesting conversations, flavours, and pleasures.

Entertainers appear just in time and quickly gather a crowd, eager for a distraction. She moves aside, admiring their fire juggling and acrobatics, enjoying the expressions of the watchers. Their ‘ooh’s and ‘aaah’s of fascination revive the room to its former glorious state. The delight of her guests has wholly resumed. She is indeed, the mistress, tonight.

People have sometimes laughed when she mentioned her education. “Just a party school”, they would call it.

Sayre of Apomixis

I traveled for six days before reaching the desolate Apomixis Manor. I finally saw it, it’s small stone structure fragile against the wind. As I approached it, the level of decay the building had suffered over the years became slightly distressing. The roof of the second floor had long since been abandoned, and the ceiling of the ground base was reinforced with nothing but hay to keep the rain out. It all looked as though it might fall apart at any moment.

I knocked at the dusty and moldy front door and received no answer. I was about to start calling out, when I heard a sudden, gay laughter emerge from the back of the manor; it pierced the gloomy atmosphere with a sudden brand of warmth. Following the voice, I walked along a high and overbearing hedge trying to circle the enclosed garden area. I suddenly came upon a serious looking man in an outdated soldiers uniform. He took a moment to look me over and said:

“Are you lost, sir? The last village is long passed west and there is nothing around here expect the hills and the cliffs.”

“I don’t think I am lost.” I said. I showed him the picture I had of Apomixis, given, from over 20 years ago.
“I was told that Lady Sayre is…” I chose my word wisely, “…housed here. I have news she needs to hear. Do you happen to be Private Gull?”

The man was satisfied with my answer, turned around and led me to the back of the manor, “We have waited a long time for news.”

The knowledge of my message sank heavily within me. “When was the last time?”

“About 16 years ago. Back when we asked for provisions. You know,” he sighed, stopping to look up at the broken stone structure. “I was still trying to save the original roof back then.” We turned the corner to see the ajar back door, which had no doubt become the usual point of entry. He continued: “Mrs. Celina, oh, she’s been wanting those tomato seeds. And the Lady, she had wanted a dog at the time.”

We entered a small and humid kitchen. There were small bouquets, garlands and wreaths of wild flowers everywhere, livening up the dark, mossy stone. Jars of honeys, conserves, and jams lined the back wall, gleaming in the sunlight. A table with three chairs, that seemed to have been fixed with leftover materials time and time again, were set close to the door where the spring air invaded. A small fire burned in the hearth, crackling happily.

An elderly woman entered from the right, fresh fruits caught up in her apron. When she saw me, she let go of her plunder, fruit bounced and rolled on the floor.
“A visitor?” she said with disbelief. She could only be Mrs. Celina.

“News for the Lady,” Gull said, still standing next to me said.

“I’ll prepare some tea,” the elder said nervously. “Fetch her from the garden” she ordered the soldier.

I followed him through a small corridor and out a side door into the Apomixis yard. He went ahead of me and disappeared in a mass of vegetation; flowers grew in every corner, vegetables claimed plots of land in all areas, trees grew splendidly, creating lapses of shade and light and making the small garden seem like a large forest. I saw goats eating shrubbery happily, chickens wandering freely, and a cat purring softly on a patch of grass. Clouds overhead parted, revealing patches of bright blue sky and adding a warm glow to the scene. An unseen cicada serenaded the light, while a honey-bee hive in a flowery expanse sung the harmonies.

I was mesmerised; this is how they had survived all this time this far from civilization. Despite their misfortune, the three isolated here had built a paradise, a wonder hidden from the rest of the world. Some people feel the rain, others just get wet.

The Private then emerged from the thicket with Lady Sayre, wearing a lightweight gown in shades of pink, no doubt dyed with flower colouring. She must have been in her early forties, but seemed to have kept herself young through the years. She smiled and welcomed me, invited me back indoors. I regretted leaving the sight of the beautiful garden behind.

We sat at the official dining room of the house, which obviously hadn’t been used in years. Mrs. Celina seemed to have hastily dusted it, but it still felt stuffy and like forced formality. After allowing the three inhabitants of Apomixis to take a sip of tea, I cut to the chase.

“Lady Sayre, 19 years ago, in the role of what can only be described as ‘hostage’, you, your personal nurse Mrs. Celina, and your cousin who was enrolled in the national army, Private Gull, were to be housed here until conflicts were resolved.”

They don’t really react; they know all this already. I take a deep breath and continue.

“About three years later, those who had negotiated your position were executed, without mentioning your situation, or your whereabouts. Your home city was ravaged by invaders, and your immediate family was unfortunately killed. Not long after that, a peace was brokered, and your position as detainee was fully forfeited, if not completely…forgotten.”

She speaks promptly: “Thank you very much for bringing me news of my family…though I will grieve greatly, I had of course imagined such an end by now.”

She doesn’t seem to realize what I am trying to explain.

“I humbly apologize if I have not been clear…You could have left this house 16 years ago without triggering any consequences. No one remembered you were locked away, the discovery was only made a few days ago.
You are free, Lady Sayre. I am authorized to bring you back to the capital at once, and a rather generous compensation will be given for this horrible mistake.”

The Private seemed somewhat uncomfortable, while the elder was smiling to herself and shaking her head stubbornly. The Lady looked at me like I were a naïve child.

“I think, sir,” she said with a powerful voice, “that the first order of business regarding compensation, would be to fulfill our original order.”

I looked at her slightly confused.

“Mrs. Celina really would appreciate a stock of tomato seeds, and a large guard dog of a friendly breed would be incredibly beneficial.”

“Your original order? But, you don’t need to live here anym-”

“Sir,” she slammed as she stood, her chin high.

“Return from where you came, and get me what I need to fix my home!”

Ingress…The World is Not What it Seems

Originally published on TheNerdistheWord July 2016

As a Niantic reaches incredible heights of popularity over the imergence of its most recent mobile game, its first location-based augmented reality endeavor, Ingress, has been undergoing a solid revival as new users join everyday. The mapping, stops, engine and functions of this game have been redeveloped and fine-tuned over years of strong activity to deliver an engrossing experience that feels practically real. Even still, international events, an in-depth plotline, large player-organized operations and daily battles wage on across the surface of the globe. Why not download Ingress, activate your scanner…and help us save the world?


____________________________________________________________________________________________

DISCLAIMER: The author of this is an Ingress Enlightened Agent. All Ingress Enlightened or Resistance philosophies are open to interpretation. If you are jealous, write your own piece and we might publish it.
____________________________________________________________________________________________

You are walking home following your usual path when a sudden realization hits you. It comes with a snap, like a rubber band hitting your cheek- the pain is real and you shut your eyes tightly for a moment, as new observations come into focus.

“What the heck am I doing?” you ask yourself, rubbing your temples.

You open your eyes again, and you see it!

A greyish, groggy shade of blue stretches across the landscape around you like an indelible sticky film. When did this happen? Why didn’t you notice it? You walk the streets around your home in disbelief; the blue light sweats out of all existing matter, goes through walls and enters the homes of unsuspecting neighbours. They swim through it, slothful, idle, their blank stares looking down. You try to stop a passing dog walker, try to reason with her, but she refuses to see the strange blue, she doesn’t want to hear about it, scampers off quickly. You wonder what can be done to reverse this as you start to walk aimlessly, any previously made humdrum plans forgotten.

As though summoned, a faint white glow calls out to you, like a murmur. You can see its mysterious light in the corner of your eye firstly, then manage to see it past a row of houses. Its luminosity can be seen between buildings, beyond fences. It takes you a while to find the park courtyard where it silently awaits. You wonder why you never bothered to explore the secret paths and wayward streets of your neighbourhood before. A little voice inside is pushing you to turn back…it feels like it’s the blue mass that is speaking to you: ‘Why not just go back home and accept this? You haven’t noticed until now, so it can’t be all that bad. Resist, it’s probably not even worth it. Let’s just go home.” Briskly walking on seems to shake off these doubts, and the urge to find the mysterious white light becomes more powerful…yet still, you feel almost drugged, your curiosity supressed.

You finally find it. It stands as tall as a building, the faint grey white light is oozing out from the ground surrounding a statue you have never bothered to really notice before. Your read the plaque and discover it is a monument raised to a nun who dedicated her life to working with orphaned children. She stands proudly, smiling, a hand on her heart. You reach out and touch her cold stone hand with your fingertips, and for a moment, you seem to connect with the memory, with the intentions and the zeal this woman left behind.

You hear footsteps behind you, a small group of people is approaching the statue, talking among themselves in a friendly manner. You turn to see them, and they see the confused look on your face.

“Are you feeling the XM?” One of them asks you nicely. When you don’t answer, they continue.
“It stands for Exotic Matter, there is still much we don’t know about it, but seems to emerge from places of importance, places of energy. Like this monument. We call them Portals.”

One of them asks if you have a smartphone, and if they can teach you how to activate a scanner so you can see the XM better. You follow their instructions and finally see a little marker on your screen where you stand, the white glow around the statue right in front of you, and the strange blue film, clearly not imagined, overlaid across the map.

 

“If you want to fight, you can activate these portals with your own power.”

Fight? You get a bit hung up on that word. What exactly do you need to do?
They show you that when you touched the statue earlier, the portal granted you with a weird looking item called a Resonator. Out of sheer instinct, you apply it within the portal, putting down with it your desire to dispel the oppressive blue energy.

The statue’s portal suddenly blooms with green light; a large beam rises like a tower into the sky. It shines through the park, bounces against the windows of nearby houses, flickers in the leaves of the trees. At the core of the portal, you see a faded silhouette unfold from a foetus position, they stretch out to their full height, arms extended and toes pointed.

“It’s me!” you exclaim, look at your new acquaintances in confusion. There stands a perfect reflection of you, bathed in green light.

“Welcome to the Enlightened!” You are told. “This is your first claimed portal, it will keep a sliver of your identity, your energy, for as long as we maintain and protect it. It is a beacon of knowledge, for those who want to keep an open mind to the mysteries of XM, and the changes it could incur for humanity.”

The speech is a bit cheesy but it does stir something within you, and you do feel a bit of an attachment towards your new portal. The green version of you gives you a little smile. Two words remain etched in your mind: Maintain and Protect.

The group comes a bit closer and each pulls out a resonator of their own; they seem more concentrated, more powerful. They attach another seven of the strange items to your portal, completing some sort of mosaic that seems to bolt down the bits of energy you gave it, solidifying it. You step back a bit, looking at the portal through your scanner, and again with your eyes; it’s beautiful.

Something is missing still. You want to free your home and the minds of your neighbours of the blue XM field applied upon it. You learn not only those portals must be claimed, but that enemy portals must also be taken down. Blue portals belong to the Resistance, the ones keeping everyone in a lull, wanting to protect humanity from change, afraid of evolution. With the help of your new teammates, you attack their portals and destroy their influence, dismantling the control they impose. Instead, you link three of your treasured green portals together creating an uplifting field, encouraging minds to be open to the future. Fields, like growing moss on a tree, multiply and spread across the landscape. You find yourself exploring further and further, finding new portals and discovering new paths.

You are an agent of the Enlightened; your new knowledge of XM has changed you forever. Everywhere you go from now on; you will feel the XM and seek ways of extending the territories of your faction. Of course, the Resistance agents attack continuously, trying to reverse your hard work and undo the effects of the enlightened light. As you learn to defend your portals by uniting with the rest of your faction… ‘you’ becomes a ‘we’.

We are the Enlightened and always will be.

We will roam the world and let wanderlust be the wind in our sails. We will climb to unexpected heights, visit the unseen below. We will eagerly visit the secret nooks where the best tea is served, solemnly, the forgotten parks where trees were planted in honor of good deeds, respectfully, the graveyards where the fallen rest. Without harming our environment and its ecosystems, we will travel in search of new natural wonders. The world is ours for the taking, so long as we are willing to fight for it.

The conflicts based around the discovery of XM wage on even as you read this. Join us! Bring your strength to the perpetual battle you have fought, beneath the surface, for your entire life.

Save

Flash Fiction: Unforgiving is Their Game

I curse at my gods when I awaken.

I lay on a lonely strip of sand barely high enough to emerge out of the low tidal waves. Sand and salt coat my burning throat. The sun is harsh on my swollen eyes, the sea lapping at my legs is ice cold. I rise painfully and look across the horizon; I have no idea where north and south are- all around me is gray sky and black ballooning waves. As far as my eyes can see, the ocean surrounds me. I could have ended up anywhere else…I would have drowned while unconscious, passed on in blissful ignorance. Some cruel destiny has pushed me on this strip of sand, that I know very well, will disappear once the tides eventually rise.

I curse because I cannot, now that I find myself alive, simply give up and allow myself to die.

A frustrating hope keeps my gaze moving across the horizon, looking for anything other than the blank, gray sky. A fog starts to roll in, making the task of searching for a passing ship more and more difficult. Light gets caught in the haze around me, making my surroundings unbearably bright and practically opaque.

Every now and again, a single black spot seems to be dancing in the corner of my eye. I try to discern what it could be, but my damaged sight toys with my hopeless mind, sometimes making me certain I can see a small shadow in the distance, and sometimes making it disappear. I want to stop looking altogether. I close my eyes and bend my head over my wet knees, but in not time at all again I find myself staring again at my possibly imaginary dark spot on the horizon. Was I merely kept alive to be thus tormented?

I should have died, but here I am, breathing, and within me the will to continue to live burns vividly. The immense, cold sea cannot extinguish it. My mind has clearly drawn out the line that separates this world and the next- I stand very close to it, but cannot cross it. So long as my lungs have not filled with salt water, that my heart beats, even if weakly, that my brain has not dissolved from dehydration, I cannot help but live. My nature makes me incapable of throwing myself back to the devices of the waves, my body could not help but swim, could not help but struggle to breathe. How cruel the flow of events is, and if puppeteers drive the stream of lives, how unforgiving is their game. Life, in this case, is an insult, cognizance, a tool of torture.

The fog becomes thinner as the sun seems to be getting lower behind the heavy overlay of clouds. The tides reach my knees and the sand, that has until now supported me, become fluid and impossible to rely on. As the sea reaches my elbows, my tired muscles start, by instinct, to tread water. I breathe slowly as I try to take control of my mind, and force my arms to stop. I want to be thankful that my agonizing dilemma has finally reached an end, I want to accept the final and obvious end to my, so far, evaded demise, but then…

I curse, seeing that my mysterious spot in the distance has gotten definitely bigger…and is definitely a ship.

 

 

 

Image CC0 Public Domain ; Unsplash https://pixabay.com/en/users/Unsplash-242387/