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Posted in Group Fiction on May 15, 2016
The woman smiled. She had conquered the Phoenix, ruler of all other birds, and forced her to masquerade as Jujak, the Vermillion Bird. The Azure Dragon, Cheongryong, had helped her capture the Phoenix and had given her the power to control it. She stood between Cheongryong and the Phoenix in front of a crowd of people. The plan was in motion.
Cheongryong had come to her as a girl, had read her heart and given her the power she desired. It corresponded with the portents that had surrounded her birth. She would rise to greatness and ruination, they had said.
She had the combined might of the East and South at her disposal. Cheongryong was dealing with the actual Jujak and would return in time, once the bird was ready to be conquered. She was free of the direct influence of the gods and was ready to move on her own.
The West was next, where the White Tiger dwelt. He was clever among the gods and his priests were clever among men, though she refused to count herself among men any longer. She was something more.
“Please,” she begged. “I must speak to him directly.” She knelt in supplication before the priest of the White Tiger.
The priest frowned at her. “He knows that your Phoenix is not the same as the Jujak of the South, though he knows not what you have done with her.”
She lay down on the ground, prostrate. “The Dragon came to me when I was a child. He said he brought my destiny. Who could spurn such an offer?”
A white tiger, Baek-ho himself, came from behind a screened panel, huffing through its lips. Twice the size of any living cat, he passed the priest and sniffed the air above the girl, drawing his lips back. “Rise,” he said, the whisper filling the room. “You speak the truth.”
She stayed on her knees, vulnerable to the god. “I come to ask for help,” she said. “His plan would have me conquer the gods, I ask instead for your help in defeating him.”
Baek-ho sniffed at her again. “What boon would you ask from me, and what would you give in return?”
“I ask half your power. I have no boon from Jujak, I have only the aid of you and the Hyeonmu to defeat the Dragon. I have nothing to give you but an oath that I will never seek to harm you.”
Baek-ho laid his head on top of hers and conferred his blessing. With it was the inability to use his own powers against himself, but her heart had spoken true. She meant him no harm.
Her meeting with the Black Turtle, Hyeonmu, was next. He was more cautious, but the fact that she already had the blessing of Baek-ho swayed him. The pieces were in play, now she had but to wait. Cheongryong would return at the end of winter. His powers would be in ascendancy. Jujak would still be weak. Until then she would learn about the powers she had gained. Hyeonmu was a wellspring of strength and protection and she learned spells that drew on this energy to keep other attacks at bay. Baek-ho was fierce but silent, waiting for the perfect moment to spring out of the grass and attack its prey.
The days were still cold when Cheongryong returned. “It is time,” he said. “We must strike now before she gains any strength. Take my power, strike her down.” He leaned down and kissed her on the forehead, imbuing her with nearly all of his power.
The Turtle within her stirred, drawing excess power to hide in its shell. The Tiger hid away, waiting to pounce and restrain the rest of the power within her. She climbed onto the dragon’s back, Phoenix at her side, and rode him to the Other Place where Jujak waited and railed against her captivity.
She stood before the bird, flanked by her immortal friends. “Why do you fight so hard?” she asked. “Is it not easier to rest? Save your strength. You will need it for when you escape.”
“You will never let me escape,” the bird screeched at her.
“I cannot live forever,” she pointed out. “Surrender. Give me your power willingly, we will save a long fight that neither of us wish to have.”
The bird puffed up and fluttered her wings before realizing the truth this girl spoke. She bowed her head and tore off one feather from a wing then passed it to the human before her. “Rule well, mortal. Pray for your death before my escape.”
She could feel the power surging in her. She turned on Cheongryong and threw him into the cage as well. He could no longer draw his power back from her.
“What are you doing?” he cried. “This wasn’t the plan!”
“This was the plan,” she said. “Your other friends will join you. You won’t be here long.” She climbed astride the Phoenix and returned to her home.
Sending the two remaining gods to the prison was simple, neither could withstand her might. She had not gone back on her word, imprisoning them caused them no harm and she only planned it as a temporary captivity.
As a child she had seen bodies lying in the streets. Murder. Rape. The world was broken. When the Azure Dragon had come, whispering in her ear of power and destiny, she embraced it. She had learned his weaknesses the same as she would for any other enemy. She had exploited him and usurped the powers offered, following her human nature. And now she would do as all other humans seemed to do: destroy.
Her reach was vast. How long it had seemed for her plans to come to this. She cared not for the power to remake the world in her image. She was of this Earth, after all, and if it burned she would burn with it. And so began the destruction.
She had been true to her word, the gods had not been mistreated or imprisoned for long. With nobody to believe in them they were weak when the bars fell from their prison. Their world had been destroyed, there was nothing left for them.
Posted in Journal on June 14, 2015
So here’s the challenge for next month. Posts are due by the 12th of July for the meeting on the 19th. Let the bodies hit the floor!
Posted in Group Fiction on May 3, 2015
The challenge was to use a sentence from the list below in a story:
Bonus challenge: use more than one of these sentences in the story.
The sentences are:
“The mysterious diary records the voice.”
“The stranger officiates the meal.”
“The shooter says goodbye to his love.”
“A glittering gem is not enough.”
“The memory we used to share is no longer coherent.”
“The old apple revels in its authority.”
“Rock music approaches at high velocity.”
“Sixty-Four comes asking for bread.”
“Abstraction is often one floor above you.”
“The river stole the gods.”
“Today marks the anniversary of the founding of Harmony. There will be a celebration on Saturday. End recording.”
The mysterious diary records the voice and saves it all to the central computer system. All of us are required to record our entries vocally rather than connect with the computer cybernetically. Tradition, the elders say.
“What’s for dinner?” Twenty-Seven asks. He is my partner, chosen by Harmony itself due to the high convergence of our memories. Much of our youth was spent in the same digital realms, we’ve known each other for years.
I check the storage units. “Unknown.”
Twenty-Seven comes to stand by my side. He reaches into the unit and removes soup base and lab-grown beef. “We will have noodles in seventeen minutes.”
I look at it. “How?” The food deliveries are not scheduled until tomorrow.
“Sixty-Four comes asking for bread. Every day. Fifty-Two is adept at making noodles. She is bringing a batch to us as payment today for all the bread we give her.”
Sixty-Four is a traditionalist. She and her partner rarely connect themselves to the computer. They attended the Old School, the kind with actual books and teachers. They read. And their homemade food, when it turns out well, is amazing. Neither of them have been able to perfect bread. It turns out what the founders of society referred to as the Barter System is still alive and well.
Twenty-Seven begins cooking the soup. “Don’t forget your entry,” he says. “You haven’t made one all week.”
We are required to make at least one diary entry a week. Most of us make more. The system has split us all into enclaves and sends ten new students to each enclave every year. We have no names or locations, we have numbers and partners. Our enclave in particular is apparently designed to test foodstuffs and improve recipes for society as a whole. Ours is a luxurious life, no real work to be done.
There are rumors, especially among the younger students and the traditionalists, that Harmony is not what she once was. The system is breaking down. With this in mind I plug in as little as possible. It is dangerous to think of evil coming to Harmony, she will read the thoughts. Some say she can overwrite them and implant new ones. I say that’s terrifying. If we can’t trust our memories, what can we trust?
“Begin recording, Enclave B19E384, unit Thirty-Two. Happy anniversary, Harmony. Forty-five thousand years ago today society as we know it was founded.”
Sixty-Four left a note for me with the noodles. A time and location. A meeting. All of the Seventies are there. They’re the youngest ones at the enclave. Most of the Sixties and Fifties too, a handful of Forties, and me. I’m the oldest. They stare at me.
Seventy-Five speaks. She’s tall, slender, dark, and beautiful. She holds up a memory chit. “At my home before the splitting into enclaves we had proof that Harmony was rewriting people’s memories. All of my classmates were given these chits. Tonight, the anniversary of the founding of Harmony, we are to spread them to as many who are willing to listen as we can. On Saturday when the festivities broadcast, we all plug in to the city together. We will spread the truth.”
“We will all be destroyed. Harmony won’t tolerate such dissent.” Sixty-Seven is more pro-Harmony than most in her year. “I refuse.”
Seventy-One, her partner, turns and throws her against the wall. “Your refusal will destroy us all.”
Seventy-Five holds the chit over Sixty-Seven’s wireless port and initiates a transfer while Seventy-One holds her down. “It is done,” she says. “The room is locked. Nobody will leave until we all have the data.” It remains unspoken that nobody will connect to the network until Saturday. To do so would be admitting to treachery. Traitors are dealt with ruthlessly by Harmony.
I return home. Twenty-Seven is not happy that I left so suddenly after dinner. He had wanted to connect with me, work on some brain challenges that had been left as recreation. I have to decline and say I’m saving all of my recreational connections for Saturday. So many people will be connected, we will be able to relive our memories and strengthen the links between them. Or, if Seventy-Five’s plan works, we will be able to challenge Harmony and her interference in our own minds. Only time will tell.
Saturday cannot come soon enough. Most of the working enclaves have Saturdays off, it is the perfect time for a global celebration. With the enclaves spread out deep under the surface and away from the influence of Outsiders and the sun we are no longer beholden to time zones, everything is synchronized. I steel my nerves and plug in as the celebration begins.
Twenty-Seven comes to me shortly. He looks confused. “What have you done?”
“What is necessary.” Harmony is not to be trusted. She is a puppet-master and we are her toys. The information is spreading among all of her people. Twenty-Seven was connected in the other room. There’s no way he doesn’t know what’s going on. “I will not be a pet.”
He sits beside me and plugs into me directly. We try to synchronize. We’re looking for the familiarity we once had, the childhood explorations of the central computer system. It skips and jumps, the synchrony we have grown accustomed to is gone. The memory we used to share is no longer coherent. Further proof of the damning evidence spreading throughout the system.
“Give me the data,” he says. He wants to share it.
“They will come after you,” I say.
He smiles. “If they do, they are only proving how corrupt Harmony is. Others will know. This knowledge will spread.”
“Begin recording, Enclave B19E384, unit Thirty-Two. Harmony has assigned me a new partner. As it turns out, my last one was a traitor. He spread dissent and lies through Harmony during the anniversary celebrations.”