Category Archives: Inopinum

VOID the STORM 101-END

The VoidThe Storm

The following is a short story that preludes a series of novels entitled HIGHSIX:

The sun was coming up and Master Grabe had yet to sleep. He’d replaced the candles once and they were already melted through. He moved to the window, thankful for the new light, and sat on the sill to continue reading.

‘By this time, I lost my ability to control my tongue so I stopped using it. My mates eventually let me be, though I’d hear them talking. It mattered none. I could see the logical conclusion to this curse and knew that biting my tongue was only biding my time. Soon, I will be found out for what I have chosen. Each day that passes I can feel the growth of anxiety looming over me ever more. It is all I think about. I know it will come and it will be terrible, but I will laugh through all of it. One can not be caught if they do not allow themselves to fall. The terror that comes from doubt is absolutely necessary. Terror is hilarious. SEVILLIVES, SEVILLIVES, SEVILLIVES, SEVILLIVES.’

Master Grabe didn’t hear the knock on his door, the sound of it creaking open and shut or the sound of his name being called. His eyes rose from the page only once out of his peripheral vision he noticed his page standing there.

He whipped his neck and was surprised at the bitterness in his voice. “What?”

“Are you ill?” asked Bo.

The kid looked hurt. “No, no, I’m sorry, I’m just…studying. What is it?”

“The bells have rung. Your robes are ready.”

Master Grabe looked out the window. The sun was not coming up, but had already come. It was free of the trees of The Hanging Jungle and well passed the point of his usual waking.

“You seem ill. Do you need tea? I can bring you breakfast if you wish.”

“No,” said Master Grabe. “I mean…no tea, but yes. I am ill. Leave me for the day, but bring me lunch after you eat. Cancel my classes.”

“But Master, it’s the seventh day. You are due to speak at-”

“Ill,” said Master Grabe. “Tell them. Go.”

Bo bowed and left him to his scroll. The paper was so long and he had been careless in rerolling it as he read. The top hung from his fingers and was snaked along the floor. He blinked his eyes to return them to focus and continued reading.

‘Our world is a lie. The histories teach the character of my blessed Fourth God as chaotic and evil, but in truth, Jokkol is the only consistent God of The High SIX. Realism is not evil no matter how harsh that reality may be. What separates The God of Teeth from the others is His or Her indifference to self. Each of the other is selfish and it is due to this distinction that they have shunned Jokkol. They refuse to recognize truth outside of what supports them as most deserving and just to hold the first place of birth order and power. They refuse to acknowledge their inconsistencies, refuse to respond to or acknowledge any question that would challenge their supremacy. It is not possible to worship all of The High SIX and any combination of the gods is equally impossible. It is taught that if you do not give yourself to a God than you are sent to The Void for all eternity to exist in nothing, becoming nothing yourself. If this is your only concern in this world then you are just as selfish as any of the other five gods. Those that give themselves to Jokkol are promised nothing in life after this. Is not that the most selfless way to live? To abandon your hopes of salvation and instead embrace the ambiguous? I have found my savior and I have rejected the silly presumptions of gods that can’t back what they promise. Sarora is a slut. Ethaum is a coward. Nithya is a prude, Mamoth is a tyrant and Xzicxy is the worst of all. The God of Tongue is a liar. I have never felt Xzicxy’s presence. I have been forced to worship the silly Green God my entire life and it was not until I learned of the great Orange God that I felt my spirit was touched. I know I will be excommunicated, but I have no fear. I laugh at fear. Fear is hilarious. I know I will be tortured. Torture too is hilarious and each act of revolt will bring me closer to my God. With every attempt to return me to Xzicxy, with every lash or beat or bruise, with every undue injury and refused kindness, I will worship Jokkol, my God of Teeth, my Orange God, The Fourth God, the Only God, and I will close my eyes and imagine Him, imagine Her, smiling, grinning their beautiful teeth. I will revel in their laughter. I will be saved! SEVILLIVES, SEVILLIVES, SEVILLIVES, SEVILLIVES.’

Master Grabe looked out over The Hanging Jungle after he read the signature at the end of the scroll.

The word ‘Vonx’ looped in his mind and he couldn’t remember his ex-student’s actual name. He watched the sun rise until he could see it no longer and then fell asleep on the window sill not realizing he hadn’t prayed to The God of Tongue in days.

 *      *      *      *      *      *

On the southwest side of SIX where the Desert of Nails ends and the Orange Lands begin, Vonx awoke because the backs of his hands were throbbing. He opened his eyes to see the earth moving below him and was confused. Instead of sand, it was dirt. He moved his hands from sliding against the ground to see their backs black with dirt and scabbed blood, but he forgot about them once he saw the live bed of scales he laid on.

“Are you afraid?” he heard and looked up to see a black silhouette floating ahead, moving backward as if leading the bobbing head of the giant desert lizard.

Vonx tried to move his mouth, but it was so dry that the skin of his lips tore away.

“You are afraid,” said the shadowy figure.

It was light out, but there was shade. Above the clouds covered the sun and a crack of lightning answered for him. Rain fell and stung his raw back.

“I have saved you. Go back to sleep. You will be treated soon.”

Vonx tried to open his mouth again, but the fatigue from his raised neck was too much and so he let his head fall back to the scales.

He came to inside a hut with the heat now burning his front instead of back. Thunder rumbled and rain clashed above him.

“Sevil lives,” he heard and noticed then that he was suspended in a net, lying on his chest with his arms dangling. Smoke entered his lungs and the voice continued the chant. “Sevil lives, Sevil lives, Sevil lives, Sevil lives.”

Below him, a circle of orange skinned men and women kneeled, naked except for the animal bones and teeth that hung from them. Together, they all took up the chant.

“SEVIL LIVES, SEVIL LIVES, SEVIL LIVES, SEVIL LIVES!”

The smoke became thick and suffocating. His torso became hot and with the swaying of the net he turned his neck to see a fire burning below him.

“Sevil lives,” said the first voice. He turned his neck to see the Master of Teeth. The man too was covered completely with the traditional orange pollen of the virral flower, but unlike the others, his face was covered with a mask composed all of teeth. There were hundreds of them that connected into a rotting mosaic of yellow, brown and black.

“SEVIL LIVES, SEVIL LIVES, SEVIL LIVES, SEVIL LIVES!”

The net lowered and Vonx’s body jolted toward the flame, stopping hardly above the reaching tip. “No! No!” he yelled and laughter filled the hut.

“NO, NO, NO, NO!” the Orange people chanted before falling back in to laughter.

The Master of Teeth silenced them by waving his skull mounted staff over the fire beneath Vonx who recognized the skull and noticed then the bloody lizard skin to the side. Below him in a circle around the fire, the Orange people held up their dripping meat.

Vonx’s heart beat furiously. “No!” he screamed again. The fire burned intensely and he tried to move his arms, but his body didn’t respond. He tried his legs and then his back and shoulders, but nothing happened. His fingers and toes,  hands and feet, all played dead. He rolled his neck around desperately.

“No scream,” said The Master of Teeth. “Laugh.”

DROUGHT the DESERT 099-100

The DroughtThe Desert

The following is a short story that preludes a series of novels entitled HIGHSIX:

Master Grabe never cared for Tinn. The boy paid his lectures no attention, instead using the course book to conceal alternate study. Grabe would let him, though. His students weren’t slaves. If they wanted to learn, they would. If they didn’t it was between them and The God of Tongue. As the youngest Master in the Hall of Tongue, he was alone in this practice.

Tinn’s hair was orange and over the school year it grew until it hung over his face and around his head like a mushroom. The boy’s hygiene was bad, which Grabe was able to perceive from the empty seats around him.

While Tinn paid no attention, he did pass his oral exams flawlessly and his lecture on the similarities between ‘The Secondary Gods’ was inspired, though it infuriated the more devout students who called him blasphemous for comparing Mamoth and Jokkol to Xzicxy.

Grabe never pictured Tinn becoming an excommunicate, but it made sense.

Supposedly, Tinn was worshipping The God of Teeth. Acknowledgement of the other gods of The High SIX was not forbidden, but actual worship was dangerous, especially worship to arguably the most dangerous of the SIX.

Any books that documented or mapped the dangerous Orange Lands were mysteriously absent from the library shelves. Other books not completely dedicated to the Orange God, but with at least sections dedicated to him were missing those pages. Every copy of ‘The Short Lives of Jokkol’ was gone as well as field journals documenting the mostly ruined country to the southwest of Center City. Other books that depicted illustrations of Jokkol were defaced with crowns atop his head. Most damning though was the phrase ‘SEVILLIVES’ he had scratched in to the margins.

That same phrase was what Tinn’s bunking mates claimed he spoke in his sleep. Over and again they woke Tinn from muttering unintelligibly. Each time he sat up and spoke the words, eyes still closed, saying, “SEVILLIVES, SEVILLIVES, SEVILLIVES, SEVILLIVES.”

The worship of The God of Teeth could not be tolerated. Master Grabe knew already the boy would lose an eye and undergo deprogramming with Master Tyliss. Grabe didn’t like to even look at Tyliss let alone hear the beast speak. If it were Grabe in Tinn’s position, he would have kept the eye and embraced excommunication. No one came back from the desert. Whatever was there though, he would have preferred to meet with both eyes functional. Besides, another offense he’d be blind and after that he’d be blind in the desert.

Master Grabe entered the Sanctuary of Tongue just as Master Tyliss was putting the knife to Tinn’s back. The Sanctuary made his stomach turn with vertigo. The ceiling was so high that his poor vision blurred it, obstructing the view of how high it truly went, though it made him sick none the less.

Surrounding the altar was the rest of the masters. They wore the traditional green cloaks, hood up, and Grabe made sure to pull his own hood up before he joined them.

Master Tyliss held a strip of Tinn’s skin high in the air as he pulled it back, slicing with the knife under to pull more. Grabe had seen this before, but it was the first time the excommunicate had ever been silent for the process.

Not only did this mean that Tinn had passed on removing an eye for penance to The God of Tongue, but it meant that the boy would be meeting The Desert of Nails soon. First Master Tyliss would have to finish flaying the X off his ex-student’s back. Then, Tinn would be paraded through the Budded Isles and Meral City where he would be whipped, beat and stoned. If he made it to The Desert of Nails alive, his feet wouldn’t get him very far.

Master Grabe turned around. Whether it was the vertigo of the endless ceiling or Tinn’s silence that was making him dizzy he didn’t know, but he was sure now that losing an eye would have been the smarter choice.

Back in his quarters, Grabe’s mind was a drought. He chose sleep over prayer though the sun was still up.

 *      *      *      *      *      *

No matter how many times he insisted they called him Vonx they wouldn’t.

“Out the boat, Tinny,” demanded the shirtless enforcer. “Time to see how little mercy your God of Teeth has.”

Vonx didn’t respond and so he got another crack to the head. The stick had been used on him so many times that this time it broke and Vonx laughed. “Sevil lives,” he said, but was shut up from repeating it all four times with a fist to the temple. His vision was fuzzy before, but this time blood obstructed him.

The enforcer pulled him off the boat to the sandy beach and Vonx found his footing only after disregarding his vision. They walked through the brush until the sun was in the sky behind them. The vegetation dissipated until there was only sandy wind and then the enforcer stopped them.

His hands were bound with rope to another excommunicate’s neck behind him. Vonx was the only one out of the three with eyes. He hadn’t spoken to either of them though they spoke plenty. One was excommunicated for his third rape, the other for his third murder and he imagined them doing this blind, laughing as they spoke. Bound and blind, they could only curse him.

They stopped once there was no shade and the sun stung his back.

“The three of you are now free,” said Master Ohm. “Before you is The Desert of Nails. The God of Tongue is forgiving to an extent, but you have each proven yourselves unwilling to reform. I will bless you with water and I will pray for you that The God of Hands may find mercy on your damaged souls.”

Master Ohm poured water in to each of the blind men’s mouths, but Vonx kept his mouth shut and head down.

“Is your faith so strong in The Fourth God that you refuse drink from The Third?”

Vonx raised his head. “The God of Tongue can tongue my ass.”

The enforcer raised his hand, but Master Ohm stopped him by waving his own. “What is it about The God of Teeth that has sealed your faith? Has not The God of Tongue spoken to you?”

Vonx craned his neck and tried to collect saliva to spit, but only the sand on his lips sputtered off.

“You are damned. May your death be slow and merciless.”

Vonx laughed, but it turned in to a cough bringing blood in to his mouth. “Sevil lives, Sevil lives, Sevil lives, Sevil lives,” he said weakly before splattering Master Ohm’s face with blood.

The enforcer’s fist punched through his jaw easily and Vonx hit the sand.

When he opened his eyes, his hands were no longer bound. He raised himself from the sand and after a moment of wobbling managed to stay on his feet. The wind had erased the footprints and the sun was high in the sky. His back stung terribly from his lost skin, but his mouth was so dry he couldn’t swallow. He took a step, then another, and then broke in to a jog to avoid falling which ended with his face in the sand.

“I renounce the first,” said Vonx as he clawed the desert sand and used it to slide himself forward. “I renounce the second and the third.” He swung his other arm out and dug his fingers in to the sand. “I renounce the fifth and the sixth.” He pulled himself forward again, the desert cutting his bare chest. “My life for You Jokkol. My life for You, The Fourth God, The Laughing God, The Orange God. Sevil lives, Sevil lives, Sevil lives, Sevil lives!”

The sun was bright and blinding and everything hurt, but the darkness came easily and Vonx let it take him, praying to Teeth and laughing himself into unconsciousness.

SERPENT the MILLIONS 097-098

The SerpentThe Millions

The following is a short story that preludes a series of novels entitled HIGHSIX:

Demeter Thorpe spat as he left The Council of Skol. His stomach rumbled. He had already eaten his dinner, two pounds of rare steak with a tall glass of goat milk, but he was ravenous all of a sudden. Anger more than anything controlled his appetite.

He knew ahead of time that they would reject his proposal. Old men didn’t like to listen to reason, especially when it collapsed their foundation of knowledge. Knowing he knew better wasn’t enough. If only it was just his conditions that restricted others from giving him credibility. He was short, four and a half feet tall, fat, 230 pounds, and afflicted with a skin disorder called the gloss that made his skin so pale it was almost translucent.

“Fools upon fools,” he said aloud. So rarely in company of willing listeners, Demeter made habit of speaking to Mamoth. “Mercy, mercy. If I don’t drown in stupidity, Your name be blessed.”

Demeter put on his black wolf skin coat, his black sun hat and his protective indigo tinted shades before leaving the Temple of Skol. He walked down the white marble steps under the stars to the white brick road. His boots clicked against them and though he was used to it, his mind still went to the millions of dead below him. Mothopolis was built with the dead. Their bones were ground and mixed in to the concrete and bricks, ensuring their souls would belong to the cause of The God of Bones forever.

He was staying at the Luture Manor. It was the only friendly connection Demeter had in Mothopolis and each time he came he took board with his once mentor, Elder Finnis Luture. They met when Finnis was just newly crowned a Master of Bones and Demeter was still a child. He taught Demeter the histories and introduced him to the only love he had ever known besides The God of Bones: numbers.

Though he had stayed there with each visit back to Mothopolis, Luture Manor looked as if it had grown each time. There were always six stories, but Demeter counted each time anyway, swearing a seventh had popped up below the indigo roof and reptilian skeletal gargoyles. The gate was locked, due to the hour, but he reached between the bars to unlock it as he always did anyway. The yard seemed longer, but there was no sign of work done to extend the grounds.

When he was finally waddling up the steps, his knee giving him trouble again as well his mouth salivating just thinking of the decanter waiting for him, the front doors opened.

“Saleyah,” said Demeter. “Too kind of you. You weren’t waiting on me were you? It makes me ill just to think of such beauty waiting at the window.”

The girl’s scarred face twisted in to what Demeter had come to hope was a smile, but her disfigurement veiled the girl’s emotion from him and it could have just as well been a grimace.

“I apologize for the hour of my arrival. The Council keeps late hours no doubt. Have you dressed Finnis for bed yet? I was hoping to meet with him before I retire.”

“He -aits hor -ou,” she said. “Hood?”

“No, no, darling, I’ve more than had my fill for the day. I only hope to touch him in sickness as he did me in youth.”

Saleyah took his coat and hat, then bowed and disappeared.

“Beautiful,” said Demeter to Mamoth once Saleyah was out of ear shot and then began the long trip up the steps. He could have taken the lift, but the attendant was no doubt off duty and he had no desire to see anyone else tonight.

By the time Demeter had climbed the stairs and made his way to the back end of the manor to Luture’s door, Saleyah was already opening it from the inside.

“Sweeter every time I see you,” said Demeter. “If you wouldn’t mind, I know I said…” but he trailed off as Saleyah pointed to the table where a thick cut of meat steamed beside a decanter full of the good red. “You are too good to me, dear. One of these days I’m going to sweep you up and take you out of this place. I’ll put a baby in your belly and feed you grapes from the vine. I’ll-”

Hilthy -oy,” said Saleyah letting the door close as she walked away.

Demeter watched her leave. His mouth filled with saliva. “Exquisite.”

Slave mutilation was one of the privileges of becoming a Master of Bones. Each line had their own way of marking their slaves. The Rotsam’s shaved their slave’s heads and removed their ears. The Rexler’s split their slave’s top lip to the nose and bottom lip to the chin. The Modune’s removed their index and ring fingers and the Luture’s burned their slave’s faces. In the case of Saleyah, the fire had taken most of her lips causing her speech impediment.

Demeter locked the door after downing half of the decanter. The warm red filled him deeply and while he no longer felt hunger, he bit in to the perfectly rare steak and chewed with his eyes closed. This life was good, but not his. “One day,” he said to Mamoth. “Sixth of SIX willing.”

He pulled the chair next to Finnis in closer, but before sitting down went back for another bite of the chewy steak, moaning as the juices filled his mouth with each chew. He brought the decanter back to the seat with him and chugged down the hunk of meat, loving the near choking sensation.

“How was it?” asked Demeter for Elder Finnis. “Well, I made it up all the stairs at least. Beat you there now didn’t I?” He took a long pull from the decanter leaving it only a third left.

Elder Finnis Luture could no longer speak. His eyes were open, but he was no longer capable of moving his head to see Demeter.

“Only teasing there. Don’t take offense. You know, if it were up to me I’d have had them wheel you up those steps. A silly rule, no doubt. I’m sure if Mamoth had made it passed his twenties he would have been wheeled up to his seat. One little trip, a misstep even if you did take a knee, not enough if you ask me to earn retirement.”

Demeter took another drink, leaving only a fourth left.

“You’re right. Don’t blame the council. Rules are rules. You live by them, you die by them, you live to die by them, you die to live by them and it’s the only way it should be. You know, all they had to do was listen. No one in Mothopolis listens. It’s a city full of talkers only silent when they eat, drink or think of what next to say.”

Demeter drank again. He swallowed, stared through his indigo shades and then removed them.

Pointing with them, he said, “Someone like you doesn’t get to see it like I have. You sit too high, too comfortable. Here.”

Demeter stepped off the seat and then hopped beside Elder Finnis Luture. The bed tipped with his weight and so Demeter leaned over his carpeted legs.

“Try this,” he said and placed the glasses over the open immobile eyes of Finnis. “There you go. Much better. You see, it makes perfect sense.”

Demeter finished the decanter and tossed it over his shoulder. It clinked against the wood floor, but didn’t break. He pulled the covers back and reached below the old man’s undergarments. He found his penis, withered and thin, and gripped it tightly.

“The Great Lie was a lie. Before The Great Lie, 145326, Sarora, Jokkol and Nithya conspired to make war upon the next reincarnation, employing the Demonks to infiltrate Marrow City and kidnap The High SIX as babes so as to skip the reign of Mamoth as first born, 614532. As the story goes, the Demonks were successful and made it to The Falling Tunnel of Center City, but instead of three girls and three boys there were two girls and four boys. Jokkol had switched sexes. The Demonks consulted their God of Eyes who instructed them to throw Jokkol, Xzicxy and Mamoth into The Falling Tunnel, saving Ethaum instead because the male incarnation of Jokkol was undoubtedly evil. Since that incarnation of The High SIX, the First, Second and Fifth God have locked in the higher birth order for six generations. So The Great Lie was to Jokkol as the histories teach. After the six generations, once Ethaum dies ending our current incarnation of 215463, Mamoth is supposed to return as first in birth order, giving Him a new start as first born, returning to 614532.”

Demeter looked around for his drink, remembered it gone and then pulled viciously at Elder Finnis Luture’s penis, twisting and digging in his nails.

“Lies. All lies. I know the truth because I know the numbers. You see, Sarora had it right. Alliance has to be made, but she couldn’t risk a male ruining her chance to rule. They didn’t throw in three. They threw in four. They got rid of all the males and it’s taken six generations for the cycle to reset. The curse is lifted when Ethaum dies.”

Demeter unclenched his fingers from Finnis when he noticed they were wet. He inspected his hand and wiped away the blood on the quilt. He took his shades back and Elder Luture’s eyes were closed. He hopped off the bed and leaned over with his lips to his once mentor’s ear.

“I’ve seen The Serpent and I know what to do. I thank Mamoth for every moment you spend in pain. May your life be long and intolerable .”

Demeter shoved the rest of the steak into his mouth and left to his quarters, anxious to taste more of Luture’s good deep red.

CALM the MADNESS 095-096

The CalmThe Madness

The following is a short story that preludes a series of novels entitled HIGHSIX:

Beneath The Desert of Nails, the young girl shivered. She was not used to the chilled air of the underground and was still dressed nicely for the dinner party she wouldn’t be attending tonight.

“Look at me,” said Mother Devusi. She raised the young girl’s eyes with her chin and forefinger. “No matter what happens, I am your mother now. There are trials in life. You have had many and this will be just one more. I will be right here waiting for you. Trust in Nithya. She has chosen me to choose you. You are special and The God of Hands has recognized that and sought you out.”

The girl knew it was obvious she was crying, but Mother Devusi showed no care.

“You are finally home, child. Now come and wash,” she said. “Your face and hands must be clean before I present you.”

The young girl used her knuckles to rid her eyes of tears and sniffled back her drippy nose. She noticed then that the room they were in was wall to wall and floor to ceiling stone. Etched into the surface was letters she couldn’t connect into words.

Mother Devusi brought her before a raised pool of water the girl mistook for a bird bath. Hundreds of hands were masterly cut from the same piece of stone as the rest of the room and looked as if they all gripped the wine glass shaped structure. Beyond it was a stone throne which too was composed of hands carved from the same rock the room was. It was empty, but still commanded her attention anyway. Her eyes didn’t leave until Mother Devusi spoke again.

“Wash and then kneel before Nithya’s throne. I will leave you to Her.” Mother Devusi reached in to the pool of water. It was opaque, but the reflecting candle light made the surface look like it was covered in a swirling rainbow. She opened up her sleeve and the girl couldn’t understand her new mother’s next quietly spoken words. A reptilian head rose from the liquid and crawled in to her sleeve swiftly, but the girl saw enough to notice its scales were a bright yellow, not reflecting light but shining its own from beneath.

The doors closed behind Mother Devusi and the young girl thought to not touch the liquid. She bit down on her tongue to stop more tears from coming. She was at the Mother’s mercy. If she disobeyed, there was no telling what they would do to her. She had been brought to this place so few had seen and if she refused she doubted they would let her leave. Even if they did and she got back home, come the night she would already be wishing herself to be back here.

‘You don’t have to,’ she heard. ‘Leave and you can go back to everything you once were. Stay and you can be what you never before could.’

The voice sounded like hers, but confident, and so she exhaled, preparing herself to obey.

Her tears were dried and she relaxed her jaw from gritting her teeth down in to her tongue. She ignored the taste of blood and then inhaled deeply before digging her hands in to the swirling rainbow liquid. Her cupped hands splashed the liquid into her face. She did it over and over until she was rubbing it in. She pushed through until she felt the slippery bottom and then rubbed her hands together. She brought them out, satisfied she had done what she was instructed to and ran her wet fingers through her hair. She wiped the wetness from her eyes and walked around the standing basin to kneel before the stone throne.

When her knees touched the ground she tried to close her eyes, but found them frozen. She shook her head, but her eyelids stayed still. The room looked as it had before. She looked down to her hands and they too were the same. She looked up to the throne and inhaled a gasp. There was no throne, but in its place a door. She recognized the pealing black paint and the bronze handle. It was unmistakably the door to her home, even the circle window at the top with the stained glass letter J in the middle.

“No,” she said aloud and rose to grab the handle. It turned and she walked in to the entryway of her home, the same as she’d left it this morning. The maroon carpet was the same, her father’s boots and her mother’s sandals sat as they always did in the corner. At the end of the hall was the portrait she remembered sitting hours for to be painted. Her father’s face stern with pride, her mother’s coarse duty stricken face and her own face, quiet and simple, but ruined and sad.

She heard a yelp and once again was moving before it had registered in her mind to. She turned the corner in to the living room and couldn’t breathe. There she was, wearing the same dress she wore now, but hiked up over the top of her hips, with her uncle, slacks to the floor, ramming his pelvis in to her. She backed away in to the dining room and stopped as she bumped the table. There she was too, her cousin’s hands over her mouth, wearing the same dress hiked up with her limp legs bouncing as he pulled her in to him. She ran through to the kitchen where she was on her knees in front of her neighbor, choking and crying. She turned around again and had to cover her ears as the sounds of herself squealing, weeping, suffering wouldn’t dissipate. They reverberated within her home, bouncing back and forth off the walls, but never escaping.

“Sweety doll!” she heard. “Come here. Come to Daddy.” Her body moved against her will and she was then in front of her father. “You’re filthy,” he said. “How dare you. You don’t deserve these clothes if you’re just going to ruin them.”

His mouth opened wide and his teeth wiggled.

“Take them off,” he said and his teeth fell from his mouth. “Give me your clothes.”

The teeth clinked against the floor, bouncing but never settling, the sound repeating over and over. She looked back up to him and more teeth grew in their place.

“How dare you disrespect me,” he grumbled, but before he could finish, his new teeth were falling and clashing to the ground with the others.

“Fuck her,” growled her uncle from the living room.

“Fuck her,” grunted her cousin from the dining room.

She was dead on the couch and she was dead on the table and their teeth were falling too, hopping across the floor and never stopping.

“I’m going to have to. You need to learn your lesson.”

The teeth were all over, covering her sandals, chattering against her skin and then their mouths were raining teeth. They rose to her ankles and then calves and she couldn’t move to back away.

“Show me yourself,” her father said as his tongue hung passed his chin, teeth sliding down with dripping saliva.

The teeth climbed to her knees and then thighs and the noise hurt more so she covered her ears. The teeth reached her waist and she could feel them consuming her, making her disappear.

Her father said something, but his tongue hung to his chest and the fluttering teeth made it unintelligible. He ripped her dress, his fingernails tearing skin away in stripes, and her hardly budded breasts were frozen exposed.

Then the sound was gone. The teeth still rose passed her tailbone and up to the bottom of her rib cage, but she could hear nothing. She lowered her hands in front of her and in her palms were her ears. She looked up to her father who no longer looked human, only a slobbering and flailing man, his skin sagging, almost melting.

“No,” she said. She was gone from the couch where her uncle’s head was all that was visible above the teeth. She was gone from the table where her cousin stared at her in bewilderment. Her father screamed, but it didn’t matter. She might as well have been watching him with a telescope blocks away.

Her father raised his fist, her uncle climbed over the teeth toward her and her cousin swam atop the teeth to her.

“Nithya,” she said and as soon as she did she felt the heat in her hands. The teeth receded from her and she raised her hands in front of her. They glowed so bright, but she was done with surprise and so clapped them in front of her. The teeth crumbled away into dust as her father exploded and disappeared under the teeth. She outstretched her arms and squeezed her fists, not even watching as her uncle and cousin showed their ugly innards. She remembered her neighbor and it was all that was needed as she could feel his life extinguishing behind her.

The teeth retreated, leaving a path to the door. She took off her dress and opened the door to neon yellow light. She fell in and welcomed unconsciousness like never before.

Her nightmares were gone and so instead she dreamt.

WHITEOUT the MOUNTAIN 093-094

The WhiteoutThe Mountain

The following is a short story that preludes a series of novels entitled HIGHSIX:

The mute felt no emotion and only bowed to his Elder as he accepted his duty and took the day’s worth of provisions in a pack. No words were exchanged between him and his fellow Demonks because no one in The Vessel Monastery had a tongue to speak with.

They wrapped him with skins all over, covering his face until his eyes were of no more use and so he closed them and began the prayer within his head to The First God.

‘Keep me in Your sight,’ he demanded internally. ‘Hold me within Your focus and do not let me stray from the favor of Your gaze.’

Despite his layers, he felt the rush of dead air envelop him and heard the thick doors of the monastery shut behind him. He began his walk, ridding himself of memories. They would not last him for more than a hundred steps. Only Mountain was always changing and at this altitude, the highest known point in The Land of SIX, memory would surely lead to a frozen death. Instead, he repeated the prayer, ‘Keep me in Your sight,’ and took each step in faith as he waited for The God of Eyes to show him what he needed to see.

There was much to fear on Only Mountain for those that were still capable of that emotion. Giant arctic eagles, called sampry, with a wingspan over six times the height of a man, nested here. They dug holes with their beaks into the hard rock above where the clouds would reach and uprooted whole trees to make their nests. They chewed their prey into a pulp before letting the remains dribble out and into the mouths of their young.

Often, this prey was people.

Hopefuls who wished to show themselves faithful to The God of Eyes would set out annually from the village towns at the base of Only Mountain for The Joyous Morn. As the sun rose, willing men and women, and often unwilling teens, were sent up the mountain all together in hopes that The First God would find them in her favor.

Their numbers were usually in the hundreds upon departure and only about half on average made it to The Tear Drop. From there, only a fraction continued on and then only a fraction of that fraction made it through the whiteout. The storm of snow was always running above and it was only from above the clouds and their constant flurries that the tip of Only Mountain could be seen.

Within the whiteout and around The Tear Drop, the travelers weren’t safe from the sampry, but above the clouds, death was considered certain. Unless The God of Eyes intervened.

The mute continued over the rocks without sight. The ground was becoming steeper as he went and he kept his pace as even as he could so as not to fall in to a run down the mountain. At any moment the ground could give out below him and he could find himself falling to his death, but he felt this wouldn’t happen. His god had yet to show him anything, but he thought the prayer again and again to push any thoughts from his mind.

When he was hardly a man, his father had pushed him out of his home, not caring whether he trekked up Only or made his way south into the Orange Lands or even if he stayed in The Lashes and begged for food. His father never liked him, but to be fair he never liked his father. His mother was shrewd and lost interest in him once he was taller than her.

He set off on The Joyous Morn with the rest of them. He saw a woman break her leg falling in between uneven rocks and disregarded her like the rest of them. He saw a cougar eat a man alive, even heard his bones crunching. He saw a boy slip off the edge and disappear between the evergreens below. By the time he reached The Tear Drop, he didn’t recognize anyone.

They were served tall glasses that steamed with warmth. He was hungry and thirsty and would have drunk the entire glass if he hadn’t closed his eyes to pray first.

‘Keep me in Your sight, my God,’ he thought. ‘Show me Your path so that I might follow You.’

Before he could open his eyes, he felt his skin rush with warmth and his stomach shrink out of discomfort. His eyes remained squeezed shut as the world formed around him. From above, he saw himself with his head bent over the steam of his drink. All around him, the others moved in a flurry of speed. They downed their drinks and filled their cups again and again with pitchers. They laughed maniacally, slapping each other, hugging each other, and eventually they were on top of the tables, dancing and shedding their clothes. All around him, they became naked and he watched as his body was still and all of the others thrashed their way in and out of each other, rolling on the ground, bent over tables and clumped together in piles with their mouths sucking each other.

They passed out one by one, laying atop each other and snoring away their drunkenness. It wasn’t until they were all immobile, though it lasted only seconds, that his mind shot back in to his body. He ran in to the cold rushing air, stepping over their bodies to get there.

He ran through the night, through the whiteout and up past the top of the clouds in frenzy. He didn’t know about the sampry then. He didn’t see one then and learned of their existence only after his exhausted and near dead body crawled to the doors of The Vessel Monastery.

Still no sight from his god, but he prayed none the less until he could mistake the beating of wings above him for wind no longer.

‘Do what You would,’ he thought, maintaining pace. ‘Nothing happens outside Your will.’

Just as before, his mind shot from himself and from above he saw his body walking just steps away from a drop off with a mile of empty air above where the whiteout began.

The undeniable screech of a sampry slit the air.

‘Your will alone,’ he thought as he lunged himself off the cliff.  Against the wind, the mute soared and saw his skins shedding, flying up, away from him. The wind fought gravity as his body pushed and pulled simultaneously. He shot back in to his blinded self and as he entered the whiteout, his fingers touched feathers.

CURSE the FOG 091-092

The CurseThe Fog

The following is a short story that preludes a series of novels entitled HIGHSIX:

The boy didn’t really feel the realness of his lover’s death until she sank below the coagula and they took her under Still Lake, bobbing back to the surface once she’d passed, rocking to and fro until they gained equilibrium and matched their fellow organism’s fitting mass. A tear ran into his eye and blinded him on the right until he wiped it away realizing it was sweat from his brow. The sky was grey, two afternoon, and the opaque clouds above cast their spell of translucent fog in front of the funeral audience. The audience watched through the haze as Marciia Bent, the former Sixth Wife of Dr. Skarpo Bent, sunk beneath the coagula. No one cried, not even Skarpo and not the Bent children, staring at her young 14 year old body as if she were just one of them, like them, never coming back.

The boy knew Marciia before she was a Bent. Before she’d reached maturity they had played in that same lake. The Still Lake was a playground on the coast for brave children. While there were beach houses around its coast, the rich inhabited them but never used the coagula infested waters.

Coagula floated on top of The Still Lake, covering the whole thing, but smaller and more compact where the water met the shore. Marciia and the boy met on that coast as children, first throwing rocks that bounced and flew out of view off the coagula, but eventually stepping out on to them.

The talk was that if you fell under you could never come back up. Once the coagula engulfed you, you were theirs and there was no survival post-immersion. For months they tested this with steps onto their rocking surface. They never went far out at first. Each trip was a dare to the other, the boy taking further steps out and then Marciia matching him so he’d have to up the standard, two steps further out than before each time.

But Marciia was dead and when the canoe paddled back to the coast through Still Lake’s coagula covered surface the boy grit his teeth hard until they hurt and then bit harder.

Dr. Skarpo Bent stepped off the ceremonial canoe onto the rocky beach and helped Elder Best of The God of Ears onto the uneven earth. Everyone was tired in the eyes and no one wanted the ceremony, but for keeping up with duty after the death of Ethaum. The boy was glad the 22 days of mourning were passed, but for his childhood love, his best friend for years, to die on the 23rd and be buried now on the 24th at the age of 14, older than the boy had yet to turn even, it infuriated his senses and he knew deep down inside she was unrightfully dead.

The boy hated Dr. Skarpo Bent from the moment he first saw him. The man was too confident, holding his chin above everyone’s gaze though his height made it completely unnecessary, even awkward, for those of shorter build. He was tall and skinny and wore always a long stained overcoat that barely missed the ground, exposing his thin ankles just like the sleeves which left his long vein raised hands exposed higher than the wrist.

Skarpo walked with his neck loose and his hands hidden within each other’s sleeves. Elder Best began the traditional recitation, but Skarpo kept walking. His face hung to the ground and none in attendance made move to address him. Elder Best continued as if Skarpo were not of issue, but there was no food served after and everyone in attendance made their way home.

The boy watched them leave. He sat on the pebble covered beach until the canoe was carried off, loaded onto the traditional cart followers of The Second God used in these ceremonies.

The boy spat just thinking about it. He took minutes to fume until the clouds had darkened the evening sky and the fog was closer, all around him.

“Curse The God of Ears,” said the boy. It was under his breath at first, but he felt strength in isolation, strength in the fog that promised him privacy. “Curse you Ethaum. Curse The Second God. Curse The Blue God. Curses to all that align themselves to You. I renounce you!” yelled the boy and when he did he was taken back with the shock of his own excitement.

Since birth he was taught to praise The God of Ears. He was born under the “great” reign of Ethaum, the embodiment of the most powerful God of The HIGH Six of his generation. Ethaum was good, he was told, and if you wanted to be good too you would do as Ethaum would.

But the boy never found faith in Ethaum. There was something inside him that combated the God even though he’d seen him in person. The God was more of an old handicapped man who did nothing but lay in his cart as The Church of the Eternal Drum paraded him through the streets of Sattofer City. When he died, it was all over the streets printed in bold: OUR GOD DEAD. The newspapers sold well, but no one kept them and by afternoon the streets were full of discarded headlines.

The next day, the mourning began. Twenty two days with boarded stores, grieving masses and streets filled with slumming sorrow.

Skarpo had this planned, thought the boy. Marciia was his fifth? No, sixth wife. He knew he could get away with another death so close to Ethaum’s demise. He killed her just like the other’s and now I’m going to kill him, thought the boy.

Dr. Skarpo Bent did not kill them like the others. It was true that Marciia was his sixth wife and that she had died from a seeming suicide, wash basin filled to the brim with her sunk under and thighs slit with a straight razor on each side over and over until she found the right artery to end it, turning the water she passed in to a deep and nearly opaque red.

The boy didn’t believe it for a second and so he stood from the stony beach and walked to where the rocks met the cement and made all the right turns to arrive at the infamous stoop of Dr. Skarpo Bent.

Above the door, attached to the frame was a sign that read: BENT- Adjustive Surgical Extraordinaire. He turned the door handle, but it remained firm as he expected. The boy stepped back to check the windows, but there was no candle light from within and the clouds were just losing their claim to the shed of darkness as the sun slid below the horizon.

He knocked hard with an authority that he only imagined he had. Surprisingly, the door opened right away. It was a face he feared, the face he didn’t want to see, but had came there to anyway.

There was a pause where the boy swallowed and Skarpo glared at him, towering over the boy from behind the open door frame.

“Yes?” asked Skarpo.

“You klled her,” said the boy.

“So?” asked Skarpo.

The boy had no answer.

The door slammed and the boy stayed there until there was no more light. Just dim stars.

The God of Teeth 084-090

The Soul of Teeth

“The God of Teeth is the only god within the HIGHSIX that acts how he believes. If something is funny, you laugh. Any problem is to be met with a grin. If you are never serious, how can anyone else be taken seriously?”

The Six of Teeth

“The Fourth God is a liar. Those loyal to him cannot be trusted. Those that have gone to the Orange Land come back with lies or don’t come back at all. I am the only exception. I have been to the SouthWest of SIX and know it first hand. Listen so that you might be saved.”

The Five of Teeth

“There is a castle once you pass the ghost towns that the Orange people destroyed. They call them that for the pollen of the virral flower they cover their bodies with. The castle is made of bones and the rode to it is made of teeth. There is no sense in how this came to be, but sense holds little ground among followers of The God of Teeth. All that matters when you meet the true Orangies is whether or not you can make them laugh.”

The Four of Teeth

“I entered their castle a prisoner until I was put before the holder of the Orange Throne. He was a man, toothless, covered in that orange pollen and I had heard the legend, but didn’t believe until I saw it. The Orange Throne was not as I’d imagined it to be. It was far worse.”

The Three of Teeth

“Limbs made up the structure of the seat that the Orange Man sat on. JOKKOL was long dead and it was clear that this rugged man, skin orange, teeth gone, hair in long dreads and fingernails that touched the floor, was only sitting in his god’s stead. When he spoke, it was with fierce nonsense and I knew then what was necessary of me.”

The Two of Teeth

“I took out my dagger and held it above my head as I yelled the name of their god and then bowed as I placed the tip to the root of my gums. I used my palm as a hammer, ridding my mind and instincts of second thoughts.”

The Null of Teeth

“I have no teeth, but I have life, and now I know what true laughter really is: sustenance.”

The God of Eyes 077-083

 The Null of Eyes

“Not everyone gets the epiphany.”

 The Two of Eyes

“Just so you know, you’re being lied to. The Land of The SIX is not what it seems.”

 The Three of Eyes

“The Council of Skol runs Center CIty and the majority of SIX. They do this through minerals, monetizing the very land you sleep on .The same land that was here long before you and will be right there, for as long as the world is, after you.”

 The Four of Eyes

“Everything you see is controlled. There are curses worked in to every message you get from the world around you. Pretty soon, SIX will all be waste. Our planet’s small circle of land is habitable only temporarily.”

The Five of Eyes

“There is no way to stop the Council of Skol because they control everything. Like puppets on strings, everything you see becomes clearer of sense when you take a step back. That is what Only Mountain is like. A drawing framed in close that allows you only a fraction of the information necessary to discern it. With each zoom out of the frame, a new epiphany is made.”

The Six of Eyes

“If you think you know the history of SIX than you are wrong. No one can know the unknowable. All that is available to the historian is a collection of accounts it must trust. Without trust for history’s authors, one has no use for ‘fact’ driven education. The truth is, facts simply can’t exist. People are just not meant to really know because we are built fallible, victims to our own perceptions.”

The Soul of Eyes

“Perception is just like a ghost, unreliable and intangible.”

 

The God of Hands 070-076

The Null of Hands

“I was born and raised in Center City, the one place in the known world where The HIGHSIX have never gone and never will.”

The Two of Hands

“My first memory in life was the hands of my uncle. His calloused fingers rubbed my teeny nipples and he dug his dripping teeth into my young hairless skin.”

The Three of Hands

“I grew up an object, raped no matter where I went, even if only with eyes and whistles and pats and squeezes. I dressed the part like all the other girls did, shaving and flirting, even though I hated men and their ugly snakes. It wasn’t until I met my mothers that my life truly began.”

The Four of Hands

“Mother Devusi surpassed my young beauty with ease even under the simple yellow fabric she wore over her sun scorched skin. She approached me as I quietly pretended to listen along with my school friends to the party minded boys in on vacation from across the Still Lake where they went to University. Mother Devusi and I connected eyes and I could not detach from her bright yellow stare, like sunlight, as it sucked who I was, my soul, unapproved, but welcome, right in to her beaming glow of perfected self. She held out her hands, interrupting the group, but paying them no mind as she spoke to me alone and said, ‘NITHYA has called you to come so that you will never again be victim.'”

The Five of Hands

“I left with Mother Devusi and we walked hand in hand South where we exited the draw bridge of Center City leaving all that used to be me behind. We walked miles without word and while the myth of the Mothers of NITHYA was that they hypnotized their followers before brainwashing them into their cult, I can attest that no part of that is true. I was chosen by Mother Devusi because NITHYA, our God of Hands, The Fifth and only truly just god of The HIGHSIX, worked through her to select me. We walked slowly, but for a distance of miles I never once could have without the healing radiance of NITHYA that accompanied us. Our destination was the entrance of a cave, black within, that marked the end of fertile land and beyond it the cruelest of all lands of the known world: The Desert of Nails.”

The Six of Hands

“I may not speak the words Mother Devusi spoke to me because they exist only within our Mother and Daughter bond. I became hers then and NITHYA shined the last light of the day’s sun upon us in blessing. Our connection filled my heart, relieving it of the hole I had tried and failed so many times before to make complete. We entered the cave where another world lived away from the terrors of society governed by misogyny and barbarism. Women controlled the underground living in peace with each other and finding love for every living thing, even the vermin. It was the first night as I slept cuddled in a heap of Mothers and their Daughters, my mother holding me tight as a man without eyes strummed a sitar sweetly, carrying the righteous understanding of NITHYA in to my brain.”

The Soul of Hands

“All that live are vermin. Not just rats and mice. Not just flies and roaches. All are vermin and that is truly a beautiful thing.”

The God of Ears 063-069

 The Null of Ears

“I hate nothing more than a person that insists on being listened to.”

 The Two of Ears

“The appearance of family is more important than any person within that family. At any moment this appearance can change and in order to adapt, family member adjustment can be necessary.”

 The Three of Ears

“When I moved to my beach house that bordered the Still Lake, it wasn’t only because I was running. I liked it there, especially when the coagula were as thick as they could get, almost enough to walk on. I could discard the waste that came natural to my profession permanently that way.”

 The Four of Ears

“The stars are important. Most people pay them no mind, but that’s all the better. The fewer people that follow them makes for fewer people that take advantage of them. Everything I do is first allowed by the constellations, which is why my lies will go undiscovered.”

 The Five of Ears

“I killed my first wife when the stars gave no other choice. My second wife helped me bury her while my third kept her and the second’s children inside the house. The second helped me bury the third when she took her own life with medicine on the night the beetle constellation shone bright directly overhead. I took on a fourth and a fifth, but they could not take my seed and so i murdered them together out on the lake, too far out. It wasn’t until I bought my sixth wife that I strangled the second and pushed her body under the floating coagula to conceal her in the lake as well.”

The Six of Ears

“I do my best to stay away from people, but in order to maintain the upper class clientele I prefer, I have to attend a social event every once and a while. Rich people are the only ones that can afford my services. The handshake and bow are necessary to ensure my customers stay happy and send their wives or their friend’s wives in to me and no one else. I don’t know if there are others like me. I’m the only self-proclaimed abortionist I’ve ever met. I drink their wine and I advertise with my most recently cycled in wife on my shoulder smiling, always smiling.”

The Soul of Ears

“Children are an important commodity, much more important than the women that carry them. It’s strange to get paid to remove them, but strange pay is pay all the same.”