So, yesterday I posted my Writing and Cruisers update. It was fairly long, but less than a minute after posting it, I had a “Like” from THIS BLOGGER. Three minutes later, another two bloggers (BLOGGER 2, BLOGGER 3).
I checked my stats . . . only one visitor (it was a new day), and that visitor looked at a different post (a pretty good guess since they came in on an internet search, not the Reader).
The three bloggers I linked above looked at the Reader Feed and clicked the “Like” option on the reader based on seeing one photo and a few words. The reason I’m pretty sure is that it takes me longer than 3 minutes to read the whole post and look at the photos. And I’m the one who wrote it.
Now, I don’t mind that those bloggers hit “like” based on just one photo (again, that’s all you can see on the Reader). It’s their prerogative. Perhaps, they are very busy folks. Perhaps, seeing just one of my photos filled them with awe and admiration.
But, from my perspective, that is why I absolutely ignore “Likes”. I did check out those three blogs, but only so I could link them here. I suspect, after all, that is all they really wanted.
My standing rule is to ignore “Likes” of my posts.
Why am I giving this introduction? Because this is a post without photos. And, it contains a 3,100-word story. No more than three people are likely to read it all, if even that many. My readers are also often busy with their own lives.
I’m guessing this post will have 3-4 likes within the first five minutes of it going live, and I will ignore them all. By the time tomorrow is done, I will have a few more likes, and likely two, but maybe as many as three comments.
Regardless of the views and “Likes”, I will assume the only eyes on this piece will be those of the people who left comments.
Edited to Add: So, I thought it would be obvious, but just to be clear, I do notice when my regular readers and commentors hit “like”. Sometimes, there’s nothing to say and a simple “like” suffices. BUT . . . that only works for people I already know read my stuff.
And now, the fiction.
Late last year, Alliteration Ink had an open entry for short stories that began with the phrase “No shit, there I was“.
I wrote one, but never sent it in. Why? Because Alliteration Ink, like many venues, are what I call “edgy” . . . perhaps even “weird”. My stories are not edgy. They tend to be fairly straight forward. They contain little gore, no swearing, no sex, not tentacle porn. They are the antithesis of “edgy”.
Tha’s why I suspect it will take me a long time to sell anything in the face of the current market.
There is one other thing . . . almost every market asking for submissions stresses the following:
“We are particularly interested in seeing stories from underrepresented populations (eg: people of color, people with disabilities, LGBT people).”
I think they mean members of those populations writing about concerns of said populations. Or maybe, having members of said populations as characters in said stories.
I applaud them for it, but I don’t normally describe my characters. I don’t put them in situations where ethnicity or sexual orientation are germane to the story. If you read one of my stories, you can assume whatever ethnic or sexual attribute you want. For that matter, you can assume fat, skinny, tall, short, blonde, hirsute, ugly, beautiful, young, old . . . you get the point.
“BUT, Disperser, you dolt, the mode of speech and the situations you have the characters in ‘imply’ all those things!”
Wow . . . they must be serious; they used an exclamation point.
I counter that I don’t believe one can actually tell just from speech what a character looks like, ugly or beautiful, if they are fat or skinny, their sexual orientation, the color of their skin, or even if they have an accent. I don’t do accents.
Whatever and whoever you assume the characters to be, it’s on you.
It bothers me a bit that it’s expected we should specifically highlight those things so as to be inclusive, or whatever the goal is. It bothers me more that if I were one of those underrepresented populations, I’d expected to write for “my kind”.
I stutter, am short, slightly deformed from rickets, going bald, have an accent, and could probably pass for someone of a middle-eastern background even though I am of Austrian-Italian-Slavic stock.
You can be sure I have no desire to have any of those traits highlighted in my characters.
Rather, I want to stress honesty, honor, kindness . . . traits I believe cross all manners of boundaries, from sexual to ethnic to abled or disabled. The whole purpose of reading, for me, is being transported into another world and I do that by projecting myself into the character or characters I read about. Also, if I write of human struggles, I want them to be just that. Human struggles that are common to all, regardless of superficial trappings.
I might not be able to project myself into a character if I’m told the character has a glib tongue, is six-foot-six-inches tall, perfectly sculpted, with a slight British accent, and looks like a male model. As a reader, I’ve just been relegated to “spectator” from “participant”.
Understand, I know why those suggestions are included, and as I said, I applaud the encouragement of underrepresented individuals to make inroads in publishing and fiction. I also know having said individuals speak through their fiction will help others who may be struggling with their identity or acceptance from society at large.
At the same time, I recognize that since I don’t do that, I might pass into obsolescence, writing my boring and generic stories dealing with matters other than how someone looks and the gender they prefer to sleep with, especially since I have no authority to draw from if I write about any of those things. I can touch on them lightly (HERE), but that is no substitute for living it and knowing it to the core or one’s being.
BUT . . . on to the story. I considered submitting it someplace, but it needs a bit of tweaking and I didn’t feel like revisiting it. In that, I broke the cardinal rule of letting others decide what is good or bad. My role is to write and submit.
In this case, write and publish on the blog.
No shit, there I was . . .
Copyright 2015 – E. J. D’Alise (3,060 words)
No shit, there I was, hiking in the woods when I heard something running at a pretty good clip and coming right at me. I couldn’t see what it was, but I could see the tops of shrubs and trees parting, something huge and fast paying them no mind as it made a beeline for the clearing where I had stopped to rest.
I transferred my sandwich to my other hand and drew my gun. I wished I had grabbed the carbine when I left home. Unless I was deadly accurate, my .45 wasn’t going to stop whatever was heading my way, but it was better than nothing.
I got ready, but whatever was coming stopped before reaching the clearing. From deafening sound to complete silence. That worried me even more. I kid you not; had I not just gotten a haircut, the hairs on the back of my neck would have stood on end. As it was, they gave it a go, goosebumps forming in response.
I waited. That’s when I realized all sound had stopped. No insect noises, no rustling of leaves, no birds chirping . . . nothing. Even the wind had stopped.
Keeping my eyes fixed on the spot where I had last seen movement, I slowly brought the sandwich to my mouth and took a bite. No sense in letting my meal go to waste. I don’t know if anyone important ever said it before, but I was thinking it then . . . if you’re gonna die, it’s better doing so on a full stomach.
This, you’re not gonna believe; the air started to shimmer and slowly swirl around the clearing. The shimmering got brighter and brighter, and the swirling turned into a mini-cyclone. The weird part? Even as I could see the air around me move, none of the plants reacted to it. They stood as if nothing was happening. Then, a brilliant flash, and I could not see anything. Not that it mattered; I passed out, my last thought one of regret for not having finished the sandwich.
I opened my eyes. I must have been on my back because I could see clouds in front of me and a . . . wait . . . was that a dragon? I couldn’t tell if it was a tiny dragon really close or a huge dragon very far. Without thinking, I reached out with my hand, and it landed on it. So, small dragon really close.
And then, vague images began forming in my head. Indistinct at first, they slowly came to focus. Large gatherings of dragons flying in formation, magnificent aeries dotting tall mountains, iridescent dragons perched on tall spires . . . it was beautiful.
Rainbows. Beautiful rainbows forming out of clear skies. As beautiful as they were, the dragons reacted in panic. Those in the air quickly descended to their aeries, folding their great wings around their young and ushering them inside.
A different group of dragons, larger and with heavier-looking scales, took to the air, their mouths smoking.
And then, the slaughter. I wanted to look away, but could not. These images were in my mind’s eyes and shutting my actual eyes helped not.
Dragon after dragon, young, old, small, large, were killed, impaled on Unicorns horns. Once impaled, the Unicorns would inflict further damage to the dragons with their front hooves. I could not be sure, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves. It looked as if they were doing it for sport.
Once dead, the Unicorns would shake their heads, their golden manes catching the reflections of the rainbows, and fling the dead dragons off their horn before going after the next closest dragons.
Some of the Dragons fought back, belching fire at their aggressors, but the rainbows acted as shields, diverting the fiery liquid away from the Unicorns.
It didn’t last long . . . soon, all the dragons were dead or dying, the Unicorns moving among the fallen, ensuring there would be no survivors.
I opened my eyes and realized my tears were flowing, making it hard to see. I raised my hand to wipe them away and hit my head with the barrel of the .45 I was still holding. I holstered the gun and wiped the tears as the images of the slaughter faded from my mind’s eye.
I sat up, the small dragon still perched on my hand, its weight negligible and its tiny claws barely registering on my skin. Rolling hills of green grass unfolded before me, a river shimmering in the sunlight as it wound its way from the distant mountains to the shores of a large body of water. Be it a sea or lake, I could not tell.
I looked back at the dragon. Its huge eyes focused on me and then looked to my left. I followed its gaze to a faint column of smoke rising in the distance, near the water. The dragon took to the air and flew toward it, then stopped, hovering. It wanted me to follow. I looked at the ground around me, hoping I’d also held onto my sandwich. Nope. I sighed and started walking toward the smoke.
A half-hour or so later, the dragon perched on my shoulder, I was close enough to see a couple of tents, two hand-drawn carts, and figures huddling near a fire.
I checked my gun and spare magazine as I continued making my way to the camp.
The figures stood and faced me as I approached. They too were dragons, but with no wings and with their tails cut short. They stood perhaps half again my height and looked in sorry shape.
The little dragon flew off my shoulder and flew ahead to meet three other winged dragons, all but one no larger than sparrows. That larger winged dragon, skin a beautiful blue that caught the reflection of the sun, was perhaps the size of a raven.
It positioned itself between the rest of the group and me, its mouth letting off a little smoke. A Protector, I deduced.
I stopped and waited while the little dragon communicated with what looked to be the eldest of the adults. I took the opportunity to look around. The camp was fresh, so they either moved around a lot or had just gotten here. Their possessions were primitive and possibly temporary. Looking at their limbs, I understood why; what in humans might pass for hands were little more than talons, unsuitable for fine manipulation of objects or tools.
At the mid-joint and ends of the smaller dragon’s wings, I could see small appendages better suited for precise manipulations. They also had prehensile tails. When one of the adults turned, I noticed the remnants of what must have once been wings and a tail, the scars long healed, but showing signs of having been roughly severed from them.
The adult who had turned looked back at me and then back toward the mountains. I followed his gaze. At first faint, then more pronounced, I saw rainbows as if dancing on the distant grass. They were heading our way.
I felt a pinprick on my forearm and recoiled as the elder dragon drew blood with one of its claws. I was about to defend myself when thoughts appeared in my mind.
“They come. You must hide.”
The dragon urged me toward one of the tents as more thoughts were pushed my way.
“They come for Ravel. She is of age.”
Without further explanation, I was unceremoniously shoved into one of the tents. Before they closed the flaps, I noticed the raven-sized young dragon, it’s blue coloring swirling with darker streaks, being pushed into the other tent. It obviously didn’t want to hide, but the two adults forced it in there.
Although in the tent, I could still “hear” the elder’s thoughts. The dragon was speaking to the rest of the young dragons.
“Do not speak, do not fly, and try to look as small as possible. If spoken to, let me answer in your stead.”
There was a sound of hooves nearing at full gallop. I risked a peek. Seven large Unicorns, each the color of a rainbow, came to a halt as they surrounded the dragons. Surprisingly, I could hear their thoughts as well.
“Roin, your eldest, where is she?” the Blue Unicorn asked.
“She is not here,” the elder dragon replied. “You are early. She will not be of age for another two sunrises.”
The Blue Unicorn snorted and took a menacing step toward the dragons.
“You dare question us? ”
“The peace agreement is clear,” Roin replied, standing his ground.
“Tell me, Roin, who will accept your grievances?”
The Blue Unicorn raised its front leg and hit the elder dragon in the chest. It was not a full kick, but Roin was knocked backward, landing on the smoldering fire. The other dragons, including the young ones, rushed to help Roin up and wipe the embers burning into his skin.
The Yellow Unicorn stepped between the Blue Unicorn and the huddled group of dragons, forcing the Blue away from the dragons.
It then turned toward the dragons and with a small bow of the head spoke to them.
“We will return on the second sunrise. See to it that she is here.”
With that, they turned as one and galloped away, the sound of their hooves diminishing until but distant echoes.
I holstered my gun and stepped outside the tent. Ravel, her blue hue much darker than before, exited the other tent and rushed to the injured elder.
We sat around the campfire, the young sleeping nearby, the adults sitting with me in silence.
“What do they want?” I finally asked.
“Ravel’s wings and tail,” Laren, one of the females, answered.
“It gives them power and long life. It is the source of their magic in both our world and yours.”
Roin’s tone was almost accusatory.
And thus, I learned of the history of this place and the forgotten history of my world.
A long time ago, before the age of recorded human memory, dragons and humans lived side by side, at peace. More than at peace, humans partnered with dragons, using the molt of dragons to gain magical powers.
Great was the age of powerful human Wizards and their Dragon companions.
That changed when Unicorns began influencing humans, shaping their thoughts, planting the seed of mistrust and fear in the minds of weak humans.
Few at first, but soon gaining in numbers, more and more humans saw both Wizards and Dragons as dangerous. Eventually, humans demanded Dragons leave their lands. Some Dragons rebelled, and conflicts ensued. Many dragons were killed as were many men.
In the end, Dragons left the world of humans and crossed into the nearby Other; this world. The Unicorns followed for they too gained magical powers from the molt of dragons, but were not satisfied with discarded skins. No, they wanted living tissue; living tissue gave them more power, and they wanted a constant supply.
That had been the Unicorn’s plan all along, to separate Dragons from humans. The conquest of Dragons was a bloody affair, and in the end, Dragons agreed to the demands of the Unicorns. They agreed because the alternative was death or life in cages.
The Agreement was forged many generations ago; as each dragon reached the span of Twenty Seasons, Unicorns would take their wings and tails in exchange for being allowed to roam free. To refuse meant death.
“Why don’t you use your magic?” I asked.
“We can’t use magic,” Laren replied. “What gives our skin our hue is what conveys magic in others, but it does not work for us.”
Realization hit me, and I looked over at the sleeping young dragons, each a separate color. Seven of them, one for each color of the rainbow.
“You have litters of seven?”
I was about to ask why they would decide to procreate under these conditions when all of the dragons turned their heads to the mountains.
I too looked. It reminded me of the Aurora Borealis, only blue. Snaking spires of light moved in the sky, at times snapping angrily from side to side, at times shooting up to impossible heights, but all the while nearing the camp.
Laren rushed to the sleeping young, but too late. Its hooves striking the ground as if angry, the Blue Unicorn landed between Laren and the young.
“You dare defy me?” it asked while pointing at Ravel with its horn?
As it spoke, the Unicorn’s mane lengthened, ensnaring Ravel and pinning the struggling young dragon to the ground, its wings splayed out at an uncomfortable angle.
The Unicorn lifted its leg and was about to strike at the base of the wing when the small dragon that had found me slammed against the Unicorn.
It was no more than what a fly might have done to an elephant, but still, it angered the Unicorn, and in a flash, the little dragon was also immobilized by the prehensile mane.
The Blue Unicorn snorted and gave the elders a defiant look before looking back at its captive youngsters and soon-to-be victims.
My gun cleared the holster and fired without me even thinking. It did not seem to hurt it, but the Unicorn did let go of the two young dragons as, startled, it turned toward me.
“A human female,” it said as it slowly approached.
I fired again, and only then noticed the small rainbow shield stopping the bullet in mid-air.
“How did you get here?” it asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied, “but you’re going to leave these dragons alone.”
Unicorns don’t really laugh. It’s more like a conceited and condescending noise they make with their nasal passages.
“You have no power here, and your puny weapon won’t hurt me,” it replied as it circled me. I turned to keep the Unicorn facing me.
“Before I dispatch you,” it said, “I must know how you managed to cross into this world. The way was shut many Seasons ago. Only Unicorns can use the Portals. ”
The small dragon flew to me, its progress erratic from a hurt wing. It landed on my gun hand, and I looked down at it. Its wing was bleeding slightly, and a drop if violet blood was about to fall from it. With practiced ease, I released the magazine, caught it with my weak hand, touched the top bullet to the drop of blood and slammed the magazine back into the gun.
As the Blue Unicorn reared up to strike me, I cycled the action, chambering the freshly anointed bullet. I fell backward as I fired, but I was a good shot and I heeded Roin’s advice.
“The Horn, shoot the Horn,” the thought intruding into my mind said.
The bullet sped unhindered and struck the base of the horn. It shattered into an explosion of blue light, and the Unicorn was knocked sideways by the shock wave.
By the time the light subsided, the Unicorn was once more coming after me, but it had lost its color, looking more like a horse than a mythical beast. My next three bullets needed no magic to finish the job.
The crackling of the fire seemed loud in the silence that followed.
I stood on the hill, near the portal that had brought me here. I looked toward the water and could just make out the small band of dragons leaving the scene of last night’s encounter.
I then looked down at the small dragon perched on my hand. Its wing nearly healed, it took off and hovered a few feet away as the air began to shimmer and swirl.
Next thing I knew, I was back in the clearing, looking up at the friendly face of a full-grown dragon. And I mean like the dragons of legend. It offered its wing as support and helped me up.
I looked at it.
“How is it that you are much larger here than in your world?” I asked.
“It has to do with conservation of magic,” it replied. “While we can’t use it, it does affect us.”
I didn’t really understand it, but it somehow made sense.
His name was Dokor, and as he stood there, I admired the beauty of his violet skin. Subconsciously, I made to adjust my holster before I remembered leaving it with Ravel. She had quickly learned to handle the gun and we wasted a couple of bullets to make sure she could shoot it.
The small clan would be protected until I made it back with reinforcements and more weapons.
“When you come back,” Dakor said, “I will be here, waiting.”
The guy at the bar looked at me as he leaned slightly back as if wanting to put some distance between us.
“You’re kidding, right?” he asked.
“No, I’m serious. No shit, there I was . . .” I started again, but he raised his hand to interrupt me.
“Sorry,” he said, “I need to go home and . . . er . . . feed my cat.”
With that, he threw some money on the counter and left.
Dejected, I put my hand to my head and closed my eyes. I’d not recruited anyone, and time was running out.
Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to face two women.
“Pardon us, we could not help overhearing . . . you’re looking for Unicorn hunters?”
“Yes,” I answered. “You two interested?”
“Yes,” they said in unison. They looked at each other and then one of them continued. “Yes. We love Dragons, and have no use for Unicorns.”
“Great!” I replied. “Uh, can you shoot?” I asked cautiously. I didn’t have time for training.
“Two tours in the Middle East,” the speaker replied.
I closed my hand and opened it again to reveal two business cards. I handed one card to each of them.
“Call me tomorrow, and if you know more people who would be interested, bring them along,” I said.
“Hey, that’s cool,” one of them said. “How did you do that?”
“Oh, that . . . That’s magic.”
An hour later, at a different bar, I started all over again.
“No shit, there I was . . .”
And now, as I hit publish, I’ll marvel at getting a couple of “likes” within a minute of this post going live from people who could not possibly have read any part of it.
That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.
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. . . my FP ward . . . chieken shit.