The World in the Satin Bag has moved to my new website.  If you want to see what I'm up to, head on over there!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Writing and Poetry

Alright, so this weekend turned out far different than I had intended and it totally screwed up my whole process.
Originally I had planned to go on a trip with my friend for his geography class up into the mountains. So I purposefully planned the week so that I wouldn't have to worry about having Chapter Four ready to post, since I wouldn't even be home to write it and would have no access to a computer for typing (I rarely write freehand because it takes way too long for me to write and sometimes the stuff going through my head just goes by way too fast for my poor hands to scribble computers are just better). Well, that trip got canceled because my friend decided he wasn't going to go. I didn't find this out until Wednesday, which was a concert day so I had no way to even sit down and try to cram out a significant chunk of Chapter Four anyway. I have class and work M-Th, so usually my writing gets done on Fridays and Saturdays and I do final edits on Sundays whenever it is post time. So, basically my whole plan was screwed because I usually have 4 days worth of actual writing and then an edit day, and that had suddenly become 2 days. Essentially, Chapter Four is going up next weekend as I had stated, but regardless, it has become a constant irritation to have plans made and then canceled knowing that I could have had other things planned instead.
I do have good news though. Chapter Four is going to be really cool. I'm loving some of the things that I've done in it so much.

Now on to poetry. I figure I might as well give you all something to view while you wait an additional week for the next installment. I've been doing a lot of poetry writing (I've always done it but there's been a big spurt because my girlfriend broke up with me and it gave me something strong to write about).
I've also grown quite fond of My Chemical Romance, a punk-pop band that is just really good. So, I've started writing songs, I guess that is what you would call them anyway. I'd love to start up a punk-pop band. I love the style, and MCR is just really entertaining and fun. So, I'll post something I wrote today that I've not exactly finished. Hopefully you like it. I would appreciate any constructive criticism on it. I'm not a song writer by nature, so this is really my first attempt at it.

Lay down little world,
it's time for bed.
All those around you,
are bleeding and dead.
Come on little world,
the night has come,
and where you turn your back,
descend into black,
I follow you down.
Lay down, lay down.
I want to show you all the scars around,
the trenches dug about,
the battles screaming out,
the dead rising from graves above the ground.
Lay down,
and ignore.
The world you know is gone,
blasted to the floor.
Come on little world,
wake up once again,
rise up from the ashes my friend,
and follow me down.
Lay down, lay down.
I want to show you all the scars around.
the trenches dug about,
the battles screaming out,
the dead rising from graves above the ground.
I said lay down,
and accept your fate.
It's not too late, too late.
The mother's crying now,
wondering why and how,
the flags of our fathers draped over the gate.
Lay down. Lay down.
Lay down. Lay down.

Alright, so that's what I have for it. I am contemplating adding a bridge and one more run through the chorus, but maybe it is good just the way it is. I dunno. Any opinions would be greatly appreciated. Even guess what it's about :P

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Writing, News, and Bunnies

Alright, so this weekend has been one of the most exciting of weekends ever *insert sarcasm here*
First off is a bit of info on my writing. Next weekend would normally be when I put up the next chapter, in this case it would be chapter four. Unfortunately, however, I will not be in town to edit or do anything of that sort to the chapter, and as such, will have to post the chapter the following weekend. Sorry, but that's just the way it has to be. I don't have a laptop to take the writing with me, otherwise I would surely get a lot more writing done. I can type far better than I can write by hand.
Also, as suggested by Mr. Bramage, I will be posting a hyperlink at the beginning of every chapter to the previous chapter so there is an easy way to reference back.

Now for news...
Well, to start the week off, I got sick on Monday with a cold. It got horribly worse Tuesday, then slightly better Wednesday. I had a concert on Wednesday as well which made things lovely cause I was sick. Thursday was much better and then Friday I was mostly okay with your usual leftovers of a cold, which I still have today.
Friday, however, decided to be the day of reckoning or something of that nature.
First, my girlfriend broke up with me, saying something about how she wasn't ready for a serious relationship, which just didn't seem quite right considering that was what she had said she wanted in the beginning and from where our relationship had been going it didn't seem to make much sense. Then to top it off, when I went over to my friend Sarah's house for my usual consoling time, we went out to dinner and then her car decided to rupture a hose and we had to get it towed back to her house. The following day was spent getting presents for my brother and then hanging out at my Mom's house for his party, which was perfectly fine except for the part where my Mom had to bring up the whole "where's your GF" thing. Uncomfortable? Yes, and irritating too. Luckily I had fun hanging out with my brother and his friends and was able to forget the events of Friday for at least a little while, or at least until I got home and was forced to remember after seeing the lovely pile of sheets I have yet to clean.

So, essentially, my weekend was rather crappy. My best friend basically secured himself in the position of asshole by being completely negative and unsupportive, and luckily my other best friend Sarah was able to compensate for his lack of friend-ish-ness.

But the good news is that I am still writing and things are still going well for this lovely story. So in two weeks I will have chapter four and all will be happy.

Also, I am planning to go to an open house for the University of San Francisco, a private Jesuit Catholic college. If I like the campus and such I can hopefully get accepted there and maybe get help paying for it, since it is expensive. They have a great MFA in Creative Writing program with dual teaching, which would be great because I can see myself teaching.

So, maybe something good will happen in the near future...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Chapter Three: The Satin Bag

(Note:  This is not official version and may be removed in the near future.  This do not reflect what is read in the podcast version, nor any other version you may encounter.  I have preserved the rough form for posterity -- or something like that.  This novel has since been rewritten.)

James sat up. He took a moment to let the dizziness and throbbing pain fade away and then slowly stood. With one hand he rubbed his eyes and with the other he felt the large knot that had made its home in the back of his head—hard and round.
“Dinner’s ready,” his mother called from the other room.
A few hours had passed since his parents had had their argument, or ‘serious discussion’ as he liked to call it. He had spent the time watching the ceiling. It had occurred to him that he had no choice but to question them. The fact that he had overheard things he wasn’t even supposed to know might lend him the leverage he needed to get the rest out of them. The Council, whoever they were, wouldn’t allow his parents to leave because of what they knew, and he doubted that he would be given any different treatment. He wondered how many people in the town had seen the inside of the Manor. Either the people who had were keeping silent, perhaps ordered to do so by the Council, or few people really knew what was in there. James had never paid much attention to who came and left Woodton, but now as he thought about it he realized that not many came and not many went.

James stretched his arms delicately. He still felt lightheaded and didn’t wish to strain himself. Then the cloth caught his attention, the same cloth from the Manor. He looked with disbelief. He had forgotten all about it.
Yet, it wasn’t just the sight of the cloth that truly suspended him in disbelief. The cloth was clean. There were no bloodstains or marks. It looked brand new. And his arm felt fine.
He plucked at the knot in an attempt to get it off. When it didn’t work he opened a nearby desk drawer and produced a pocketknife. He flicked the blade out, but the instant the blade touched the cloth it tightened like a snake. The knife fell from his hand and he clasped at the cloth as it began to cut the circulation off. A moment later and the cloth loosened and resumed its original tightness. The design of Saint Brendan’s Cross shimmered.
James swallowed hard. His heart thumped as fast as a mouse in his chest. This is insane, he thought. What is going on? I’m losing my mind. The thought was absurd; he knew that. He was far too logical to succumb to insanity. Regardless, something about the last day and a half made him feel like he really was going crazy. The only bit of sanity he could grab onto sat in whatever it was that his parents knew. Angtholand.
“Oh dear! You didn’t have to get up. Dinner in bed.” James’ mother came into the room carrying a tray. Sitting in it were a glass of water, a bowl of pudding, and some sort of mushy looking soup that resembled rotten fruit.
James nodded softly and sat down. He hated soup, a product of his inability to eat it properly. His mother would say “don’t slurp” or “close your mouth when you swallow” any time so much as a drop of the stuff escaped his lips. If he could help it he avoided the stuff.
“Besides,” she continued, “you should be resting. Understand?” She set the tray down on the bed then pointed. “What is that on your arm?”
“It won’t come off,” he said, trying to sound calm.
“Did you get it from the Manor?”
He looked her in the eye to tell her yes. She understood and took hold of the cloth and tried to untie it.
“I tried that. It just…” As if on queue the cloth squeezed hard on his arm. He groaned and she let go. James looked into her eyes. She didn’t look at all surprised, but he could see through her attempts to look oblivious.
“You can’t take things like that. It’s stealing and I won’t raise a thief. And why did you have to tie the knot so tight!”
“Laura tied it.”
“Yes, well Laura will be getting a talking to by her mother I imagine. Now eat your soup and I’ll get some scissors.” She scurried out of the room.
James sat down and poked at the steaming bowl of goo. He wasn’t sure what to call it. It looked strangely like a yellow clam chowder, but there were chunks of chicken in it. Peas too. He gave up trying to guess and took a bite. It didn’t taste half-bad and he took another before sipping some water.
His mother came in a moment later brandishing a massive pair of scissors that looked more like sheers than conventional scissors. If she had been someone other than his mother James would have been frightened by her stance. She stood like a murderer in a movie, shadow tracing along the ground in a long line as light poured in over her shoulders.
She walked over to his bed and sat down. Taking the scissors she tried to work the pointed edge under the cloth on his arm. The cloth tightened violently, pushing the point of the scissors into the muscle. He yelped in pain as a small trickle of blood escaped from under the blade. She retracted the scissors in a knee-jerk reaction.
“Mom, you can stop hiding whatever it is you’re hiding,” he said.
She looked at him, brow curled confusedly.
“I overheard you and Dad.”
Her face contorted to that of fear.
“I’ve seen an eye,” he emphasized ‘an’ because he couldn’t be sure if it were the same eye he had heard of from his parents.
His mother stood sharply and buried her face in her hands. “Oh god,” she said, her voice wobbling. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for having to raise you here. Your father and I knew you’d get caught up in all this too. Ever since last night when Hansor Manor lit up. The Council knew it was coming.”
“Knew what was coming? A disappearance?”
She nodded. “Every thirty years. It just seems like curiosity catches up with the kids that grow up here and one gets caught by the eye.”
“What is the eye? I’ve seen it but I still don’t understand.” He leaned over.
“The ruler of Angtholand.” She kept her back to him.
“Angtholand is a place?”
“Yes. To see the eye selects you to go there, except there’s never been two that had seen it in one instance.” She fidgeted with her leg for a moment before continuing. “Ancient stories tell of it being a wonderful place, but whomever the eye belongs to has turned it into something else. It’s a far darker place than here. The items in the Manor, some of them, lead to Angtholand through magic portals. I don’t fully understand how it works since magic no longer exists here, but for whatever reason those items directly connect our world to theirs.”
“Another world?” He paused in disbelief. Laura had been taken to another world, which meant she was safe after all, or at least he was correct in believing that the flames from the satin bag hadn’t harmed her.
“Hansor Manor is the only connection left to it. The Council controls it. That’s what they are supposed to do anyway. I think some have hope that it will be like the old stories.”
“What is the Council? Who is in it?”
“It was created when the first settlers moved here and discovered that the Hansor Grounds, or the area where the grounds are now, was connected to Angtholand. They built the Manor and formed a sort of secret society to govern what happened with it. The original owners of the Manor supposedly went to Angtholand and returned with gifts. But that was about the time when the eye took control and dark things began to happen in the house. The owners died and the Council, made up of various members of Woodton, boarded up the place and condemned it.”
James swallowed. “Laura isn’t coming back, is she?”
She turned to him. “No, James, I’m afraid not. Nobody would dare go to Angtholand willingly. The last man who tried never came back. The Council would forbid anyone to go. Laura is lost. I’m sorry.”
He let his head droop.
“And now,” his father said, appearing around the corner, “like us, you can’t leave this town.”
“What if we do?”
“They’ll kill us. This is a secret too great to let the world know.” His mother walked to his father’s side.
“We’ll have to bring you before the Council tomorrow.”
“How do they keep the secret? You could just email the secrets, or call someone. It’d be too easy to let the information out.”
His father laughed softly and shook his head. “Everything is filtered. The Council keeps a large group of people on top of things like that twenty-four seven. Just in case something sneaks through the filters. I helped design the Internet ones. You were lucky to put some of the pieces together.”
“You’re just going to have to learn to live with it now.”
James grumbled and pushed the tray away from him. They’re giving up on Laura so fast. They don’t care. He hated the feeling and didn’t mind showing it by glaring at his parents. They had given up completely on just about every child that had been sucked into Angtholand. Something about that made sense. Angtholand sounded dangerous; magic existed there. It had to be powerful magic too to survive the pressures of a non-magic world. Magic, James surmised, functioned as some sort of temporary force, controlled by something external. On Earth, it had been lost, for reasons he didn’t quite know. On Angtholand it was so strong that magic items left on Earth still functioned simply by the connection they had to their origin.
But they had given up on Laura already. His parents and the Council considered her lost now, and he imagined that Laura’s parents felt the same. He could see them lost in mourning in the back of his mind. Laura could still be alive.
“Whatever you’re thinking, stop,” his father said sternly. “Laura is lost. You have to accept that now. Her parents must accept it too.”
“You’re all cowards.” He let the last word slip and then caught his tongue. The words stung, he could see it in their faces for a brief moment before they resumed a calmer demeanor.
His father came close to him, knelt down, put his hands on James’ shoulders, and looked him in the eye. James watched the two sinewy blue embers.
“I know this is a lot to handle. It was when I learned too. You have to understand that this is how it has to be. Laura is lost to us now. No man who has ever gone searching has ever returned. The Council is absolute. What they say goes.”
James pushed his father away.
“Listen to us James!” His mother pleaded with him. James couldn’t stand it. He suddenly hated them and breathed fast, hard breaths to show it. “We don’t even know how to get to Angtholand. Even if we wanted to send someone after her we wouldn’t know what to do.”
“I do!” James lied, speaking sharply and with a snappy tone. “This,” he indicated the cloth around his arm. “It’s connected somehow.”
His father shook his head. “That will come off soon and it will be destroyed.”
The cloth tightened as if it could hear what his father had said. James rubbed it gently like a pet and, like a pet, it loosened and calmed. “You could at least pretend like you care that Laura is gone. You’ve done nothing but give up on her from the start.”
“The most we can do is beg the Council to do something.” His mother shifted uneasily.
“At best, we’ll be able to get the Council to block that place off so no more children can get in there. It should have been blocked off long ago.”
James glared at the two of them.
“I’m sorry son,” his father said, the apology genuine. “But this is the best we can do.”
A short pause left James feeling strung out. His entire world had been flipped upside-down in the matter of twenty-four hours and the two most supportive people in his life were telling him he couldn’t fix it.
“I have to make a phone call. You stay here, eat your dinner, and get some sleep. We’ll finish this in the morning.” His father got up and, followed tentatively by his mother, left the room. The door closed gently behind.
James nearly let his anger and frustration take over. It took much of his willpower to not throw the tray of food across the room in a fit of rage. The cloth seemed to agree with his attitude, gently squeezing and releasing in little ripples along his flesh. It occurred to him that this cloth, whatever magic that possessed it, had grown fond of him, if such a thing were possible. It was an inanimate object, yet it seemed to be connected to his psyche enough where it could react to things around it, especially his emotions.
James had grown somewhat fond of it as well and had no desire to get rid of it. Some voice inside him had grown stronger and now he got the impression that, unlike the satin bag, the cloth meant him no harm.
What am I going to do? They’re all cowards. All of them. James had never been one to be rash, but here he found himself thinking of the most absurd plans to help Laura. One involved forcing the Council to go themselves and rescue her. He acknowledged the absurdity of the ideas, but got a grim satisfaction in the thought of a bunch of old, grumpy men being forced into a completely unfamiliar world.
A series of powerful words caught his attention and he decided to go to the door and try to get a listen. He gently opened the door and stuck his ear out enough to get a good listen.
“Their negligence has gone too far Mary,” he heard his father say. “We have to do something now. Yes, I know the consequences, but do we have much of a choice? Ruth’s daughter is gone and my son nearly fell into the trap too. The Council is old. It has old thinking. They want to preserve, but we have to destroy.”
There was a long pause and James felt the suspense running up him.
“This line is unfiltered locally. Don’t worry, the Council can’t hear us. Look, we can at least attempt to set the insides on fire. The structure itself will be standing but all the artifacts will be lost. That’s the best way. Yes.” Another long pause. “Can you be there in an hour? Good, see you there. Bye.”
James waited for the click of the phone being set down before closing the door as silently as he could. He sunk down into his bed and stared at the ceiling again. The cloth gently nudged his arm; he ignored it, moving to the back of his mind. He saw logic floating there, locked away with reason and rationality.
Hastily, he hopped out of bed, faster than he would have liked as his head protested. He took a minute to let the throbbing wear off and dug out of his closet his backpack. Piling clothes into the bag he contemplated sneaking into the kitchen and taking some of the food there, but he knew that he would be caught in the act and his plan foiled.
James scribbled onto a piece of paper and attached a piece of tape to the top. He reread the note. It was too short for his liking, but he had no time to write a full letter. Besides, he still harbored anger towards them and felt no need to give them a drawn out explanation of why he had to look for Laura.
She’s my best friend and I won’t abandon her. Never. All they need to know is that I’ve gone looking for her.
Quietly again, he opened the door and slipped out into the hallway. Luckily his house had been designed so that his bedroom sat only two doors from the main entrance, leaving him with a short stretch of hall to reach it. His parents were engaged in conversation and this time he paid no attention—he had all the information he needed. He attached the note to the door to his room and crept along the hall until he reached the main entrance. Even more delicately he took hold of the handle and pushed.
The door let out a loud wail from the hinges and James stifled a curse. The conversation in the other room abruptly stopped and he heard a few whispers. He acted swiftly, thrusting the door completely open and bolting through the yard and onto the street. A slam followed by another wail and the loud voices of his parents gave him an additional boost as he poured through bushes and roads to get to Hansor Manor. Dusk had come, drenching the landscape in wide black shadows as the remaining rays of light dwindled beyond the horizon. Soon James realized he had gotten himself lost. He’d taken back roads and shortcuts before, but always in daylight, and with every ounce of energy he had invested in running he had failed to pay more attention to which back roads and shortcuts he had taken.
He stopped and leaned over to catch his breath. His parents’ voices were gone, lost in the distance somewhere, yet he could imagine them calling for him, even looking for him. A moment of hard breaths and he stood upright and looked around.
James turned about trying to get his bearings. He’d stumbled onto Spooner Street, some distance north of the Hansor Grounds. Luckily he knew that Hansor began at the end of Spooner through a wide expanse of wooded area, which opened up behind the Manor. The bad side was that Spooner Street stretched long and open, and had two wider-than-normal lanes. This made keeping out of sight difficult without running through the thick brush along the side. On top of that, it was a frequented road, especially at night.
It took him only a moment to contemplate whether to cut through the woods and onto Parrot Road or to chance the straight arrow Spooner. Parrot, while safer, made the trip longer, more confusing, and altogether unpleasant. His parents knew where he was going and adding the additional time made his chances of getting to the Manor without capture near impossible. Shortcuts, generally, were the only quick ways to anywhere in Woodton. All had to be traversed by foot, which meant one could avoid the windy, snake-like maze of streets.
He kept on Spooner and followed it south at a slow jog. The initial bout of running had worn him out; gym was his least favorite class, though he could usually hold his own in a good run.
After a few minutes of jogging, James—tired, puffing, and sweaty—could see where Spooner ended in a t-section on Main Street and where the woods on the edge of the Grounds began.
From behind him came a set of headlights. He leapt off the road and tumbled into the brush. Sticks and thorns poked him. He bit his tongue and instead complained in his mind. A moment later three cars zipped by. He cautiously dug his way out and peered down the way he had come. Darkness again. Turning back his heart pumped with relief. Only half the length of a football field stood between him and Hansor. He took off running, full speed.
Main Street came closer, and closer. His heart started to race. He peered back for a moment. No other cars were coming. I’m going to make it, he thought.
Then he turned around and stopped dead in this tracks as a silver car screeched to a halt in the intersection, leaving behind two thick trails of burnt rubber. Even in the dim light he could see them clearly, and then the scent, putrid, hit his nose. Another car screeched up behind the silver one and made a smoother stop. A man in a long bathrobe climbed out of the silver car. He had frazzled, balding gray hair and a small potbelly. The man hobbled a little before looking back to the second car where James could see his parents getting out. His father looked angry, faced crunched up; his mother gave James a vibe of concern and fear as she came around from the passenger side towards him, leaving the two men behind.
James looked to the woods and then at his parents. He gauged the distance in his mind, trying his best to think of a way to get to the Manor. His mother came within a few feet of him, saw his eyes, and stopped.
“James, please listen!” she said, frantically and out of breath. A stream of tears poured from her face.
James remained silent and clamped his lips shut.
“Please, you can’t go.”
“Your son is beyond reason Allison,” the robed man said. “He must be brought before the Council and dealt with.”
“No! I won’t allow it. I know how you people deal with problems.”
“That’s not going to happen Mr. Aldridge,” James’ father butted into the conversation, speaking short and concise.
“Philip, he’s out of control. What do you suggest? Just let him wander the town? There are people here that don’t know our secret, not to mention that he’s potentially going to open their world to ours by forcing his way into Angtholand. I won’t allow that to happen. I can’t allow that to happen. Imagine what the eye could do here?” Mr. Aldridge breathed heavily and wheezed. His potbelly quivered.
“I don’t know what to do, but if you do what you are suggesting you’ll have far more of a problem on your hands.”
“Are you threatening the Council?”
James’ father shook his head and snickered. “I’m simply telling you the truth.”
Mr. Aldridge grimaced and then scuttled forward. From within his robes he produced a small boxy pistol, raised it, and pointed the barrel directly at James.
James lurched back a foot and looked into the angry eyes of Mr. Aldridge. Mr. Aldridge opened his mouth to speak, but before any words could come out, James’ mother burst forward and grabbed at the gun.
His father started to come forward. Mr. Aldridge threw his mother aside and took two thundering bounds forward and grabbed hold of James, jamming the pistol at his head and clasping onto the cloth covered arm.
Again Mr. Aldridge opened his mouth as if to say something, and again he was interrupted. The cloth erupted in a series of convulsions. Mr. Aldridge’s grip didn’t falter, but he looked down questioningly. Then a surge of something, some energy, some force, crashed against Mr. Aldridge’s hand and he let go. James looked up into the man’s surprised gaze and another burst stronger than before rang out in a deep boom. The energy crashed into Mr. Aldridge and he launched into the air, high through the thick brush of trees. His screams and cries abruptly stopped. The cloth calmed immediately.
James looked down at his arm and then at his parents, bewildered. He didn’t glance back at the woods, just simply looked at them as they eyed him reproachfully. Then he started forward a few steps at a time. His mother reached gently for him, questioned the action, and withdrew her hand. Tears streamed down her face and her knees slightly buckled. James looked at her apologetically.
Nothing happened as he passed his father, the two cars, and reached the edge of the woods. James was at a loss. A terrible feeling of guilt hit the bottom of his stomach. He tried to push the feeling aside, but it remained, aching and pushing at his insides. But he couldn’t stop now, not after all that had happened. He’d forced determination upon himself, completely and fully, and nothing could turn him back.
“James,” his father said, trying to seem soft and unthreatening. “Look what has already happened. Angtholand only brings evil.”
James kept walking, even as his father came close to him. His father took a few more steps but stopped abruptly as if some invisible force prevented him from getting any closer.
“James! Listen to me!”
Something spoke to his mind. He paused, trying to hear it more clearly and heard a whispering voice say ‘go’, deep and airy like some sort of ghostly thing.
Then James scooted into the woods and pushed his way through. Limbs and brush seemed to bend out of his way before he came within a few feet of them. Trees creaked and groaned but remained steady as leaves and branches fell. The noise was frightening, but for some reason James felt only fear for the power he had seen. He trusted the cloth fully now. It had protected him, and still was.
He heard his parents’ voices ring behind him and, though difficult, he could make out their sounds as they pushed through the woods after him. Then he broke the cover of the woods and could see the Manor looming before him like a menacing emblem of his past. Someone had boarded up the window he and Laura had climbed through. He ran up to it and tried to pry through, but the boards were nailed tight to the wall, and thick too. He turned and looked around, finding a pointed stone at the edge of the woods. When he lifted it he let out a grunt. It weighed more than he had expected, but the force of his smashing it into the boards produced a good effect. The wood splintered and bit-by-bit the boards came apart. He kicked the weakened boards one by one, breaking them and opening the way into the Manor.
A moment later his parents came through the woods, just as he had completely gained access. His father set off at a run and tried to grab his arm as he slipped through the window. The force thrust his father back, who lost his balance and tumbled down the snow hill. James had that same gut wrenching feeling of guilt, but now could ignore it.
The satin bag sat right where it had been left, as if beckoning him to come towards it. He did, reaching down and grabbing it softly, lifting it to his face. He looked inside and saw darkness for a moment. Then the bag shuttered and the same inhuman roar ripped through the air. James dropped it as flames erupted from the opening, blocking his vision just as the ice blue, crimson marked eye came into view. Items around the room woke up too, bringing massive amounts of light into the already brightened room. The cloth on his arm lit up and went into vigorous movement, sending out waves of invisible force that pushed against the flames. One giant blast of energy sent things flying into walls and the flames suddenly changed. The red and orange faded to a light blue, and when the blue energy touched James—as the cloth no longer repelled it—warmth encompassed him. He let it engulf him and, closing his eyes, bathed in the feeling.
Then he had the sensation of moving swiftly through air. He opened his eyes and found himself in a great moving tunnel that gleamed bright and amazing. Clouds passed along and rays of light came in from little holes in the sides. His cloth grew brighter and covered him in pale gray matter. He closed his eyes again, but found himself interrupted as thundering booms came into the tunnel. When he opened his eyes he could see great waves of magic rumbling along the walls. The cloth pushed back, blocking the blasts, but it could only manage it for a brief moment when the waves came in greater numbers. They hit him like a one hundred pound weight, knocking the air out of him. The sounds made the insides of his ears ache.
Then a massive wave came through the tunnel. When it hit, the tunnel seemed to collapse around him, or dissolve, he couldn’t tell which as he battled the horrid feeling in his body as he gasped for air. Sunlight came in and he could see something green pushing forward at the end.
James crashed through the tunnel, through open air, and hit flat faced in a green expanse of grass. He sat up as best he could. The gentle silence of nature whisked away all the ringing in his ears.
For miles before him stretched a wide pasture of green and tan grasses, rivers, hills, forests, and mountains. In the distance, buried in the mountains, he could see waterfalls and snow. A lake shimmered to his left and more hills to his right. Behind him stood a long wide forest and nestled against its edge was a city, walled, tall and ancient. Two amazing towers, spired and golden, rose up in the center, connected by a stone bridge.
James stood in awe.
“Angtholand,” he said.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

When is it okay to tell people to burn a book?

1. When it is packed full of lies.
2. When it insults the people it is trying to convince.
3. When it is complete and utter crap.

When is it not okay?

1. When the book grabs the attention of a wide range of people and compells them to read. Harry Potter anyone? I seem to recall many religious nuts (no offense to anyone that is religious, this is not a rant against religious people, just extremists) who thought that HP was evil and should be burned. Interesting really considering for the first time in probably 20 years kids were actually enthusiastic to read again...
2. When the book is actually good and presents information truthfully.
3. When the book doesn't insult people.

Now, before I get into the book that has sparked this sort of rant I have to say a few things. I am a believer in Evolution and I understand that many out there are not, and that is fine. I'm not such a wacko that I want all of you to believe in Evolution (and I don't mean Darwinism, which is so far different than what we call Evolution today). You believe what you want, that is your right, but I must rant about a book that a friend gave me and that I just picked up to peek at for the second time since it was given to me. I understand fully and completely that EVOLUTION IS A THEORY. You don't have to repeat it to me and I in no way will ever tell you that the evolution of man or long term evolution is completely proven (though evolution in the short term is since we can observe the evolution of bacteria, but you could probably call that something other than evolution anyway). So the book is:

The Evolution Cruncher

Now, I initially had no problem with this book when it was given to me. I'm open to new interpretations and new information. In fact, I'm so much open for it that I respect the scientific method and allow such ideas and concepts to help me devise new ways to look at evolution. This book is about as far from the truth as you can get. I have not finished this book, and I never will. Here is why.
When I first picked this book up I flipped to a few interesting sections just to see what it had to say. One section was on stratigraphy (the study of rock layers). The author had no idea how stratigraphy worked, which immediately indicated to me that this supposed genius man who had dispelled the theory of Evolution in one massive book was nothing more than a ill-educated imbocile. He tried to claim something to the effect of there being no correlation between all the different steps in human evolution in the layers and that some things were above and some below certain time periods. But, what the author failed to even mention was that:
a) Rock layers should never be your primary basis for scientific thought on evolution because of the fact that they are easily affected by weather and natural phenomenon
b) Rock layers have a specific method for being interpreted which doesn't involve just staring at it and going "well this one is higher than that one so it must be younger"
Stratigraphy should and often is followed by Carbon Dating, which is pretty much as accurate as you can get these days and is constantly being improved upon. Things move in the soil, they don't just sit there through thouands or millions of years of earthquakes, plate movement, erosion, etc.
Now, what has caused me to talk about it today is this. I picked it up today and started to flip through, hoping that I might find something interesting in there that would spark my interest and cause me to do some additional research. Well, this book has secured itself on my shelf of crap. If you want someone to believe you and take in your new ideas and dispell something they have been taught and believe fully in, you don't insult them. The author of this book did just that. Almost every other section has to flat out say "evolution is a load of bullcrap and is wrong and people are stupid for believing it". That is unaceptable in my book. So, this supposed expert has landed himself in my pile for authors that should be burned at the stake. Not to mention he has a whole section on this book that I didn't notice that dispells the Big Bang Theory, which any educated person knows has NOTHING TO DO WITH EVOLUTION. The Big Bang is so loosely a theory that it will never be proven just as there is no way to prove or disprove there is a God; you just have to believe. It is one of those scientific ideas that people just believe or don't believe. But it has nothing to do with evolution. The evolution of man or any other species or thing is not in any way affected by the Big Bang except in that the Big Bang was supposed to be the starter of it all. But Big Bang doesn't explain how we came from microscopic organisms. All it explains is how the planets, stars, and other space matter came to be. That's it. Well, it's a little more complicated than that, but you get the idea.
So, if anyone happens to read this and has a book that follows my little rules at the top that discusses flaws in Evolutionary Theory I would really like to read it. I'm open to new ideas here. I'm not set in stone on what I believe, but I don't want an author to shove his or her moral or personal agenda down my throat while trying to 'educate' me.

Anywho, that's my rant for the day. New chapter up Sunday. Look for it :)

Saturday, October 07, 2006


There's always been a fascination with the way people create fantasy worlds for me. I do it every so often in the form of a map, but for this current project I have yet to take the plunge and draw something. That is on purpose. I don't want to design a map and then get bored with my world too quick. However, I did come up with something awesome, at least I think so, for this project.


I realize that is just a simple little word in our language. But for me the inspiration came from some music I was listening to. There is a song on the soundtrack for Chronicles of Narnia by Alanis Morissette called Wunderkind. I started to think about that word and thought to myself that using kind as a root word for a variety of creatures would be great. I'm not sure what the english term is for what I'm talking about, but that's what I came up with. So, I know for certain that Wunderkind will be one of these creatures, but I've yet to come up with different kinds. But regardless there will be something like this in my little work of fiction here :). So, that should be interesting to have. Good news is that today is my birthday and it has been the greatest day in the world :).

Monday, October 02, 2006

Chapter Two: Lights

(Note:  This is not official version and may be removed in the near future.  This do not reflect what is read in the podcast version, nor any other version you may encounter.  I have preserved the rough form for posterity -- or something like that.  This novel has since been rewritten.)

James woke, groggy, head throbbing rhythmically. He kept his eyes closed and groaned. He didn’t dare touch whatever bruise had formed on his skull for fear of the pain. A whistling sound, like a train in a deep cavern, played brightly in the back of his ears.
Radio reception, he thought. Someone had told him once that the high pitch sounds in his ears were unfiltered radio frequencies. He never believed it—after all, it was pure nonsense—but for some reason it had stuck.
Finally he worked up the nerve to open his eyes. He took it slow, half-expecting there to be bright light shining through the window. But the room was utterly dark, empty. Without any source of light the bedroom on the second floor of Hansor Manor was as dark as during a solar eclipse. Thick mats of clouds hid the moon and rid the landscape of any shadows. In a way James was glad for the darkness. It meant his head wouldn’t hurt, at least not any more than it already did.

At a snails’ pace, James lifted himself up and gently felt the back of his head. He let out a groan as his fingers touched the small bulge there. Then the entirety of all that had happened hit him hard. He took a few groggy steps forward and blindly knelt and ran his hands where the burnt circle had been. The charred wood crumbled like dried bread beneath his fingers. His movement released a fresh scent of burning wood.
“Laura,” he said. His voice quivered.
There was no answer, just the call of wind rushing against the side of the Manor and the faint roar of thunder in the distance. He hadn’t expected an answer, but had hoped for it.
James held back the urge to panic. Now, more than ever, he had to resist temptation. He had to be more like Laura. It had never occurred to him that there would ever come a time when he could not rely on Laura’s unending adventurous personality. He wanted to scream out her name and the urge to cry welled up. His legs twitched as if they could bolt at any moment.
He resisted. Every instinct he had he resisted.
Silently his hand brushed along the smooth fabric of the satin bag. He ripped his hand back momentarily as if just touching it would set off whatever had happened to Laura. For a moment he stood still, and then he slowly lifted the bag to his face. His eyes were adjusting to the darkness and he could begin to make out the outline of the shield knot. He took hold of the drawstring, pulled it tight, tied a thick knot, and then leaned back slightly relieved.
What am I going to do with this thing? What about Laura? The thought brought a bad taste to his mouth. She had disappeared right before his eyes and somewhere, someplace, she still lived. The flames hadn’t killed her. He was sure of that. He shivered.
Then something twitched against the side of the satin bag. It wasn’t the wind or the bag itself, but something inside. The bag moved again and he nearly dropped it out of shock. Then the bag burst into continuous motion, thumping like a sporadic heartbeat. He dropped it. The bag thumped on the wood floor and sagged over creating a bulbous mass of fabric, squiggling as if it was filled with little worms.
A thundering clap rang in every direction and he looked up. Items all over the room began to wiggle like the bag, but he quickly noticed that only the things adorned with a Celtic symbol were in motion. The dresser, bed, and chairs remained motionless. He stood straight. With his eyes adjusted to the darkness he could make out the shapes rustling about.
To his surprise, as if nothing else could possibly make the situation any more frightening, an inhuman cry burst from the bag, jolting his gaze back to the floor. The noise resembled the sound of an eagle, bear, and the airy hiss of a snake melded together. The unnatural noise ripped through the air loud enough so that he had to clasp both hands over his ears. As he did so, the shield knot on the satin bag slowly lit up as little orange embers followed the pattern until every inch glowed red. Then symbols across the entire room burst alight until it seemed like daylight—bright and overwhelming.
James backed away, weary and slightly afraid. Again his panic reflex called, but he ignored it. He eyed the window nonetheless. He saw his reflection in the window and realized that the cloth wrapped tightly over his wound glowed bright red as well. Backing away farther until he touched the wall with his back, he pulled one of his hands from his ear and began to tug at the knot. It wouldn’t come loose; Laura had tied it tight. Tugging harder and harder he kept his gaze partly on his arm and partly on the room. The terrible noise changed pitch.
Suddenly several glowing items hopped into the air from various parts of the room, flew across and circled the satin bag. The knot he had tied burst open and a bright white light shot up through the center of the room producing a swift wind that circled like a vortex. James tried to move farther away but kept running into the wall. He looked around for a door; the bag, whirling items, and circle of wind blocked access to the window. The door sat along the wall he clung to at the far end of the room. He inched his way along. Wind and some invisible force flicked his skin like little fingers trying to grab him.
A few more strides and he was able to reach for the door handle. The door opened in. He pulled and before he could open it enough to squeeze through the same invisible force slammed against it. He tried again with the same result. Then with more effort he pushed the door open and jammed his foot into the opening. The force hit over and over, crashing the corner of the wood into his foot. He barely noticed the pain. Whatever pushed against the door didn’t want to let him out. It took all his strength to pry the door open far enough to get half his torso through the opening, then another burst to get the rest of him through. The voice screeched in protest, roaring angrily. James heard the door bang violently shut behind him.
He took off down a hall full of other doors, running as fast as he possibly could. The farther he ran from the bedroom the dimmer the cloth over his arm became until it completely blinked out and was normal again. At the end of the hall, running the length of the building in a zigzag fashion stood a staircase. His feet fell from underneath him as he turned to the stairs. He gathered himself up and bound down them three at a time, nearly falling once more at the bottom.
Down on the bottom floor not a single light lit the room. James found himself in complete darkness again. He tried to remember where the main entrance was, hoping he could break through, but as he wandered hurriedly along the walls he managed only to find a couple windows before deciding that one of them would do. The window was boarded, like all the rest, and he attempted to pry them open with little success. Finally he fumbled around the room keeping his bearings fresh in his mind so as not to get lost. He bumped his knee into something metal and instinctively grabbed for it. Then he jogged back to the window. As he did so a series of bangs—one after another—sounded upstairs. The doors to the other rooms opened and shut, opened and shut. The sound, added in with the inhuman voice, was deafening.
Raising the metal item over his head he slammed it hard into the window. He heard the familiar sound of glass shattering melded with that of wood splintering. He swung again and again. Bit by bit the boards on the outside crumbled and splintered, too old to withstand such beating. A few more hits later and he had made a hole big enough for him to squeeze through.
Getting through the hole proved more difficult than he had hoped. His clothes snagged on the jagged wood, sometimes pulling the wood free, other times being held tight. Finally he managed to get through and landed with a crunchy thud as he tumbled to the ground outside. He jumped out as fast as he could and ran. Behind him he could see the light from the bedroom, still bright and ominous. He crossed the Hansor Grounds and stopped on the opposite end of the playground where he was able to see the main road nearby. Then he turned and looked back.
It had all been too much. With his head still throbbing from the hit earlier, James realized he didn’t have the stamina to go on any farther. He pressed himself to stay standing, but a massive dose of lightheadedness came over him and he tumbled to the ground. A few seconds of conscious thought and he passed out.
* * *
James woke a million times groggier than before. At first he couldn’t open his eyes; his eyelids protested. When he managed to get them open he realized he was lying in his own bed. The familiar tan dresser, light blue walls, and suspended model airplanes greeted him. He welcomed the sight and didn’t move, relishing in the comfort of safety.
“Thank goodness you’re awake!”
James looked toward the door. His mother stood straight, her face slightly drooping, concerned.
“Philip come here,” she screamed down the hall.
A man slid in beside her—his father. He looked more than happy to see him. “How are you feeling?”
“Alive,” James said.
“Yes, thankfully. The doctor said you took quite a hit to the head.”
“What happened?”
James paused. He wasn’t quite sure how to tell them what had really happened. They surely wouldn’t believe him. He bit his tongue.
“Well, I can tell you this,” his mother said raising her voice ever so slightly, “no more adventures to the Hansor Grounds.”
“Especially not on your own.”
“I wasn’t alone.” James blurted the words out. He would have to tell them something. The two of them looked at him questioningly. “Laura was with me.”
“Laura. I see. Well, I suppose we’ll have to have a talk with Laura’s parents then.” His mother turned leave.
“No, stop!” Then he blurted the whole story out frantically. He told them about the bag, the symbols, the lights, and flames, and about how Laura had disappeared. Every detail he could remember he said speedily—without pause.
Both his parents looked at each other and then at him bewildered, and in a strange way they had a look of surprise he hadn’t expected. It was more than surprise, more than the look of disbelief he assumed they would have given him. For a brief moment they looked at him as if they believed him. Then it was gone and they dismissed him.
“Such stories. I think we’ve raised a writer,” his father said.
“Well, under other circumstances I would praise your imagination, but right now is not exactly the time. You are to stay away from the Hansor Grounds, and especially from that dreaded Manor. Understood?”
“I’m not lying Mom.”
“Understood?” she said more sternly.
He nodded.
“Good, and your father and I will have a chat with Laura’s parents right now.” She walked out and down the hall, thumping her feet.
James’ father waited for the door to close then turned to him. “Look, we’re glad you’re alright, but that old Manor is dangerous. Hence why it is condemned. A board probably fell and hit you in the head and you dreamt of that story right there.”
“I didn’t dream it!” He felt himself getting angry.
“Sometimes dreams seem real. In any case, you’re lucky that the doctor said you should stay in bed for a while. We were going to ground you.” His father smiled. “Get some sleep. Laura’s probably at home in bed too. Just get some sleep and we’ll see you when we get home.”
James nodded and watched his father leave. He heard a car engine stutter to life outside and a series of crackles indicated that the car had left the gravel driveway.
He found that sitting up straight was practically out of the question. Lifting his head left him dizzy and sent throbbing pains through his brain. He lay there thinking with the look from his parents burnt fresh in his mind.
They know something, he thought. With effort he managed to tilt over and reach under the bed. He produced a thin laptop computer and sat farther up against his pillow so he could place it neatly on his lap. Then he plugged an Internet cable into the back. With his father being a web designer he had the luck of having a supportive family to his technological needs. His mother worked as his fathers’ secretary, more or less, but she had a hand in how the financial side of things went. Regardless, James had always been grateful that his parents supported his thirst for knowledge. He figured they had hopes to raise a technological genius of some sort.
Booting up the computer he started to think of where he was going to look. He’d spent enough time on the Internet to know where to find the usual information, but he couldn’t imagine where to go to find what you didn’t know you were looking for.
When the desktop appeared he followed his first instinct and went to the website for the Woodton Chronicle—the local newspaper. Woodton had an extensive archive of news articles available online and he figured he could start there if not anywhere else.
“What am I looking for,” he said when the archive search came up. He ran the list of possible searches through his mind, then typed “Hansor Manor” and hit enter. A moment later a list of articles appeared. He skimmed them. Each of the articles had something to do with the sale of Hansor Manor. The original owners had died in the house, which got passed down to their next of kin. They eventually sold it and the new owners spent a year there before reporting that it was haunted by the souls of the original owners and selling it as well. From then on Hansor Manor passed between hands, but not a single person ever actually lived in it after the original owners for more than a few months.
Ghosts. Once upon a time James would have dismissed any talk of the supernatural as complete malarkey. Now he thought differently. That explains why the place is still furnished. Nobody ever cleared it out.
The articles didn’t lead him anywhere. He still didn’t know anything about what was going on. Ghosts couldn’t make a person disappear, at least not in any story he had ever read. They were limited in what they could do to the living world; he knew that. With a few theories brewing, he clicked back to start another search. He tried a couple keywords related to the supernatural—ghosts, voices, and the like—but came up even more lost than before. None of the dozen or so articles he had gazed at were leading him in the right direction. He found himself, more or less, in a realm that had absolutely nothing to do with Laura’s disappearance.
He clicked back again and sighed. He thought hard, and harder still, imagining the giant brick wall that blocked him—old, moldy, and monstrous.
Then it came to him as if someone had thrown a heavy weight over his writer’s block. He clicked back again and typed missing persons. He secretly kicked himself for not thinking of it quicker, and then kicked himself again when several dozen articles came up. He should have known that in the long history of Woodton there would have been many reports of missing people. Some would have been solved, and others not. Woodton was by no means a small town, but neither was it a city. With a population of twelve thousand it fit into the niche that didn’t allow it to be called small or medium. Rather, Woodton could simply be referred to as “that town down the hill.” Woodton sat nestled in the bottom of a wide, shallow valley. Over the hills, climbing in altitude gradually, were other towns. It had its fair share of churches, five schools, and a modest Town Hall that tripled as the local action hall and dance hall.
So, as James sat blurry eyed, it dawned on him that over the course of the papers’ existence there would have been a considerable amount of missing person’s reports published, and still more than probably never saw print in any form.
He narrowed the search to children and grinned when only five came up. He read them: two boys, two girls, and an outsider who had appeared in Woodton and just as quickly disappeared as if he had never existed. Neither had been solved, nor did the article give any other useful information.
Except dates.
1856, 1886, 1916, 1946, and 1976. Each in January. James soaked them in. Exactly thirty years apart. He pondered the significance. Thirty years was a long time, but for each disappearance to be exactly that many years apart seemed more than coincidence. He drew the connection out farther. Thirty years from the last date made it present time—January 2006. That meant that Laura was the sixth disappearance to follow the pattern.
James knew there was a connection there. Surely something he had read would have given it away, but as he thought it he realized that if there was a connection it had not been made blatantly obvious. He would have to dig for the information if it existed. It has to, he thought. It’s more than mere coincidence. It has to be. Searching his memory he tried to remember when the Hansor Manor had been sold, but, strangely enough, the information wasn’t there. He had never looked for the dates.
Hurriedly, he went back to his original search. And there it was. He giggled joyously for a brief moment. Hansor Manor had been sold three months after each of the disappearances. Though circumstantial, James felt glad that he had any sort of connection with the Manor at all. He could assume that each of those children had been in Hansor and had probably seen the same things he had seen. The satin bag had gobbled them all up in flames just like Laura. James suddenly felt his stomach drop. All those children had been snatched up, and their parents left with nothing to do but hope they would return. Likely some of the parents still lived in Woodton, hoping endlessly.
A crackle of rocks told him that his parents had returned. When the engine cut off and the doors had opened, he could hear the muffled sounds of their arguing. He hadn’t moved much since they had left and thought to lean over and open the window enough to hear. He dreaded the throbbing that would come with that.
But I have to know what they are saying. That thought was all it took for James to gather the strength necessary to lift himself up, stumble to the window and gently slide it far enough where he could feel the long draft of the cold winter air coming in.
“She’s the sixth Philip,” his mother’s voice was frantic. “The sixth! For heaven’s sake something has to be done about that god-awful place!”
“There’s nothing we can do. We don’t own it. The Council has to make that decision.”
“They’ll never make the decision you know is necessary. Mayor or no Mayor, this town will never do anything.”
“What do you suggest?” His father said shortly.
There was a long pause where James could only hear the rustling of feet.
“Burn it.”
“It’s made of stone. That place won’t just burn down.”
“Burn everything inside and then collapse the building then.”
“We don’t have the means to do that.”
“We could have lost James to that infernal place. Did you stop and consider that?”
“Yes, it has been in my mind since he was born. The only way to keep him away from that place is to tell him everything about Angtholand. And I mean everything. But the council forbids it. And we can’t leave neither. We know too much here. You know the punishment for betrayal.”
“The worst is over. We’ll make it clearer to him that he cannot go near that place. Okay?”
“Philip,” there was another pause, “I think he’s seen the eye.”
For a while his father said nothing, but James could hear him thrust his fist into the side of the house.
“Don’t talk like that.”
Then the argument ended and the front door opened and slammed shut. James heard a set of long sighs. He shut the window, got back into bed, put his laptop into sleep mode, and pretended to sleep. He didn’t want to face them. Too many questions were lingering in his mind. They knew a lot more than he had ever thought. And the whole town seemed to be in on whatever had happened at Hansor Manor.
James wondered, as he kept his eyes closed, what sort of name Angtholand was. He tried to pick it apart and look at the root words. Angtho was no word he had heard before. But his parents had talked about it as if it were a person. He had seen the eye too; he remembered it vividly.
The same questions swam around in his thoughts. He conversed with his mind for a moment. Any questions he had he could ask when things had cooled down. Who is Angtholand? What is the Council?
And, where did the eye take Laura?
He rolled over and stared at the ceiling and spaced out on his thoughts.