At the age of twelve I found a sword that spat lightning and hissed fire. Men came in its pursuit and it danced in my hand, carving them into the history books as my first kills.
It led me on. At thirteen my traveling companions taught me how to take the lightning and fire into myself and push them back out into the world. At fourteen I did battle with chitin-clad hordes, delivering my homeland from evil.
At sixteen my name was revered. By the time manhood was upon me, I had a temple of gold and a hundred concubines. The next year, I had an army, the next, an empire. I read ancient texts and learned to pull force from the ground beneath my feet. I reshaped the known world.
At twenty-five I had seen and done all things. I wandered to the edges of the maps and beyond, into shadows. I battled with a creature made fully of limbs–no head or heart, only hands and feet, elbows and knees–for five days, pulling the land around us to a shred, sitting in a bubble of my own puissance.
On the eve of my twenty-seventh birthday, while my people prayed for my return, I came across a woman in a tower, a great serpent coiled around its base. I swore to rescue her.
In bloody victory I learned my mistake, I learned of the bait and the trap. Weakened from the fight she bested me, easily. But when my strength returned I withered iron chains to weed grass and tore free.
She caught me once more. We battled once more. Years our battle raged. We tore down the world about us. We tore each other into new forms, each more ragged than the last. Down to nubs of flesh and bone, held together only by the power we had gathered to our breasts.
And then I lost.
I was undone. I was nothing more than a scared child gripping a sword as men advanced. And the sword did not dance, and I did not win.
As my adversary stood over me, she said, “Thank you” to me. She blessed me, put her hand on my bloodied cheek, to feel the heat leaving me. And for the first time in my short life, I finally understood power. Finally, I knew magic. And then it was gone.
Dana Yamamoto was the worst martial artist in school. When she first stepped on the mat, Mirabelle Hayes jeered, “Are you dead?”
Dana didn’t challenge her to a duel. She just blushed and hunched.
“She means you’ve got your gi on backwards,” Samantha MacKinnon said. “Left side over right. You put the right side over the left on a dead person.”
Nobody told her that at least one girl a year stepped on the mat dressed as a dead person.
She drove her sparring partners wild, the way her hands shook like the Mars lander.
The day she tore her gi pants for the sixth time, Hepplewater Sensei followed her into the dressing room. She settled across from Dana, who sat mending the gusset with Mars lander hands.
“Must be hard, being the daughter of a general,” said Sensei.
“She expects a great deal of you, I imagine.”
“And what do you want?”
Dana looked up.
“I w-want to be the best student in the school,” she blurted out. “And,” she added, shocking herself further, “I want to th-throw Mirabelle Hayes all the way across the mat.”
“Hurt her, you mean?” Sensei Hepplewater asked.
“No. Just throw her.”
Sensei nodded. Dana thought to herself, this is where Sensei decides to train me in secret, or gives me a magic black belt. Or sends me on a quest to a distant mountain, so I come back able to fight off six attackers and fly over the roofs. She waited.
“You can be the best student in the school, though what that means may change for you. And you can throw Hayes all the way across without hurting her. But you must do one thing.”
“What?” Dana’s hands shook even more than usual.
Hepplewater Sensei left the dressing room. Dana stitched and cried, and left an hour later. She lay awake all night thinking and crying, so that the next day she arrived so tired that she broke her wrist taking falls, and had to sit on the bench for three months.
“Do I have to watch class every day, Sensei?” she pleaded.
“Yes,” replied Hepplewater Sensei.
She sat and watched, every day. When she returned to the mat, she threw Samantha MacKinnon halfway across it.
“Your hands don’t shake anymore,” accused Mirabelle Hayes as she came in for the attack.
“Th-they don’t,” agreed Dana.
The hole got bigger after we went to bed. That must have been what happened to Mom. She always comes home late after going out with Mr. Sanders and she’s usually high when she gets in. I had put a traffic cone in front of the hole, but it must have fallen in.
In the morning the old orange couch was gone and Mom’s recliner was hanging over the edge. Jase pushed it in. I told him he was a butthead.
“We can’t stay here, Jase. At the present rate of expansion we’ll be cut off from the kitchen by afternoon and we won’t be able to reach the bathroom after tonight. It is not going to be okay to just go on the floor.”
The baby just sat down and cried. He said I was much meaner than Mom and he wished I was the one who fell down the hole. Well excuse me! Who was it got into the Professor’s books and recited some of the spells? He was just lucky he hadn’t summoned a three-headed demon covered with warts and with flaming lava eyes. So then he cried some more. Completely unproductive.
Then, he wanted to go after Mom. I explained the hole could only be closed from here and then he said we can’t close it because Mom would be trapped inside. So I explained, again, there is no inside. The hole is like a door. The other side is just another place. Mom is there, and she’s doing just fine. She would be better at getting back by herself than we would at finding her. I don’t know the first thing about how to find her. Okay, I do know the first thing. We need something of hers, like some hair from her hairbrush. If she wasn’t so freaking OCD there might be hair on her hairbrush. As it is, I’m not sure there’s any trace of her in this house at all.
So that’s not an option. I grabbed the book, we packed a picnic basket, and got out. Right before we left I measured the hole again and it’s expanding exponentially. By Wednesday morning Chestnut Street will be gone. Sorry. Remember, it’s Jase’s fault. In the meantime, I’m getting far enough away so I’ll have time to see if there’s anything in the book about closing a hole. This is so annoying. Now I’ll never finish my project for Thaumaturgy.
To celebrate our first anniversary, each of us here at the Cabal has come up with a story beginning with a line provided to us by the illustrious Jay Lake. Click the link at the bottom of the page to see how Alex Dally MacFarlane started us off yesterday, and tune in tomorrow to see what David Kopaska-Merkel comes up with…
Zoli liked to hang around psychiatrists’ waiting rooms to hit on the low self-esteem chicks. That’s what the case file said. Who the hell still said “chicks” and thought psychiatric help meant low self-esteem? Someone was gonna get smacked.
Patients reported feeling cold spots and someone pull their hair, when no one was there. So we knew we’d find Zoli there. We brought the EMP detector and FLIR heat sensor and the rest of our gear. I had a good idea we’d be able to contain him once we found him, but I couldn’t be sure. It hadn’t been written yet…
Jay Lake made me write this.
Three years ago I was stopped for a lay over at O’Hare waiting for a flight into Wisconsin when I saw his distinctive long hair and bright shirt, at the gate across from me.
I approached thinking of how to introduce myself and found him muttering.
“Luc, Sara, Kat,” he said.
“Huh,” I said.
“You know,” he said. “Cabalistas. Zoli. Zoli, Zoli…”
I stared blankly not wanting to offend.
“Oh,” he said. “You’re not going to meet Kat for another twelve hours and thirty six minutes.”
“Right, uh congratulations on Lake-Wu,” I said, and walked away looking at my boarding pass.
I didn’t know it then but I know it now. It was all part of Jay’s plan. Everything is.
The pattern is quite elegant, at least the parts I can get my mind around. It’s a matter of syncing up the 3rd letter of every word in the lettered edition of Lake-Wu, with the prime numbered pages of the Jacob’s Ladder screenplay, and then using that cipher to read Gibson’s rejected screenplay for Alien 3.
Its all here. I can show you. All roads lead to Jay Lake. The spaces in between the words, The implications they hint at. I’ll show you. I’m typing the cipher but its not showing up on my screen. Why are these words coming out on the screen? I’m not writing this…
Zoli liked to hang around Psychiatrists’ waiting rooms to hit on the low self-esteem chicks,” Zoli thought. Simultaneously, Jay Lake’s hands typed the words into an e mail.
Why did I write that, Jay thought. He hit send anyway, thinking those crazy Cabalistas would get a kick out of it.
Zoli tried to materialize the waiting room. A woman waiting there felt an odd tug on her hair. In the lobby, Dan Braum, with a back pack full of high-end electronics, was about to push through the door.
- END -