Plugs

I stood amongst the cedar trees, my snowshoes caked with snow, listening and waiting.  I checked my weapons again, the icicle in my left, the sharpened peppermint stick in my right, making certain I had not cracked them without noticing.  This would be the final battle. There was not enough belief in the world for all of us.

I had tracked Grandfather Frost for miles before catching him by the shores of the Baltic. Hours we fought, before I finally knocked him down, then held his head under the surf until he finally grew still.  When I let go, he melted away, leaving only a faint scent of snow and gingerbread.

I made camp in the forest, but that night a sound woke me. I awoke to find a small present wrapped in silver and gold by my head.  I unwrapped it to find a lump of coal and a note: I SEE YOU.

I burned the coal and the note in my campfire. “Ho ho ho,” I whispered in the flickering light.  In the morning I traveled north. I knew where to find him.  It had come down to the two of us, as I had known it would all along.

Behind me I heard the sound of jingle bells.  I turned and there he was, blue eyes blazing above red robes.  “Kris,” he said with a wink.

I nodded back. “Nicholas.  I’ve got a present for you.”

As we charged, our laughter echoed in the forest.

In 1203, A.D., Pandora yawned and rolled aside the stone covering her box (well, coffin). A walk to Byzantine might do her good.
Her feet grew sore from walking, so she rubbed her tootsies by the gently lapping shores of Stone Lake–which, despite its name, was not a lake of stones but one of water. Dusk had fallen when she spotted knights in shining armor, rowing toward the palace docks. A hundred boats, at least.
She whistled shrilly. “Fishermen!” She waved.
“Shh! Keep it down!” one whispered, motioning his axe to emphasize.
Their chivalry did not impress her though the palace guard had waved at her atop his Byzantine wall. But, employed, he lacked the necessary gondola.
She wouldn’t let those Sunday boaters get away with skimping on their manners. “Over here!”
A knight looked at the guard (who sighed at the female), shot an arrow through the guard’s poor pounding heart, and told Pandora, “We will pick you up if you will shut your trap.”
Pandora clapped her hands. She’d never played a game of catch the castle.
On the other side, she let herself be lifted out the boat and on the dock. She ran beside them as they clattered down the corridor. Somehow the residents were not surprised to see them. She gave pointers, helping knights to better slash and gouge. One knight paused to grab her by the shoulders. “This is not the time to play. When we go forward, you go back, lest one of us fortuitously lop your head off.”
“Aw, shucks,” she said and shuffled to the water gardens.
Someone yelled, “We’ve got the emperor!”
Pandora, skipping rocks into the pool, was roughly whipped around. “Who are you?” asked a handsome Byzantine. “You don’t belong here. Tell me where you come from.”
“From going to and fro across the earth.”
His face was horrified. “Miss Fortune!” Maybe he’d have plunged her in the pool, but from a window, cheers arose, which made her glum–their having fun without her.
“The knights have seized the emperor,” she said.
His face grew pensive. To his side, he drew Pandora. “Hastily, I judged you, oh, my good luck charm. I’ll exit to Nicea. Meanwhile, next in line is witless Isaac Angelos. I, Constantine, will reign thereafter!”
#
He was right. He ruled the Byzantines–although without a crown–a reign that lasted months.

About ten percent of the people on the Earth are aliens. That’s not surprising to those in the know. That’s how it’s always been. Daedalus and Churchill were aliens, so was Francis of Assisi but pretty much all the rest of them were here just trying to fit in until the day we get to take over. Half the time you humans think you’re so tolerant, half the time you think you’re so <i>in</i>tolerant. Fact is, everybody in the universe looks pretty much the same, you just don’t have the senses to tell if your friend or co-worker is one of (insert descending crescendo) <i>them</i>.

Does your neighbor smell a bit funny? Are they doing things you don’t understand sometimes? Do they look Muslim?

Those aren’t the ones you have to look out for. They’re just more of  you. It’s the ones that look and act completely normally you need to beware. But you won’t.

We’re good at this.

Spent all day working on a story. The high point was a fierce 20-minute tussle that netted me this:
“…came up from the south, boiling the dawn away and filling the sea with stars. Stephen ran up the street, fighting the urge to look over his shoulder. The weather minders had slipped up again, or this was a sending from…”

Fiction, a good start, but aside from that I got prepositions and pronouns, and “brinklayermanship.” WTF? Pardon my telegraphese. Maybe I am using the wrong bait.

No closer to springing Eloise, but I’ll eat well tonight. A balanced haul containing most of the word groups.
I’ve started dreaming about fishing. Last night I dreamed I was here, right here, but I lived in a white gazebo. A climbing rose covered one side, a Lady Banks, I think. Thornless, anyway. The gazebo stood by the pond, and I had the following hanging from a stout chain:

“The title’s a bit misleading, but the fragment is not without interest. On it, hand-written in 21st century English, is the following.”

I was casting my hook again and again, trying to catch the next part of the story, though Eloise was there, tugging on my arm, and begging me to come away with her.

Then I woke up. Today I caught nothing above one syllable. I could not wait to get to sleep, so of course I laid awake counting the croaks of the frogs, the calls of the whippoorwills, the gleams shining through the clouds, for what seemed like many hours.

When I finally slept I was again in the gazebo. This time, I’d caught a bunch of single words, in different fonts, even, but they pieced together into a narrative:

“Angela hated southern summers. She also hated living [missing] onion. Wished she could afford [missing] nice, even a radish. A few [missing] later, as she put away the last of the folded towels, she heard a loud [missing].”

OK, that looked better in my dream. These dream words don’t count anyway. Maybe I should use a net.

I’m going to miss my deadline. I have nothing like a fresh-caught story. No telling what the literaturists are doing to Eloise, or what she will do to me, when I finally get her out.

I’m going to try night fishing, even though I won’t be able to read my catch till morning.

The End

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