This interactive story was written in The Forest on December 19, 1995. VERY minor editing, and a completely spurious title were added later. Now... clip the green wire... NO! NOT THAT ONE!!!! ::sound of large explosion::
A single figure danced through the moonlit rain. It was a joyous occasion, and the shadow leaped in joy through the rain and the moonlight and the flickering firelight. She danced freely, her hair billowing around her, blowing behind her like a comet's tail. The joy was not something new; neither was the dance - she did what she had been born to do, to rejoice, to sing, even alone. But she was not alone - from behind a shadowed tree, I watched. I saw her, and I loved her when I saw her, even though I knew it was wrong - even though I knew the consequences, even if I knew what I would betray -
She danced on midnight's sultry ruby wings, like fire on horizon's dawn struck landscape, wraith-like glimmer in shadows of the moon's pale illumination. First close, then far, forever out of reach to grasping hands with fingers callused, fingers far too rough that snatch at luminous beams of elf light. Enshrouded by wisps of misty lace she toe-steps to strings whis'pring in the pine boughs leaps at the night, and pirouettes in her imagined dance of swans.
And I, knowing I have stumbled upon the magic dreams of one who carries the Lord's sweet gifts close to her heart, slink away as one who views the virgin naked, shamed by beauty far too great for layman's drink-stained, barren eyes. I watched her dancing in that way she has. Ya know, I've been watching her for so long that the nights all just blend into each other now. Her beauty, sometimes I just have to drink myself silly. But the things I know, the things I know... watching her dance... my mind wanders back to younger days, watching her dad as he entered the house or her ladyship Desdemona, ruler of the surrounding countryside in the absence of her husband, the warrior and fool. I wish her dad had been my dad.
Anyway, I watched him enter the house of Desdemona and when her pregnancy was announced and the obvious date became clear it also became clear that she was not the daughter of Desdemona and Harling, the war lord, but of Desdemona and Hapman the wastling, who I had seen enter the house that eve, and now she has been dancing in the wood for so long, not knowing her lineage, poor, without the barest of shelter.
Desdemona is old. It is time for the ascension of one who is new... the dancer... the rightful heiress... the unknown princess Madalena, my heart's desire..
Madalena, with outstretched arms, raised her face to the sky and spun wildly, her hair flying in a tangled web about her shoulders. The clouds merged into the blue heavens and the blue heavens became blurred with the fiery sun and the orange glow became trapped in the branches of the tall trees. Soon, Madalena could no longer distinguish one from the other, but still she was unable to cease her spinning. Her knees grew weak and her feet seemed as though they would leave the ground from the sheer force of whirling.
She saw the sun being chased across the sky by the rising moon... she saw the stars, one by one, take their white-hot course across an ever-blackening canopy...and still she was unable to stop. My own heart was beating loudly in mychest... I thought she could surely hear the noise it made even though I was several meters away from her. She looked exhausted and seemed as though she would drop to the ground like a stunned dove at any moment... but still, the whirling did not cease.
It got faster and faster... she became little more that a hazy blur before my very eyes. She wavered, as though she were surrounded by some strange form of heat... she began to vaporize as though she was being consumed by the energy which drove her. From the corner of my eye, I saw a scarlet-tailed comet shoot across the darkened sky... and when I looked back to Madalena... She was gone...
I couldn't believe it, the princess had disappeared before my eyes My mission seemed to be a failure. I loved her. I worshiped her life, her smile, her dance. I looked up at the gloomy night. The white moon casting shadows through the misty Forest. I felt the cool night breeze lift me up above the trees into the dark night. I was caught in a dark War between my brother's evil plans, and the love for the girl. I felt the cold biting air soar underneath my wings as I flew to the dark castle of my brother.
I entered the pitch-black caves and searched for the Throne Room. Before I entered the room, to be yelled at, probably killed by my brother, I switched back to human form. And waited for the right moment to enter. What was my brother going to do when he found out I had failed in my mission to kill the princess? I would probably die, but I have been ready for that. I have been ready for that moment ever since I laid eyes on her. I have nothing to lose anymore. The respect of my long dead parents? The leadership of my worthless brother? What had I to live for anyway? Except her. I remember how beautiful she was, dancing in the moonlight. I could not kill her, but what choice do I have now. A sacrifice for her is easy, unless my life is the only hope for her survival. With this thought I turned around to exit the cave and begin my search for the beautiful princess, when the throne room doors burst open and a burning body rammed into my back.
I ran from the flames, and was forced to enter my brother's deadly chambers. His dragon form lay unwinding before me, and the fright took me so hard, I was stuck in fear, as he spoke to me... I replied in a low tone, "No my lord..." His awesome jaws spread open in a grin as the great fire leapt out of his mouth, consuming all that I saw...
Michael dropped the pages to his desk and rubbed his hand across his eyes. An unlit cigarette dangled loosely from his lips and moved up and down as he swallowed. There were days when he loved being an editor, and there were days when he didn't. Today he was just tired.
His pulp fantasy mag was one of the last few to actually print on real paper and the periodical was ore popular in novelty shops, than in the bookstores where books came on disk and paper was something you paid with, nothing more. The annoying flicker of a dying fluorescent bulb made the tick in his cheek pulse at what seemed a 60 cycle rhythm and his back ached from hours of going over the latest copy to be sent to the publishing house first thing in the morning. With a grunt, Michael rose from his chair, ground the unlit cig into the ashtray and reached for his coat. The familiar feel of the pistol in the inner pocket brought a brief smile to his face as he slipped it on. That last time had been too close, and he wasn't about to be caught unawares again.
Turning off lights as he strode out of his office and into the tiny room he called a reception area, Michael's mind was swiftly checking and rechecking his preparations, to be sure that he would be successful on this attempt. At the outer door of the office, just before he set the alarm, he reached into a pocket, pulled out a small vial and set it gingerly on the floor with a chuckle. "Surprise..." he whispered, and slipped out to the beep, beep, beep of the timer on the alarm.
The bomb ticked away... Michael rushed away knowing that all the files and competition to his story writing career would be destroyed in one final blow! He'd teach those so called critics and editors that his books were not the common trash that they had said they were in the last article in the periodical.
As Michael left the building he ran to his car... a humble and very beat up Toyota Carolla... parked a few feet away he noticed his boss's red corvette and snickered under his breath. "You will cross me no more Mr. Cornwell!" and with that thought he drove away without so much as a glance back.
As Casey was driving along he rubbed his eyes. It had been a long night. He had given out several tickets since the new speed limit of 65 miles had been enforced. "Same old routine," he commented to Eric who sat with tongue hanging out beside him... the burly German shepherd was a faithful and highly trained member of the canine squad and also Casey's best friend. "Never anything exciting in this part of town... I wish that the chief would give me a more challenging assignment."
At that moment Eric suddenly began barking loudly... they were just rounding the corner of First and Maple street where the big newspaper building was famous for its immense size and was run by the self made millionaire that was the talk of the town. Eric was barking and scratching at the door to the police car as if his life depended on getting out! "What's the matter, Eric???" asked Casey of the gentle canine... "Need to go again????" Casey pulled over the car and let Eric out taking him by the leash and expecting him to chase some cat or find a convenient fire hydrant but instead the dog ran for the building and barked wildly at the huge double glass doors. "What is it, boy?" Casey said and without thinking he pushed at the door before him... to his surprise it opened and Eric began immediately dragging Casey up the stairs... one thing was sure the dog could sense something that he could not and Casey readied himself... finally the moment had arrived that he had waited for in 8 years of police work... an assignment that would give him a chance to prove himself... Prove himself??? Was he up to it???
From behind the door before him he heard a muffled cry like that of someone in deep trouble. He glanced at the name on the door and in the darkness he could make out the words Editor in Chief Maxwell Cornwell... Casey opened the door and to his shock he saw... a man tied to a chair helpless and there in the center of the floor was a bomb... the numbers ticking away 20 seconds 19 seconds 18 seconds... he had to disarm it but would he be in time and would he do it right... he had to... Casey stepped forward and for the first time in his career he felt a fear that he never knew existed... 17 seconds... 16 seconds... there was not a moment to spare..
Actually... moments happen rather frequently, and many moments can fit into one small piece of time. Hundreds of moments can fit into one second, for instance... so the amount of moments available to Casey were quite abundant.
Casey, unfortunately enough, was only a mere human being, and unable to distinguish between moments and actual seconds... to him, time was linear. So he perceived his life as coming to an end approximately six seconds from present, and it wasn't that palatable of a thought. His mind rebelled against it, in fact. So, using up a few dozen tiny moments, his brain decided to panic. He panicked for most of that last moment, his eyes staring around the room and his mouth moving in soundless horror, his feet frozen to the floor. He looked over at the man behind the knots of rope, and their souls connected for a moment... a moment that could have either lasted 5 seconds... or all of eternity... and the bomb exploded... and Michael watched from his car as a piece of the building blew up. He watched gravely at the chaos that ensued, the people running in the street, heading towards 'nowhere' and 'anywhere' in each step, and he stared at the huge smoke plume rising into the heavens.
He rolled another cigarette. And he drove away... and Casey stood up from behind the desk where he had been thrown, and glanced towards the hole that had been blown in the wall... from the OUTside... He turned to the "Editor in Chief" who was still gagged and bound and asked, in an unbelieving voice, "Where's my dog?" And he looked out the recently created 10 foot window...
Casey stood in absolute awe of the huge hole that was in front of him. Shaking, he dropped to his knees, fearing the worst for his beloved partner Eric. Slowly he turned in response to the muffled cries of the tied editor. Still in shock, he went through the routine of unbinding the prisoner. Then reality hit him. The bomb! Where was the bomb? Several layers of used brick were scattered across the room, having been bounding down the small stairwell. The night was completely black, and his skin prickled as he heard the cry of his partner, Eric, far off in the distance.
As I woke, I stared up at the ceiling and noticed the contrast of moon and shadow. The eternal struggle of light and dark. And as I contemplated the power of each, I knew I had to make a choice. I bled from the pain of decision. The liquid was black and oily and devoid of life... I realized that my destiny had already been charted long before my birth. So I kill. But I feel no joy in death. It is only necessary, for life to be savored and cherished. I show pity on my victims, but no remorse. I give them dignity in their demise. And I wait for their acceptance before I TAKE their breath away. I mourn for their loss of innocence. I weep. I kill.
Doug LuVeau realized that there was something odd sitting next to him on the bus. Something definitely out of the ordinary that kept looking at him. It was becoming quite unnerving. He scooted back in his seat, trying to meld himself to the window. He wondered if he'd have enough for a pack of ools when he got to New Orleans. The wind was hot but he wrapped up in his army green canvas jacket anyway. That thing was giving him goosebumps.
The old green jacket was rough, like beef-jerky, gnawed-on and weathered. Old Clem Joggerst, the one-legged swim coach had given it to him. In fact, Clem was sort of like beef jerky, especially when he wore shorts and you could see where his leg'd been cut off; you could gnaw on him and he still wouldn't die. He shivered again, thinking about when Clem'd chase all the kids around, hopping and hollering, "My leg's gonna get ya and it's gonna eat ya!"
Doug looked around the bus, deciding it was best not to think about Old Clem, he'd been quartered (or thirded?) by gators last summer. The last thing anybody'd seen was a gator with Clem's stump sticking out of its mouth.
"Hi, I'm Scabby Garfunkle. Seems you... we're the only decent folks on this bus, huh?"
"Where're you from, you headed to New Orleans?" said the thing.
"Scabby Garfunkle? Whatta Name."
Michael put down the manuscripts carefully, delicately, right in the trash can. This time the trash can blew up. And there was no dog to save him this time...
But, even more interesting, there was something going on on top of his desk that fared far worse than he did. When the trash can blew up it not only blew up Michael, but something far more precious. You see, on the desk was a potted plant, and in that potted plant was a small civilization of potted plant people... you know... people who live in potted plants. There were thousands of them, all tiny, all quiet, all peaceful, and all very much alive.. until their Universe exploded around them.
You must understand, if any one of them had survived to write about the experience the resulting documentary might have sported phrases such as : "And at 9 p.m. on this past Friday the Universe exploded. The Great Green Shaft of Gultingotbinkle burned fast and furiously, obliterating every town growing from its platforms. The surrounding cities lying around the bottom of the Great Green Shaft were crushed as pieces of the shaft fell groundwards at an extremely accelerated rate. The underground caverns beneath the shaft were also crushed as the earth started to cave into itself..." and etc etc etc.
Not a survivor remained, however, so there was no such documentary written. In fact, in the apartment across the street from Michael's, a certain potted plant person, resident of a DIFFERENT potted plant, was watching the night sky when a star exploded. He told his chief of this, and he told the plant-atery leaders about it, and they all considered it a very, very, VERY bad omen. They all fled, then, en masse, their potted plant, whereupon they were attacked and feasted upon by a rabid group of desk dust demons... So you see, the destruction of Michael's office, or even Michael himself, pales in comparison to the havoc wreaked upon two separate civilizations... so all your manic, serial bombers out there? Be VERY careful where you set those things off, ok?
Michael was completely unaware of the small potters and their plight... all he knew was that he had bombed his boss and perhaps killed him... the enormity of what he had done was overwhelming to him and he wondered what path he had carved for himself. As to the second bomb that had accidently gone off in his trash can... well so much for suicide he had failed again.
He put his head in his hands. What was he to do the grief and guilt he could not live with anymore. He had a major writer's block and that made it even worse... maybe he should turn himself in? But what good would that do. He took the page before him and put his head in his hands again... so much damage he had done and it could not easily be undone by any means. He had to find out... he had to know if his boss had died... he rose to his feet and started for the door... he turned the knob... he slowly opened the door... to his shock... there stood Casey and beside him was the faithful Dog Eric... who had survived the blast by hiding in the bathroom at the back of the editor's office.
"Get your hands up Michael you are under arrest," he said.
And Michael knew that the old saying was true... 'Crime did not pay.' "Crime does not pay" he muttered aloud with out thinking...
"On the contrary," said Casey... It pays very well... I just got offered a raise for solving this crime!