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Reading Soundtrack: Acts of Man

This week’s reading soundtrack is Midlake’s Acts of Man from the album The Courage of Others. It matches the mood set by this week’s In A Flash story The Dominion of the Orb.

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In A Flash: The Dominion of the Orb

The screams on the battlefield had quietened, though the odd moan still pierced through the fog that continued to gather as day became night. A few battle orcs wandered the killing fields, finishing off those who remained alive, while the rest began the march on in pursuit of the fleeing horde. There would be no rest that night, not while a man still breathed air. They would see them all put to the sword. Remorseless, pitiless, these were the ideals they embraced, matched only by their insatiable lust for blood.

Of the orcs who lingered on the killing fields, only one was not engaged in annihilation. His sword was sheathed and he knelt beside man after man, digging through their purses and other belongings. There was little of worth—a few coins and rings that might have value—but the orc had no interest in them. He was not possessed of a lust for shiny baubles as his human cousins were. These things were of no consequence for someone who had put his faith in the gods to carry him to the greater beyond on the wings of savagery.

His name was Bijshk, Second Born of Buuwl the Fourth Sectatrian, Killer of Men, Ravisher of Women, Singer of Lamentations. He fervently believed in the new age the gods had promised. That they were harbingers of doom for all those—men and elves—who had cast their less favored cousins from the warmer and sweeter domains of the earth. Leaving them only hollowed out mountains, frigid and unwelcoming, or deserts where nothing could grow and no water could be found.

The privations his kind had suffered had made them unbreakable and unforgiving. They would see themselves triumphant, standing upon the bones of those they had vanquished. They would wipe the world clean and make it anew in the image of the gods. Those who had summoned them forth from the hidden darker places where they had waited until their time was upon them.

It was now. Bijshk exulted in the triumph of all his brothers. Continue reading

In A Flash: A Light

It began sometime after Beata put on her coat—the long winter one that came down to her thighs and clung to her form in a way she liked—and left her office. She had just left the building and was on her way, walking with purpose, her boot heels clicking in that pleasant rhythm she enjoyed. The day was cool but pleasant, with no breeze bringing an extra chill. A skiff of snow had fallen during the night and the way it caught the light made the day seem vibrant and alive.

Beata adjusted her purse on her shoulder and halted mid-stride. She nearly fell over so abrupt was her stop. Someone brushed by her, muttering and shooting her a quick glare. Her hands were tingling as though she had absorbed some electricity. Even her hair felt as though it were rising off her head from a static charge. She reached out to touch her curls, but everything felt in place.

When she was certain that everything was in its right place and the effects of the charge—or whatever it had been—had passed, Beata started forward again. Only to stop a moment later. She could no longer recall what she had been doing, or where she had been going. That she had left the office to go somewhere was clear. A glance at her watch showed that it was two in the afternoon, too early for her to be leaving work. So it was an errand.

She looked around and saw that she was heading down the street away from where she normally parked her car and assumed that she was on her way to the nearby strip mall. What she had to do there she still didn’t know, but she started forward anyway, certain that it would come to her eventually. Instead, as she came to the end of the block, she saw her car parked across the street. She stopped again and stared at it, utterly mystified. Continue reading

In A Flash: The Cooling Board

The storm that swept through Dagar that night as most of the city slumbered, left in its wake a tangled forest of broken branches and fallen trees, along with remnants of shacks and huts cast asunder. As the clean up began in neighborhood after neighborhood, the body of a young man was discovered in amongst the detritus on the outskirts of Gasnon, one of the less reputable areas of the city. The constabulary was summoned and, after a quick survey of the scene, they took the body to the central mortuary.

There the Chief Magistrate viewed the body and noted in the records that the death had been the result of the storm. No one in the neighborhood where the body was discovered had known the youth—hardly strange, given the district’s attraction to those desperate souls who flocked to Dagar with no coin hoping to resurrect their fortunes. The Chief Magistrate noted that, by his color, the youth was a Mannurary and had the local Caciques brought to the mortuary to see if they could identify him. They dutifully put on their finest suits and came to look upon the body, all of them declaring they had never laid eyes on the man.

The Chief Magistrate thanked the elders for their time and had them promise to inform him if they received word that the youth had family who were missing him. He did not expect them to, for there were so many people, Mannurary or otherwise, who came to Dagar, alone and in search of a better life, only to end up on the streets, destitute and broken. They waited a day at the mortuary for someone to come forward to claim the body, and when no claimant materialized, the chief magistrate ordered it be laid upon a cooling board with ice beneath it and set out in the public room. Continue reading

In A Flash: Things That You Dream

There are lights. Flashing upward through the darkness, arcing toward some unknown destination. You reach out for them instinctively, though you know they are far from you and from an age long ago lost to memory. No records survive, only tales, most of which you know are half truths and utter lies, told to placate you or to make the teller seem a warlock or adjutant. No one you know can claim such a storied lineage. Those who can left long before, abandoning you to this place.

You imagine what the lights are, fevered dreams, all yearning. They are immortality. That much you know, though you cannot put it into words just how that might be. They are a world gone, a world of forever. The warlocks riding their dragons through nights without end, weaving their spells. Those places died long ago and the roads to reach them have been destroyed. Continue reading