Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Stakes and Lies

Approaching the deadline for this year's River of Mnemosyne Challenge, here's my fifth entry, "Stakes and Lies:"

    The goat cried out from her spot in the backyard. It woke him up, but he didn’t immediately get out of bed to check on her. He knew she had plenty of food and water, she just wanted company. Of course, being three o’clock in the morning, he wasn’t in the mood to provide any.

    He thought he could do it, for the Goddess, just one sacrificial goat and all his troubles would be over. But when he got her in the garage and looked at her there, bleating before him with those big eyes, he lost his nerve. Over the next few days he built her a pen in the backyard and bought himself a few books on goat raising. The neighbors had not been pleased, but there was nothing illegal about keeping a goat, so they could just complain amongst themselves.

    He had even gone so far as to name the goat Hope. It seemed fitting since she was almost a sacrifice to Hope for his own petty purposes. His obsession had almost driven him to do something unspeakable. He knew the stakes were high, and he had already enveloped himself in a web of lies and half-truths, but he drew the line at death.

    In fact, the more he thought about it, the more he realized that it was the last thing Hope, both the goddess and his fictional character, would want him to do. He subconsciously imagined that Hope would be pleased with his decision, giving his new pet goat the hope of a good life with him. But, with his whole future still at stake, he knew he had to do something to assure his success.

    The days passed, and he researched other, safer rituals in his occult books. Finally, after a few weeks and multiple frantic calls from his publishers, he found something that might be useful to him. He found a binding spell.

    This particular form of binding ritual would allow him to infuse material with the essence of the Goddess... if it worked. He’d never really tried any sort of occult magic before. Maybe it was all a lot of hokum and nonsense. But he still aimed to try.

    He put off his publishers another few weeks claiming rewrites and another attempt at better artwork, pulling the artist card was always good for a brief extension on deadlines. If you claimed your artwork wasn’t quite good enough yet, who were they to argue? With more lies in place and an extension locked in, Kirby Lee started making his preparations.

    He already knew exactly what items he wanted to imbue with the essence of the Goddess; first there were the two maquettes he’d had made for his own use as character reference. He had created Voom’s look and sent his sketches to a friend who was also one of the most talented sculptors working in the comic collectible field at the time. There were two poses he wanted, Voom’s power stance and Voom in flight. It seemed fitting that these would contain a part of the Goddess to make them truly as powerful as they looked.

    Next he had selected the ink and paper stock he would use on his own original pages of the first two issues. He wanted the Goddess to flow through each page with the stroke of his ink pen.

    The final piece was actually an element he would send to the publisher as part of his own “quirky artist’s” request, a special vial of ash that would then be mixed with the ink used to print the first run of Voom comics. This way, he could be sure that the fans would each hold a little bit of the Goddess in their hearts, keeping her alive.

    Of course, this was all still wild speculation on his part. Who knew if this ritual would even work? He had contacted as many occult experts as he dared to find out how likely these magics were to be real and not some elaborate hoax to sell books, and had been met with both assurances and doubts in equal measure. It seemed to be about a fifty-fifty split, and those were not good odds. Still, he was determined. And really, what could it hurt? If it didn’t work, he had just wasted a little time and worked all the harder on the finished product, maybe that would be enough for his book to succeed.

    And there was always the chance that it would work, that it would actually would bind the essence of the Goddess Hope to the character and comic of Voom, and put him back at the top of the comic book game.

    McFarlane had his angels and demons, but how did that compare to the ancient power of a goddess?


***


    Somewhere in the infinite recesses of the void, Hope shined brighter than she had in eons. As that tiny little Earth man started the ritual, she could feel herself strengthening, and the slightest tug began to pull her from the darkness.

The End... for now...



Well, I've already made it further than any past challenge, so yay me. Hopefully I can get one more before the night is through.




William the Bloody Satisfied With Where He Made It This Time Around Redd

Virginal Zoophilia

The fourth entry to this year's River of Mnemosyne Challenge was a strange one, but I feel like I had an interesting take on "Virginal Zoophilia:"

    “You’re not gonna fuck it, are you?”

    “I’m sorry?”

    “The goat. You’re not gonna fuck it, right? Not that I care, but I could lose my license to sell farm animals if I suspect animal abuse and don’t report it.”

    “NO! No, I’m not going to... ‘fuck’ the goat.”

    “Okay. Like I said, gotta ask.” The man from the Farm N’ Feed placed a clipboard with a piece of paper attached and a pen on the counter. “Sign here, I’ll go open the back doors and prep the goat’s crate for ya,” he continued, then disappeared into the back.

    Kirby Lee quickly signed the form on the clipboard, his hand shaking as he dropped the pen and quickly wiped his brow. God, of course he wasn’t going to... that’s sick! People actually do that kind of thing?

    After months of research, travels to far-off locations, odd book dealers, occult shops, and a few strange corners of the Internet, he was finally ready for the next step. Using what he had learned of the Seven Goddesses, Lee had constructed what he felt was the best new character of the current batch of independent comic superheroes. Digging deeply into the lore he had found, he at last found his inspiration, his muse, his Voom.

    That’s the name he had finally decided on, “Voom.” He liked the sound of it, a tribute to the old comic book written sounds and a touch of the current trend. Voom was a large-chested female superhero with amazing powers and super strength. She was a real beauty, her backstory having her working as a supermodel who gains super powers from an ancient amulet connected to the powers of the Seven Goddesses. He had even named her alter-ego after the seventh goddess, Hope. Hope Stanwell, super-powered supermodel.

    But, even with all the research he had done, Kirby wanted more assurances for success. Along with information on the Seven Goddesses, he had also stumbled upon some dark corners of myth and lore. He found himself studying black magic, more specifically, he found himself studying summoning rituals.

    At first he just considered it as a joke. “Wouldn’t it be funny,” he thought. “Wouldn’t it be funny if I told people I had actually summoned an all-powerful ancient goddess for my comic book character? What a story that would be.” The longer he thought, however, the more obsessed he became.

    And so he found himself traveling to an obscure little farming community and ordering a live goat from the Farm N’ Feed, because of course a summoning ritual had to include a blood sacrifice, and a goat just seemed more fitting to Lee for some reason. He couldn’t really explain what made him think that way, but a chicken didn’t seem big enough, and he didn’t want to get into all that weird voodoo stuff anyway.

    It took a few weeks for the goat to come in, but he had finally gotten the call and returned with a pick-up truck he’d borrowed from a neighbor, explaining that he had to help a friend move that weekend. He just hoped his neighbor wouldn’t be outside when he pulled into his driveway with a crate full of goat in the back. He had a feeling that might be hard to explain, plus he wasn’t one hundred percent sure his neighborhood allowed livestock.

    They definitely wouldn’t agree with what he planned for his little friend. His mind flashed to the ceremonial dagger sitting on the passenger seat of the truck along with a few other materials for the ritual he needed.

    With that awful thought on his mind, he walked around the side of the Farm N’ Feed where he had left his truck so he could help the guy from the counter load his new purchase. All he could really think about was whether he’d actually be able to do it. The most he’d ever killed was the occasional spider or cockroach that found its way into his home, could he really do it? Could he kill a goat?

    Well, there’s a first time for everything.




And there's muse four complete! The final deadline is tomorrow, and I'm hoping I can at least get two more done before voting starts.


William the Bloody Hope You Enjoy Reading These As Much As I Have Writing Them Redd

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Way of the North

 Here we are with my third entry to the River of Mnemosyne Challege, The Way of the North:

    Walking out of the rather small office building that housed NorthWay Comix, Kirby Lee was feeling more pressure than ever. He had talked the publisher into a small extension after proving that he was in fact working on a concept, something that would hopefully surprise the entire comic publishing field. Now, he just had to deliver.

    NorthWay Comix had broken onto the scene after the owner wrote and published his own graphic novel, The Way of the North. The story was a sword and sandal fantasy about a warrior from some far-off southern land traveling to the north to learn their fighting methods and become the greatest warrior that ever lived. The book was well received in both comic and regular fiction circles, won several awards, and brought the creator to the attentions of several investors, giving rise to NorthWay Comix. The new company quickly went to work reprinting The Way of the North and approaching other creators about writing new titles specifically for them.


     Kirby Lee had been approached because the owner was a fan of his work, having been inspired to write Way of the North through one of Lee’s own sword and sandal fantasy tales from the ‘70s. While he was always leery about new companies, the owner had practically fallen at his feet during their initial meeting, leaving Kirby both too flattered and embarrassed to say no. So, here he was, in New York City, leaving the starter office for this burgeoning company with a headful of ideas and a deadline. Now, he needed to get back onto his private goddess hunt.

    Since he knew he’d be going to New York, he planned his trip accordingly so that he could continue his search for obscure texts with any mention of the Seven Goddesses. He had been in touch with most of the esoteric bookstores he could find numbers for and had a list of addresses for those and a few that didn’t even seem to have phones. Feeling a bit like the character from The Way of the North, Kirby Lee had come from the comforts of his mid-sized Southern town to the sprawling chaos of the North.

    The search began at a bookstore named Occult Reads. It had a reputation in the city as a haven for “freaks” and “weirdos,” but Kirby Lee figured they were just people who had been unfortunate enough to be overly passionate about their love of the occult and the supernatural to be labeled as such. Walking through the door of the shop, he started to reassess this. The whole shop was dark, with a musty smell that came from a combination of old books, leaky pipes, and unwashed human. He didn’t know if it was the employees or the patrons, but there was more than one individual in here who refused to shower. The smell was almost palpable. It hit Lee like a wall. He took a moment, resolved himself, and trudged ahead. The search for the Goddesses must continue.

    After doing a bit of library research back home, he had come away with the names of one or two authors that had written about early, forgotten ancient powers in the universe, and he hoped that would include his Seven Goddesses. With a deep breath that he immediately realized was a mistake, he began to search the shelves of Occult Reads, hoping to find the next piece of the puzzle in his quest for the hottest new comic book character and mythology.



Surprisingly, this was the hardest Muse for me so far. I already have a few strong ideas for the next ones, but this one took some additional thought to make it work.



William the Bloody Glad That One's Over With Redd

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Forensics of Spume

And here we have my second entry to the River of Mnemosyne Challenge. Presenting "The Forensics of Spume":

    “...this last goddess was Hope.

    At last, after days of searching, hunting down addresses for any and all used bookstores in the immediate area; after examining book after book, wading through a sea of history and forgotten knowledge, he had found another source. Another piece of spindrift, one more reference that made him believe he might actually be on to something.

    Kirby Lee was a writer, more specifically a writer of comic books and graphic novels. Over the years he has created some very well-received characters, written stories nominated for awards, but there was a saying usually associated with the film industry that he was finding unfortunately true these days, “you’re only as good as your next one.” The year was 1994, and it was the era of big muscles, bigger guns, and cartoonishly proportioned women with the biggest... attributes you’ve ever seen. It was the time of Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane, when the old creators like Kirby Lee were struggling to be remembered.

    He had just been picked up by one of the new independent comic houses springing up in the wake of the success of Image, and he knew he needed to make a huge showing. He wanted something new, something different, something no one else had ever done before, of course the problem was everything seemed to have been used up, reinterpreted, revamped, re-imagined, or regurgitated in some way, so he was having problems finding something new. So instead, he started looking for something old.

    Lee had been searching through bookstores for any piece of forgotten folklore or mythology. All the classic characters had their basis in one form of mythology or another. But he didn’t want to retread any of the mythology already used by other creators. DC had run rampant with Greek mythology with Wonder Woman, while Marvel kept the Norse myths alive in Thor. Hell, Marvel had introduced practically every pantheon known at one point. He needed something different, something unique, something so old that it seemed new.

    And that’s when he found the first reference to the Seven Goddesses.

    It was in an obscure text in a university library, buried in a surprisingly impressive occult section. The book had only the briefest mention, but it stuck out in Kirby’s mind because with all his readings into folklore and myth, he had never heard anything about these Seven Goddesses before. It was something that certainly warranted further investigation. And so his search began.

    He contacted every book dealer and library he could think of looking for something, anything that mentioned these Seven Goddesses. He was pouring his entire advance fee into finding whatever material he could, he had traveled to any location he thought old books might be hiding in the hopes of finding just one more reference, another mention that meant he was on to something, and at last his search had paid off.

    It was one of those classic used bookstores with more books than shelf space, stacks looming above the customers, looking like they could tumble and kill someone at the faintest breath. There was no real sense of order to the place. It was like the owner had stopped caring after a while, like the books had won. He had been digging through these stacks for hours upon hours, hunting like a man possessed, looking for one particular title that the owner thought might be what he was looking for. He had made himself a little nest in the back corner of the shop, and refused to stop until he had personally inspected each and every book in the building. He was nothing if not determined.

    At one point, the owner had stepped out for lunch, locking Kirby Lee inside, but he didn’t even notice. There were more books to look through, food and drink could wait.

    Finally, it was in the late afternoon of the second day that he found what he was looking for. The owner had forced him out the day before, promising he could return the moment they were open tomorrow. Kirby was waiting at the door when the owner arrived. He had started back to his search immediately and hadn’t stopped until around four o’clock that afternoon. He read the passage, explaining each goddess and what she stood for. Then he scanned through the rest of the book to find any other references to the Seven, of which he was thrilled to find several. He stood up quickly, sending the books he had piled around him in his haste flying, and bringing an unpleasant tingle to his legs from having sat too long.

    He shoved the books he’d been checking out of the way, enough to clear a bit of a path, and made his way to the front. There was a palpable relief in the owner’s eyes as Kirby finally made his way forward with a book in hand. “At least the nut bag is gonna buy something,” the old man thought.

    Putting the book on the counter, a new excitement began to build in Kirby Lee, his search had produced results, and he had found material that no one else in his business had ever heard of. It would be something unique. He couldn’t wait to get home and start reading. For the first time since he had signed his contract with that new publisher, he felt positive about writing comics again. He felt a sense of... hope...

***


    And somewhere, deep in the darkness at the edge of the universe, the faintest glimmer of light began to glow just a little bit brighter.



Muse the Second, complete. Hopefully you'll see the third either tonight or tomorrow. Until then,


William the Bloody Fortunately Knew That Spindrift Was Another Word For Spume Redd

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Seventh Goddess

 Well, it's time again for the River of Mnemosyne Challenge! Here is my entry for the first Muse: The Seventh Goddess:

    Once upon a time... well, it was actually a time before time, before life as we know it existed, before the birth of the universe. Before the Big Bang... banged... there were seven goddesses. These goddesses existed in the void, in the nothingness that lays between the planes of the multiverse. They are older than any pantheon, so old that their names are mere whispers in the back of consciousness. They are the Forgotten Ones.

    You might ask, if these beings existed in the Void, what did they do? Well, you see, being goddesses, they each had the power to manipulate the very fabric of reality. And, since nothing existed, they could create absolutely anything on a whim, enjoy its existence for a time, then send it back into the nothingness from whence it came.

    But who were these magnificent beings of such immense power? While their names have almost disappeared to antiquity, the fundamental forces they have always been associated with still remain. The seven goddesses can still be named, after a fashion. They are:

    Truth, she who is fact. Her existence is what allowed the others to come into being. If there is Truth, then all else is possible. Truth is the most straight-forward of the seven, for there can be no falsehoods in her presence.

    Strength, the reason weight and mass can exist. Through Strength, things may exist, may have a physical presence. She is solidity itself. She is force.

    Beauty, welcomed by all, wanted by all. Beauty is whatever she wants to be, because, as we know, Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. She is graceful and elegant. She is the reason songs are sung; why painters paint and writers write.

    Fear, one of the darker sisters. Fear must exist or else what is the point? Fear is how we know we are alive, what makes us wonder what could be out there in the dark, waiting for us. She is part of the darkness, the caster of shadows.

    Avarice, a desperate need. She is hunger, greed, want, desire. Avarice leaves that taste in your mouth whenever you get something you want. She makes you want more. Always there, always ready to feed.

    Rage, who makes you see red. She is anger personified, able to flare up at a moments notice, finding the smallest bit of negativity to act on. Rage is in all of us, just waiting for her chance to explode into being once again.

    The seventh goddess is, sadly, she who has been most forgotten by her sisters and the entirety of the universe. She still struggles quietly in the darkness, a faint glint of light always there, ready to burst back into life. This last goddess is also the strongest of her sisters, without her Strength, Truth, and Beauty would be nothing; Fear would be completely uncontrollable, Avarice would run wild, and Rage would burn forever with no way to stop. She is a bright beacon in the eternal darkness.

    For you see, this last goddess was Hope.



Now, time to get to work on the next Muse,

William the Bloody Trying His Best to Write Fast Redd