Wednesday, January 30

The Blood Of Ravnius

This is for the first Wordsmiths challenge of 2008. Please join us this year!

This is a work of fiction. Copyright © 2008 Bolt, Ink. All Rights Reserved.
No portion of this work may be copied, retransmitted, reposted, duplicated,
or otherwise used without the express written approval of the author.

The Blood of Ravnius

“Our enemies will cower at our name!” Ravnius cast his voice over us, a glory and a promise to a downtrodden people. “Ride behind my banner! We shall read the future in their blood!” All of us, soldier, hunter, herder, slave, raised our fists to the sky, shouted our daring to the heavens.

After the acclamations it fell to we four advisors to consult on strategy and tactics. We finished in two days. In our zeal the preparations for armaments and supplies were complete in three. On the morning after a feastday, Ravnius rode under his red and gold pennants, before a bristling forest of spears, pikes, and scythes, an army large enough to terrify the gods.

At Trest, the first battle, our determination crashed upon the enemy like a hundred oceans. Their superior numbers were no match for our rage. The plains were streams of blood, over which Ravnius proclaimed “See! See the future! Blood does not lie!”

At the Battle of Mount Senneth the enemy’s halls burned as a crowd of survivors fled. It was less satisfying, the victory more easily won. Advisor Thorki said he had seen the future in blood, a future unrecognizable, filled with absurd figures in strange clothes, riding their mounts backwards.

At the Battle of Hotsk children wailed at their parents’ deaths before meeting their own. Advisor Velnnen commented on the trees growing in ponds of red. In the reflections he claimed he saw the ghosts of the slain hung by their own torn garments, swaying in the branches, gaping yet silent.

At the Battle of Pon-ju-rabsi there were few to vanquish, tales of our conquests spreading like a plague on the wind. We killed without joy, plundered nearly empty vaults without greed. Advisor Baln would not sleep, his sight filled with scarlet mists that roiled and moaned but whose voices meant nothing.

After the fight, if such it could be called, at Jianng, I tried to divine the future in crimson pools. No visions came. I saw only submerged and broken pots of the marketplace, drowned embers of household fires, splintered tools of farmer and smith. I watched crows patrol the bloody shore, gleaning shreds of flesh and bits of bone. In them I finally did see a future told in blood.

That night the four advisors, Thorki, Velnnen, Baln and I, convened around our campfire. The decision was quick and final. We strode to the great tent and threw the covers open.

“What brings you here?” Ravnius demanded.

“You have lied to yourself and to your people,” said Thorki.

“This ceaseless killing can serve no purpose,” said Velnnen.

“The gods turn their faces in shame,” said Baln.

“What! We are history’s mightiest victors! Our deeds will echo through the ages!” Ravnius glared with flat black eyes. We remained still. “Are you warriors? Or have you cowards nothing to say?” Flanked by my comrades at arms, I advanced, raised my sword, and spat his words in his face.

“Blood does not lie.”

Monday, January 28

See With More Than Your Eyes

Welcome to a place so many are in a hurry to pass through on the interstate.
Don't be one of them.

An abandoned railway depot makes a fine historical museum,
as well as an unexpected architectural gem.

Stop. Listen to the sound of alone.

Nature works for a long time to create her art,
so she makes you work to appreciate it.

God created Eden, but he also designed gardens like this.

Even in the barren wastes there are surprise treasures.

A reminder that this country is still mostly open space.

There is great beauty in the desert.
You just need to learn how to see it.

Tuesday, January 22

State Of Silliness

Alabama: Steadfast in our refusal to admit we lost
Alaska: We’re far away because you guys suck
Arizona: World’s biggest ditch
Arkansas: Turning away the winds of change
California: Dude. Seriously, bro. Come hang.
Colorado: Less square than Wyoming
Connecticut: 23 acres larger than Rhode Island!
Delaware: A state. Really.
Florida: Celebrating the superior intelligence of reptiles for 500 years
Georgia: Y'all tawk funny.
Hawaii: Our natives were raped last!
Idaho: More reclusive anarchists per square mile
Illinois: Visit the new Museum of Corruption (knock 3 times and say Al sent you)
Indiana: Slightly more than just basketball
Iowa: Guess that smell!
Kansas: Celebrate the genius of Toto leaving home
Kentucky: At least our abbreviation is interesting
Louisiana: Proudly ignoring elevation, gravity, and hydrodynamics
Maine: We’re not telling.
Maryland: A buttload o’ crabs and seafood, too!
Massachusetts: Just small enough to tell you what’s right
Michigan: Half the fun, but twice the state!
Minnesota: Go fish.
Mississippi: A river, a spelling quiz, a place

Missouri: Samuel Clemens changed his name for some reason
Montana: First Second Third Fourth in area!
Nebraska: Corn – Nature’s poopie joke
Nevada: Bring your dreams. Trust us.
New Hampshire: First in voting and…uh...
New Jersey: Almost as obnoxious as New York
New Mexico: No habla Ingles
New York: What are you lookin' at?
North Carolina: North of South Carolina, east of West Virginia. Ok, we’re lost.
North Dakota: 1.3% less ice than Canada!
Ohio: Land of Crapportunity
Oklahoma: Come for the bison, stay for the buffalo
Oregon: Get out.
Pennsylvania: Independence Hell
Rhode Island: Turn right at Connecticut
South Carolina: The Bermuda Triangle of America
South Dakota: At least we’re not North Dakota
Tennessee: As seen on CMT
Texas: Where everything is big except smart
Utah: The only state without a Starbuck's!
Vermont: One of the original 14 colonies
Virginia: Presidents used to be born here
Washington: Not D.C. The other one.

West Virginia: Dentists wanted
Wisconsin: Nine billion cows can’t be wrong!
Wyoming: Playing cowboys and indians since 1875

Thursday, January 17

The Beast Divine

Peace is in the rest of the bovine
Strength is in the reach of the ursine
Wisdom is in the gaze of the feline
Joy is in the leap of the piscine
Truth is in the search of the porcine
Faith is in the voice of the canine
Grace is in the gait of the equine
Justice is in the grasp of the aquiline
Behold the beast divine

Tuesday, January 8

The Incredible Multiplying Teenagers

Princefisher II turned 17 last week. We planned a party for Friday, and told him to invite some friends. I arrived home after work at about 5:30 that day. From the street it looked like my backyard was on fire.

"Hi, guys." I said as I walked out the back door. "What are you doing?"

"We're having a campfire." said Princefisher. Sure enough, a crowd of eight or so teenage boys were gathered around a fire ring, their fuzzy facial hair attempts flickering in the firelight, poking the embers with whatever pieces of wood they could scrounge up. Princefisher was in his favorite tribal man get-up, jeans and nothing else, and was pulling on the garden hose toward the fire. I made a mental thank you to the gods that he wasn't wearing the revealing loin cloth he also liked to wear when he and his regular buddies went caveman. I also made a mental note that is was 40 degrees outside.

"Fill my aquarium bucket with water and keep it handy." I said. "And all of you be careful."

"Yeah!" said Teen A, who shoved Teen B, who bumped into Teen C, who proclaimed "Ow!" and slapped Teen A in the head, starting a whole round of "yeah's" and manly pansy slaps.

"Happy Birthday!" I said. Princefisher came at me with a grand gesture of arms flung wide, pummeled me, and crushed me with a hug meant to impress upon his friends that he wasn't a Daddy's boy. "Thanks." he said. I walked back inside while a Three Stooges episode started up outside.

"Hi," said Queenfisher, looking tired. "They've been here two hours already." She pointed to the kitchen table laden with bowls either empty or containing the crumbs of chips and cheese doodles. The counter was lined with dead bottles of soda. The cake was still whole, but it did have some finger pokes in it.

"Next!" Queenfisher's visiting sister bent over the oven and pulled out a pizza. "Number six!" she yelled. Queenfisher popped another into the oven and both stepped aside. The back door opened and a stampede of Teen Stooges trampled me to the ground. By the time I picked myself up, every molecule of cheese and pepperoni had disappeared. I checked to be sure I still retained all my digits.

"Holy crap!" I said. "There's more of them!"

"Yup, that's been happening since it started. I don't know where they're coming from." Queenfisher plopped into a chair. "Why don't you go get changed?" I started down the hall to the bedroom. When I heard Sisterfisher yell "Next!" I ran like hell.

During the two minutes I was indisposed, the fire in the yard went out and I heard thumps coming from the family room. The sound couldn't mean anything good. I walked down the hall to investigate. There were at least a dozen kids now, including a Teenette, who were playing audience to Princefisher and a friend wearing cardboard boxes on their heads, chest, and groin, and aluminum clothes dryer ducting on their arms. They flailed away at each other to no purpose.

"What are you doing?"

"Robot fights." said Princefisher.

"Is the fire out? Did you use the bucket?"

"Yeah. Sean had to pee."

"Next! Number eight!" yelled Sisterfisher. I ran for cover into the living room. I sat down to watch TV, a futile effort, since the sound of a group of teens echoes like coyote banshees in the Grand Canyon. I settled for watching Animal Planet. It wasn't much different from my house.

"We're going to go get more snacks." Queenfisher and Sisterfisher were putting on their jackets.

"What! Are you crazy? You're leaving me alone with them?"

"Yup." The two women dashed out the door, leaving me to my fate. I had a vision of their return, driving by the house and throwing hunks of raw meat from the car for the wild things under my roof. My vision was interrupted by hooting and scuffling from the next room.

"What's going on in here?" I demanded. The robots had shed their skins. Two teens were holding electronic gear and flailing for some other strange purpose. There must have been twenty of them now, although males still far outnumbered females.

"Wii boxing." said Princefisher.

"Well, be careful. Don't knock anything over."

"Yeah!" said Teen J, who tickled Teenette K, who spilled soda on Teen L, who yelled "Jerk!" and butt-kicked Teen J, who knocked over a bowl of popcorn.

"I'm going into my room. You guys can watch TV in the living room if you want." I retreated to some semblance of peace, if rumbles and raucous laughter and thuds and belches can be peaceful. After a while the front door slammed several times in a few minutes. I went to investigate again.

"What's going on out here?"

"Next! Number nine!" I leapt for the shelter of my daughter's bedroom down the hall. Apparently, the snack run had been successful.

"Number ten!" I closed my daughter's door.

"Number eleven!" I fell to my knees and prayed.


I decided I had no choice but to return to the carnage. I peered out the door. All was relatively peaceful. "Hello?" I ventured. An unfamiliar voice returned "They went out front."

I walked out the front door in time to see the Sisters pulling out of the driveway. I ran to stop them, and Queenfisher rolled down her window, but just a crack.

"Where are you going now?"

"To the little casino down the street."

"What about all these kids?" I gestured to the fifty or so soulless entities milling about on the front lawn, playing teentag and whoopwhoop and spitfar and grabass.

"Hey, we watched 'em before you got home and made the food. It's your turn. Just stay in the room, they'll be fine. They don't care about you anyway."

"That's what I'm afraid of."

On my way back I saw a man standing at a podium. He was wearing a straw hat, waving a cane, and unwinding a spool of tickets. "Hurry, hurry, hurry, folks!" he said. "Step right up! Only fifty cents! See the Incredible Multiplying Teenagers! Thrill to the beat of Scream Music! Test your courage against the Hormone Cyclone!"

I pushed my way through the front door. A tide of muscled shoulders and perky bosoms crashed against the walls of my house. thwack whack crack! Even over two-hundred voices I heard the sickening sound of something breaking. "Princefisher!" I yelled, drowning in a fog of Axe spray and Avon's Something. I finally found him and asked what was so loud. It took four tries for me to hear him. "They brought me a pinata!"

Desperately, I clawed my way to the bedroom, pushing a camel and a tapir out of the way.

Within five minutes weird sounds forced me out again. I collected rope, pitons, and carabiners from the closet to scale the mountain of candy wrappers, robot skin, and pizza crusts outside my bedroom door. At the end of the hallway I stood in stunned disbelief. My house had somehow transformed into a stadium full of high-schoolers. Ignoring the jugglers, monster trucks, and trained seals, I screamed "PLEASE KEEP IT DOWN AND BE CAREFUL!"

"Yeah!" said Teen Q, who jabbed Teen R, who backed into Teenette S, who whined "Stop it!" and whacked Teen Q, who fell into a kiddie pool of sand sharks.

I spent the following hours with the bedroom door locked, cell phone at my side.




"Number sixty-three!"

Some hours later, Queenfisher found me sitting in the corner of my bedroom, a blanket over my head, surrounded by fearful and quivering dogs, rocking back and forth, muttering "It's only teens. It's only teens. It's only teens."

Queenfisher assured me that they were gone. The clock told me it was 9:30 pm. Had it really been only four hours?

"Where are they?"

"They went out for breakfast." The sheer illogic of it all was just too much. I fainted.

The next morning, I discovered only 2 beers missing from my fridge.

Way to go, Princefisher. I'm proud of you. Now put some clothes on.