First and Latest

In looking over stories tonight, I found the first complete short story that I ever wrote. I have no intention of polishing it up, so I think that I will use it as a bit of a comparison. How has my writing style changed?

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The First: Symbolizing Reality

I stroll through the corridors of this beautiful place, staring in awe at the sculptures lining the walls and scattered through the rooms. No discernable pattern to their placement, yet they play a symphony of perfect harmony. Seeming living creatures caught in stone, there is such a sense of life and vivid ephemerality. These things were carved of stone, so how can they be mortal? Yet it is obvious they are. Marble Dryad here, jasper tiger there, onyx stallion rearing over by the leaded window. Each statue is of a different stone or color, each seems to be carved of one solid piece of stone.

The melody carries out into the courtyard and gardens beyond. Here, the theme subtly changes. Indoors, the theme is of creatures of the wild inside human dwelling.

Outside, it is technology prowling paths of verdure. Intricate constructs of metal and wire lurk in shadow. Massive, steam powered hulks shuffle along between graceful willows. A delicate copper wire swirl watches as a tiger drinks. Heaven reigns here it would seem. What an imagination, what a beautiful mind to dream of something like this! Truly is shows the power of peace. Mortal enemies coexist. Man and machine and nature in harmony. What has seemed only a dream, here a reality.

A cold breeze skitters over my face, and suddenly I am chilled. Something has shifted, some perception or reality. Whether it is my sight, or the nature of the place, or the mood of the creator, it is no longer the same. Something is wrong. Deadly wrong.

I look again at the copper thing. A cry of dismay wrenches from my throat, for it is now mangled under the talons of the noble beast it had stood beside. Its pretty, shiny wires are now slick with blood, for the thing stung last. The tiger is slumped over it, eyes glassy. A metal beast belches smoke and flame and one can almost feel the trees recoil as fire devours their bodies. The constructs are no longer shyly hiding in shadow. Now they are assassins lying in wait for foolish prey.

Even the vegetation is blighted. Leaves are spotted, falling listlessly to lie in woeful heaps. No longer proud, their parent trees slump over them, all strength leeched by whatever malignant ether touched them. Flowers wilt before my eyes, their cheerful color dying into sickly mold. Grass is wilted under my feet, its crisp beauty sickening into slime betokening the swamp this place seems to be transforming into. Clear water is choked with debris and detritus, mud churning from its depths to stain the image of the sky with the muck of death.

I run inside, my heart pounding in terror. If such happens to the citizens of this place, what will happen to me? Acid churns in my stomach and the joy of only moments before threatens to choke me now with its abject terror. Worse awaits me.

The light has shifted, or else the statues have changed. No longer are things merely beautiful etchings of life captured in stone, they now have a reeking hatred cloaking them. Creatures of decay, of despair, of madness. Hunting each other, killing, destroying, there is nothing beautiful now. Blood seems to run thickly over the marble floor, and distant screams echo in my numbed mind. Stone is crumbling into sand. Putrid greenish mold climbs beautiful silk tapestries, eating them like a thousand moths. Lichens and creeping plants announce their intent to swallow everything alive if they can.

I slump to my knees, burying my face in my hands, feeling the clammy sweat on my palms as I rock in place. There is no escape. I am trapped. My mind cringes from the realization of this. It is too much to handle, too much to comprehend. I realize I am moaning, the sound almost inaudible. My hands drop lifelessly to my lap. There is nothing to do. I do not know where I am, and I do not know where I can go. Nothing has ever been so difficult as dragging myself to my feet, determined that if I was to die, I could at least do it with dignity.

Even as I prepare to face my own miserable end, another breath touches my face. Something akin to fingers brush my neck, but when I jerk around in terror to see what is after me now, nothing is there. Only a fluttering breeze answers my mad, questioning scream. Look, it seems to say. Look. After a moment’s hesitation, I do.

The decay is still there. The macabre tableau of destruction still plays. There is nothing different. I begin to turn back, but the unseen one refuses that right. I am to continue looking. Now something is shifting again. There is a beauty to the fire, a seductive power. It is pure, unadulterated element. The tiger and metal form a wild sculpture, something that demands attention. A construct leaps to grapple its victim to death, and all I can see is the beauty of the power the beast has.

Power, seduction, decay, death, destruction, madness, control. Beauty I had never seen before. An intoxicating and eternally bewitching sight. Nothing ephemeral here. Decay is eternal. Everything is born, everything dies, everything decays. This is beauty, not some pretty little wire toy.

I laugh gaily and stroll over to a withered tree. I can only marvel at the sight of the fire’s power to reduce what was once so mighty to mere ashes and charcoal. A snake attempts to bite me. I crush it under my heel, reveling in the sensation. A bird flees to my hand to escape its cruel hunter. I let it land, holding it close, and feel it relaxing. It is foolish, for I now hold it up to the relentless harrier, and life is crushed from it before it even had a chance to struggle. Exhilaration floods me. This power is the greatest drug one could ask for. The power of life and death, of destiny. The power of success or failure for others. The power of one’s own destiny. This, this is the meaning of life! This is what it is all about.

A woman stands behind a scrawny tree, and for a moment whimsy hits me that the tree is protecting her. The whimsy fades and I watch in interest, for she is obviously not seeing the beauty of this place. Her eyes are wide, her mouth open in a silent scream as some little creature is crushed under a rampaging monster. I see a bear a short distance away, it’s jaws red with the blood of the wolf it only just killed, and a flash of light hits me. Roman audiences watched such things, and now I understand why. I giggle again and call to the girl. She looks at me, relief and hope flooding her face. She turns to run towards me and I hold out my hand, a bright smile on my face. She does not see the bear, does not realize that she is luring it towards her by running to me. It sees her as was planned, and charges at her. Too late she realizes her danger, and horror floods into her eyes as she understands my smile.
She falls, meeting my eyes one last time. That gaze is a spear driven into the depths of my heart. Those are the eyes of my best friend. Of my mother. My father, my brother, my husband, my children. Every person I have ever cared for is in this one woman, and I have just killed them. Searing pain is echoed in my screams, my heart rent in horror as I realize what I have become. My legs collapse under me and I fall to the ground without grace.

The cruel wind howls in my ears, its mocking laughter too loud to bear. My arrogance, how painfully it reveals itself to me now! I am a mortal human, more ephemeral than even the creatures I watched die.

The bear raises its head, muzzle gory with human blood. Its eyes find my cowering form. The world is silent, the wind waiting, watching. Watching as I fall to the same fate of those I offered to Death.

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The Latest: Hero and the Three Old Women (excerpt, unedited)

Heroes had no names and damsels in distress had no hands. Kings had no ears and Queens had no faces. Slaves had no souls, and peasants had no voices.

The lands of Three Mothers, green, fertile, lush, water-crossed, lay across the spine of the continent, spreading north and east, south and west. The mountains, the sea, the desert, the farmland, Three Mothers had everything that it could desire, if, in fact, it had desired at all.

The King’s Tower stood at the heart of this expanse. Legend said that this was where the Sky Father had fallen, wearied from copulation with the Three Mothers. The Empty Eye caves in the north were where Bloody-Eyes, in her hunger, had slurped out the eyes of the sleeping Sky-Father while Knife-Fingers had gotten her younger children off of him, biting his fingers off in excitement. Hemorrhaging, his blood had flowed from eyes and fingers, creating the Ten Rivers. He had died as Razor-Teeth played and his bones turned to stone and his flesh to dirt.

Legend said that, so long as they lived in the great, pale-blue stone of King’s Tower, the line of Gods’ Sons would never fail.

So Great Beard sat on the white throne, the throne carved from the Sky-Father’s tooth, and ruled his will, and Queen Silver Tongue stood behind him, her fingers tapping out messages on his shoulders. Their communication was silent, and respectful, and the Queen did not protest when Great Beard went to the slave girls.

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Thoughts? Personally, I got away from my original style for a long time. I got into ‘traditional’ fiction and fantasy, lost the weird aspects, odd creatures and mad voice.

At the least, it’s an interesting thing to study.

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