Weekly Writing Challenge: Golden Years

For this week’s writing challenge, we’re asking you to explore what age means to you. Is the the loss of youth, or the cultivation of wisdom? Do things get better as you grow older, or worse? There are many ways to interpret age, often depending on your relationship with the passing of time.

Seventh Seal I hear your voices: often you are louder than the living, and I appreciate your attention. On a walk, in the agitation of the city, we talk, passers-by may well think I am talking to myself, but, no, I am talking with you.

My dead siblings and friends, how could I forget you? You are just as alive as I am, since in my dreams, I often see myself after, after I have surrendered this fragile frame.  And you are there, welcoming, attentive, wise.

One achieves peace, in latter years, despite, or because, of the small indignities, the effort to do simple things.  Suddenly one knows the meaning of humility, the opposite of thuggery: the smooth appreciation of peace and kindness.

And one remembers, the beauty, the fears, the discoveries, how rich and frightening this was: living.  Walking along the shore, one sees the chessboard, when the Knight plays with Death: the Seventh Seal. The melody of the waves, the cries of the sea birds, the calm majesty of the world, at peace, one is with oneself.  The sky is blue, in this wind I hear your voices again, louder.

Soon I will join you, and kneel in front of my Maker. He or She, will know who I am, and you will vouch for me.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Object

BEGIN WITH AN OBJECT IN MIND

Objects are evocative; they hold stories. The writing challenge this week is to begin with an object. 

The Infinity Blade It stood, alone, in the middle of the circle of stones, at first in darkness. As Siris got closer he thought he saw a faint glow. Was this a trap? He was very close now, another step or two and he could touch the weapon.

Clouds masked the moon, suddenly the world was very still. “In silence”, had said Isa, “remember me, be aware, be ready to fight.” He was, all his senses on alert. He was able to lift his gloved hand, but stopped.

He could hear the low humming, and knew at once it came from the stone that held the weapon. In slow motion he surveyed the scene: he was alone, with IT.

He took off his glove and seized the handle: at first the metal – if it was metal – felt cold, and heavy. Slowly, oh so slowly, he lifted the Blade. It was heavy, and he felt a slight vibration along his arm, in his hand.

The Blade was getting warmer and lighter. He felt its warmth now in his fingers, stiff with frost. He held the Blade high, weighing it, slashed the air around him with it: he could hear the impact against the cold molecules, as if a fine silk had been split with a razor.

Siris paused, looking at the Blade he held in front of him, now shining in the obscurity that wrapped everything. How terribly beautiful was the Blade! The fog was rising.  And he heard them: the Titans were coming.

But he, Siris, was now holding the Infinity Blade. Suddenly the Blade was lighter, its handle fitting tight in his hand. As he slained the first Titan, with one blow, in a shower of dark light, his thoughts were to the Worker of Secrets, who had, eons ago, forged the Blade.

Fight!

Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 Words

Emptiness

Photo: by Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Story inspired by Cheri’s picture, and an episode of Infinity Blade III.

Emptiness Cautiously they move along the vaulted corridor, to their left the late sunlight breaking through the high inaccessible windows, to their right the ancient wall, in front of them the increasing darkness. An icy air is blowing towards them from the depths, at times punctuated with powdery red-hot ashes.

Patterns on the grey granite of the floor remain unreadable, perhaps the guiding marks of some ceremony. They know so little about the deathless: here is their kingdom, and there is no doubt they will resent the intrusion, the violation of their domain.

A piercing shriek resonates through the arches: Isa and Siris stop, silent, frozen in the crouching position, swords drawn. There is now no other sound than their breathing, nothing moves other than, slowly, the slight mist coming out of their lungs.

The air is now colder, as they resume their march, and get closer to the obscurity…

Just as they reach the last arch, still lit by the declining rays of the sun, they see an opening on the wall, away from the light. The bricks disappear, replaced by older stones: fearless, they chose to walk in that direction.

“There is still some light,” says Isa, “it must be coming from somewhere…”

The floor is now uneven, and to the geometry of the bricked arches has succeeded the irregular surfaces of an ancient tunnel. They realise that the floor is gradually edging down, a slow gradient which means they are leaving the upper structure of the castle to enter the subterranean world of the deathless.

Isa’s foot hits a light object on the floor: it’s a bone. Soon they walk through layers of bones of all sizes and evidently human. “Here we come”, says Siris, as they reach a circular space, with multiple corridors branching out of it. In its centre is a small platform, anchored on a metallic pole which rises through the ceiling. “We’ll have to wait,” says Isa, “that’s a lift, I expect one of them to come down just there, and others to appear from those corners.”

Siris smiles. Swords in hand, they wait, back to back, the way of the Samurais.

As the first Titan appears, they kiss – and holding their blades low, they wait for the first blow. Soon they are surrounded. Soon the old stones are covered with the dark blood of the slain Titans. Again and again the monsters try to separate them, and fail. More Titans are disgorged from the corridors, but as the space is too narrow, only a handful of them at a time can face the couple.

So it comes that Isa and Siris are surrounded by the bodies of the Titans. Their only way out is the lift. They edge their way toward it: they are now standing on it, keeping the nearest monsters at bay. Obediently the small platform rises up: through a narrow opening of the high ceiling they reach a vertical column. It leads to the Worker’s room.  And there he is, flanked by Raidriar.

“Welcome to my humble dwelling”, he says with a snarl. Silently Isa and Siris take their positions: Isa will deal with Raidriar, and Siris with the Worker. If one of them fails, they will have to do the journey again through those empty corridors…

Weekly Writing Challenge: Person, Place, Thing

The challenge is to write three paragraphs, though you can choose to write more or less if you wish — the goal is to get you watching closely, observing, and collecting people, places, and things to use in your creative writing projects.

DSC_0226 You are that person, and your beloved face, at that instant, is for ever engraved in my memory: those grey eyes calmly fixed on mine, the cold air, lips made for love, a kiss, a wish.  How far did the dream go that day?  Your still body, expecting, your smile, the black shirt you wore, the thin silver necklace: my reflection in your eyes, on that cliff, far from everything – the challenge as your hands softly rested on my shoulders… I observed the rock going out of focus, as suddenly you filled my vision, eyes only for you, once unattainable beauty… Then your hair escaped the cap and my heart sunk…

The cliff was cold, just touched by the morning sun.  We heard the cry of the eagle, above us, searching the plateau.  The rock was damp with dew, your finger traced our names on the smooth surface… You had forgotten the vertical, but of course I had not: I was your guide, your knight…

So the rope held us together, and you laughed as I made the innocent move that brought us closer, tightening your belt – then you said: “only the eagles can see us, we are free Mister”.  And so I will write the story: the beautiful red-hair, the cliff and the tight rope.

#AtoZChallenge: April 11, 2013 ~ Japan

Byôdô-in When I was a very young man, a boy still really, I imagined Japan as a beautiful and mysterious – hence unattainable – woman.  For at that age, one looks at countries one has not visited, let alone lived in, as one does those unfathomable creatures of the opposite gender, with a sense of wonder.

Assiduously I frequented the local dojo, which was run by the departmental GPO, in that far away antiquity before those marvellous public organisations were “privatised”, that is plundered, and perfected my throws.

I thought of the 1,800 islands Japan is made of, learnt about the Way of the Warrior –  the Bushido – admired films of kids of my age practising Kendo the way we kicked the ball at my school.  Then I learnt about the long history of a sea-faring and proud people who kept their country closed to the rest of the world for centuries. I learnt about the Tsunamis,  Mount Fuji, the bombs, the geography. I dreamed of Shikoku, the island of the 88 temples, of the mysteries of Kyoto, the imperial city, of the hero-Samurais, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu, of the art and magic of the swordsmiths.  I even considered buying myself a Katana…

Katana Then I learned about Seppuku, read Mishima.  One of my judo coaches was a Vietnamese expert who had studied at the Kodokan: I resolved to go there, sometime.

Much later I discovered Haruki Murakami who wrote – still writes – like a Westerner with the elegance and poetry of his country.  And I fell in love – metaphorically – with Naoko (Norwegian Wood), Miss Saeki (Kafka on the Shore) and Naomame (1Q84)…

Japan is the third largest world economy by GDP, and the sixth military power by budget.  After Singapore she has the lowest homicide rate in the world.

Next year – 2014, or 1Q84 plus 30 years – Gorgeous and I are going to Japan, and she said she would come with me to the Kodokan, provided I visited the 88 temples of Shikoku with her, which I promised.  We will look for the second moon.

#FiveSentenceFiction: Purple

MemorialIn the dead of night I think of you.

The scenery often changes: from the sands of the desert to the snows on the high mountains peaks.

Often the shapes change too, and the sky from time to time: courage knows no colour, courage knows no gender, courage is simple.

Soon is your graduation, my son.

Purple hearts…

#FiveSentenceFiction: Midnight

 This post, in the Five Sentence Fiction series, was inspired by the iOS game Infinity Blade II

Her thin silhouette was dwarfed by the monumental gate guarded by two huge robed figures with horned bull heads, holding burning torches, as she stood at the entrance of the castle, her face set in steely determination.

Slowly she walked in darkness, looking up to the distant dome of the ceiling, as the heavy doors shut behind her with the irrevocable sound of doom.

In the icy midnight air she checked her armour, adjusted her helmet, and felt the steel of the pair of arabic swords she’d chosen to fight the Titan: only speed could save her against the monster’s brute force…

Then she heard the heavy steps and metal heels resonating on the ancient floor, and he was there, fifteen feet of towering hatred, steel, leather and muscle, holding the huge battle axe high.

His attack was as sudden as expected, she parred the mortal blow, dodged low escaping oblivion by a whisker, then aimed the double blades up and deep below his jaws, and she heard the massive bones cracking open, she felt her blades slicing the softer matter in his skull, and there on the medieval stones, the Titan collapsed, a dead fiend.

Victory

#FiveSentenceFiction: Business

Swordmaker His shop is in one of the oldest streets in the city: uneven, ancient pebbles cover the ground, for him a difficult feat to negotiate every morning, as, in the small hours, he walks from his house to his work.

He too is very old, almost as old as one of the stones in the ancient buildings of the neighbourhood: and his craft is centuries – some say millennia – old: he makes the most beautiful and deadly swords, an art he’s received, as he was taught patiently over the years by his parents, as all his forebears.

They say the products of his labour have a soul: and they possess their owners, the few who are deemed worthy of such weapons, after all, it takes years of skilled craft to make one sword.

Today his latest customer is with him, standing tall, admiring his work: the katana he is now polishing reflects the light of this winter morning, and the flames of the furnace: the layers of fine steel glow in the semi darkness.

He knows this will be his ultimate masterpiece: the cycle of his years is coming to an end, but as she turns towards him, her smiling eyes penetrating deep into his soul, her red hair a halo, he knows the angel will be pleased with the result: a blade fit for a knight immortal.

Snake Eyes Katana

#Haibun: Bushido knows no gender

This piece is inspired by the driving rain of the past week, and an article I read about gender and Bushido.

 Their ragtag troop walks through the deep ravine, sharp rocks cutting through their feet, the rain drowning rivulets of blood down their legs and cloaks. They are starving. Only faith in their beloved leader keeps them walking.

At once they see him: a powerful Samurai knight standing immobile as a statue on his horse, his sword drawn, in front of them, barring the way. “Who’s your leader?” the knight asks, “bring him to me, now”. They hesitate.

“I won’t let you pass without seeing him, there, in front of me.”

In small steps, as in slow motion, their leader walks to the knight.

“Is it me you are calling for, my Lord?”

“O, really, this is too amusing”, says he, looking down at the slender woman and her grey cloak.

“My Lord, I am leading these poor people to the other valley.”

“No you won’t”, says he laughing, dismounting swiftly and approaching her, sword in hand.

“My Lord, I am asking for safe passage for this troop, they are hungry and exhausted”, says she, as he lifts his sword. She stands, immobile, rain running down her face, in front of the knight, towering above her.

“Would you stand against me, woman?” says he, still as ice.

“I won’t, my Lord, this will” says she, as she draws her short Wakizashi from under her cloak, and in a fluid gesture, so fast he does not react, disarms him.

The knight looks at his sword on the ground, smiles: “Your knife is too short to worry me, but you are brave, and the Way of the Sword has no quarrel with bravery”.

And the knight mounts his horse and leads them to the valley.

swords glitter in the rain –

believers hold their breath in hope

knights walk the sky

#Geometries: Lieben

nascent love like –

the new moon turns

its face away

 Beginnings glow, and often fail to spark much longer. When we met we knew a few things, that experience was not measured in promiscuity, that love is for most of us a mirage, that looks and bodies change – over time – and “bien fol qui s’y fie”, as le bon Roi Henry reputedly said…

Our geometry evolved, by trial and error, infinite patience, a shared belief in waiting, respect, and, yes, tenderness, without which physical love declines into hell. Early on you decided you’d be on top, mostly. I respected your will to be in control, to decide when, in the end to rely on this man to be what he claimed to be – nowhere to hide, the armour-less knight. One night we became what we are now: lovers for the long haul, interminable foreplay, exploring the far away shores. Once, I could have made the mistake of dreaming to tame the panther, and was saved by humour, and you showing me the way to understand myself, the feminine side of me.

For now, every time, we discover more, those secret paths that lead to new delights, the beautiful corners of ourselves we have not yet explored, in new geometries of body and soul…

mountain summit

how easily reached

by the autumn wind

– Johnny Baranski