10: Alternative Facts: Summer Camp

“Sometimes by losing a battle, you find a way to win the war.”
— Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal

You’re back. You came to us, to the Badlands fore, cause you wanted our historia. Our mythologia. The mythologia of the State. Of the Cycle. Of Amarak.

To think your search started with just one word. I recall wording with you about the Cycle of Opposing, and its roots in the mythologia of Ground Zero. About the ethnoi, and ethnos. About the Disunity. About divise itself. Opposing, and divise start inside. You glean that. But it goes outside, too. It has to.

You found the Climbers. They told you, worded with you, about walls: about where they come from, how they form, and what they do. We traded lore for lore. You were told no Wall was made in Amarak. The Wall was always there.

Once, as the Pains of the Hidden Lady told you in Repo Land after you walked the zigzag path of the Hidden Festive, that they worshipped Libertas. And the last son of the Eleuth told you of how his lost Maters and sestra Pride named themselves after the Lady of the same name. Even now the center of the Repolitik is called Freed Dome: what our Land, this failed Rene Project, was supposed to be.

But that was Lye, as the Repos call it now, in the end.

Amarak was always a prison. And if there was a god of prisons, if it ever had a name, it would be the prophet of profits. Or the profit of prophets. Or the edicts of predicts, and predicts of edicts. Most populii came to Amarak — birthed Amarak — to serve, to live, to die: made by Europa to be monster, and labrys cleaved together. That is the story here.

The mythologia of the Sancts.

It was said to have happened after the Cycle of the Forty-Fourth Precedent, fore the Interregnum, when the Repo Party ruled. Many other States burned, then. Ethnoi were purged. Populii died. Amarak was free. It was a Sanct. It was made of Sancts. But those Sancts were iron vaults. They were lost time. Dark. They were prisons.

Amarak was a prison.

The Repos always talk about earning freedom. Their Gilder-Booms talk of sacrifice. But they have other words too.

It’s said that when populii wanted to flee their State, to come to Amarak, they could stay. They could be a part of it. Like the Amaraki of old. For a price. The diablo’s gamble. The Bargain.

The Bargain has been here as long as Amarak, throughout every Repolitik. Every Cycle. From the beginning of the Cycle. The terms just change. The stranger, the ethnoi, can’t pay to come in. They are feared. Hated. They are in divise with the State. Some try to, in the words of some of the Prides, climb the Wall, and they fail. Or they do it, facing the mercy of the Law. Of freedom. Of Amarak.

But Amarak is a prison, and a game. And Laws are Rules. The Coustume Guardians have ever been their enforcers. It’s clear. You can enter, or leave. But when you enter, you will be a part of that prison.

And your children will go to camp.

Fore the Interface, familia were sepped in the Dark of that Cycle, snatched away, placed in cages, in grey and metal. Not allowed to see their familia. Not allowed to play. Or touch. Or be touched by Amaraki Caretakers though, sometimes … They were.

It’s said that the children were supposed to be released fore long. As were their parere. Some were. Some never saw their familia again. Some never saw the children again. Or their camps of simmering summer garbage ruled by ice. These child prisons. These child Sancts.

The true Interregnum, the Dark Age, began with the silence of the child Sancts. When the Second Disunity started. Most of the child Sancts were under the so-called Great Repo Precedent, where it was said that work set them free, one way or another. Others were taken by Demos Brigaders and their princeps, the children freed. The populii wanted to bring down the regime. Others, were still lost. It’s said that even now, a thousand years later, there are still parere looking for their children, children wandering for their parer, forever sep … And others, even now, dwell in the husks of the Sancts, lost to the labrys of a lost Repolitik, starving, lonely, angry, and isolate.

You’ve been to Freed Dome. During the Reunity and the beginning of the Tripartite Repolitik it was built on the ruins of a tyranny, made into a Collective for young academes, Affirmation Groups, and visitors. It was made Sanct, one of many to memor the atrocities of the Lost Sancts, just like the remains of the Coustume Posts and their flower gardens. Some Sancts, in the former Repo fiefdoms, remain as more ruined memors, while others are cities made Reserves for “exotic” antiq-ID ethnoi, or those that grew in the Sancts. Over time, during the wars and the retreat of the Repos, forgotten by them and the Demos, the children of those Sancts grew, and traveled.

There is another story as well to tell. There is mythologia we have made collect, from our Eyes in the Interface, from the Badlands to the Borders, that some of the Sancts still remain: that they have made liberate themselves over many gen. Some may have met each other throughout, embraced the silence that killed so many, and become Co-operative. We have heard a few whispers that perhaps some, called the Free Sancts, actually exist: beyond Repo and now Tripartite Repolitik gleaning.

If true, they don’t seem to be on the Interface, Markers, and all. But we want to glean them as well: to glean their historia… their own mythologia. The Gilder-Booms would have you know, by their own coustume, that their children are made hallow by the armaments to which they have destruct themselves, and others. But if there is any hallowness, any heroism, in any of this, after all this time it’s that true sacrifice is what the children of the Free Sancts suffered, thrown away, used, destruct, or left to keep the Wall — the Prison — of Amarak alive.

But if they live, beyond this, without the control of the Repolitik, then perhaps they did it, broken away from the Cycle. Perhaps they did win the war that the Repos lost despite them.

Maybe now, they really are what Amarak should be: children in summer. Perhaps they are the children that are now, truly, free.

(c) Matthew Kirshenblatt, 2018.

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Arkham Horror: Excerpt from Finale of the Golden King

Excerpt from Finale of the Golden King
by Gloria Goldberg

Zelda Zimmerman jumps out of the shimmering portal, just barely eluding the lumiscient tendrils that almost had her in their grasp. Her company, Mr. Law, lands at her side breathing heavily. Those cigars obviously haven’t done her self-appointed bodyguard very much favours.

“Damnation woman!” He gasps, reaching out a shaking hand to readjust his Homburg hat. “I thought only Kraut U-Boats could go deeper than that. What were …”

“It’s best not to think too much on such matters, Mr. Law.” Zelda says, her fingers still grasping the soil of the Manchester Cemetary hard as she comes back to her feet, her other hand clutching her .45 pistol. She is shaky, but she doesn’t want to show it. It’s bad enough that she had already lost her favourite cigarette case somewhere down the line in between all the grisly, eldritch trophies she has practically sewn into her violet attire, but it’s only now that the laudenium from the Sanitarium is beginning to wear off. “But we delved the mysteries of the Sunken City, of R’lyeh itself. The City of Yith from the Witch House was bad enough, but I have just enough … just enough to …”

“Jesus, Joseph, and Mary!” Mr. Law shouts, loading his shotgun and pointing it into the nearby shadows. “What in all hell’s deep is that!”

“Oh … dear …” Zelda mutters a few Slavic curses to match some of Mr. Law’s more colourful sailor language as the .. crustacean, covered in fungus … made of it … hovers towards her. “Don’t … look directly at it, Mr. Murphy. I will … I must …”

One would think that after finding themselves in an eternal, sunken city, surrounded by green … so much green, that Zelda would be desensitized to the presence of such an otherworldly, almost aquatic entity. She mutters a spell, taken from one of the old books in her travels, protecting Mr. Law from realizing the entity further. As it is, her own mind strains as the Mi-Go hovers forwards. It … must have come from another of the many portals that the Golden King’s cult of Actors, his otherworldly chorus and dithyramb, opened throughout the city.

Ironically, even as Mr. Law opens fire at the being, Zelda falls back on her knowledge of forbidden lore to ground her fraying sanity. Its antennae twitch, obviously sensing her and her companion, but perhaps drawn to the psychic lifeforce she already utilized to protect the latter.

“Come with us …” It clicks. “You are a … worthy specimen.”

Zelda sees the discoloured part of its body. A part of her, not reeling in instinctual terror barely staving off maddening revulsion suspects it had been here for a while. Many dark things hide in Manchester, along the river Merrimack, but now so late into the drama, so close to the finale of the Golden King, they don’t their cloaks and masks anymore.

“Come with us.” It croons, with its loathsome, clattering voice created from some of the most unfathomable surgery, an inhuman practice of medicine with or without a willing donor. “We can free your mind. Free it to soar forever through the stars …”

“I have … had enough adventures for one evening …” She says, shrugging off the temptation of an inhuman voyage, a liberation from flesh, embracing horror beyond horror to feel nothing but the possibility of eternal knowledge and falling, falling forever. “For several lifetimes!” Zelda snarls as she moves her fingers and intones the ancient signs while continuing to fire her pistol.

It all becomes a blur. The creature shrieks towards her and then, it is lying there, mouldering on the ground, still twitching. She blinks. Mr. Law is lying on the ground. Zelda staggers over to him and checks his pulse. Thankfully, he is simply unconscious from the strain. She wants to join him, badly, but the portal still shimmers. The interdimensional energies she and her fellow Dramatis Personae have been closing and sealing are feeding the madness of Manchester, stirring the Golden King from behind his Wall of Sleep. But this one is different. Its power is immense. She knew that much, even before literally leaping into it. This is the crucial one.

But … She isn’t powerful enough. She Sealed the one at the Witch House, but she knew so much more then. She was just a little stronger, then. And even that portal wasn’t as potent as this one to the dread Dreamer’s realm, leaving all these horrors to roam Manchester.

It has to be enough, though. She has gathered the Elder Signs. She just needs to dig deep for her strength. Lord Cerentes, in his drifter guise worthy of Odysseus himself, has already closed enough of the portals. And Alicia Pointe has closed some more, and even Sealed one with Zelda’s own advice. This is it. This is their only chance to cancel the finale of the Golden King’s Play …

But just as Zelda is about to intone the ancient words, something comes out of the portal. She tenses, but perhaps her brain has gone numb to all the horror with which she has participated today when an amphibian humanoid shambles out towards them.

Of course, it makes sense. R’lyeh wouldn’t pass this opportunity up. They had intruded into their realm. Worse, they are attempting to close the gate between their space and their world’s.

The Deep One walks up to her and the fallen Mi-Go … and stops. It takes Zelda a moment, until she realizes what this is. A realization that isn’t a terrible truth spikes through her mind. They are all eldritch beings, abominations, but they are not in league with each other! The Golden King is a rival of the Dreamer … and the Deep Ones and the Mi-Go at some point in prehistoric times had a war on the very Earth itself.

She feels the Deep One looking at her expectantly. Zelda knows that what happens next will determine whether or not she will live: which will not matter a jot if the Golden King awakens in this world!

Zelda bows to the Deep One, gesturing at the Mi-Go. She notices the crustacean jolting. It is crippled, but it still lives. It is buzzing, almost pathetically. The Deep One snarls and with one swipe, it grabs the remnants of the Mi-Go. She watches this repulsive sight, as the amphibian tackles and rips apart the fungal hybrid to reveal … a glowing blue shape …

The Deep One looks back at her. It snarls again, but inclines her head. She would have said, in more outlandishly better circumstances, that it was a gesture of thanks but the feral, maliciousness in its slitted eyes belays any of that. It’s almost as though … it is some kind of playful joke. Then, it takes its somehow still living, wriggling, prey and disappears back into the portal, leaving the glowing object behind it.

And then Zelda realizes why.

It is a pyramidal crystal, not seen since the earliest antiquity. The Watcher in the Dark. There is the power of an Ancient One within this inhuman artifact. It preludes it from being used against its creator or its kin, but … It can allow one to accomplish anything else, just for a moment … for as long as their body can handle its power.  

Zelda looks up at the pulsating portal as its edges grow, and she realizes the cruel jape and knows that she has no choice. She clutches the pyramid in her hands, chanting the Signs … even as the mystical energies in the artifact begin leeching away her vitality … Zelda screams from the pain of her life essence flowing into the object, acting as a battery, as it empowers her mind and she finishes her ritual …

The Elder Sign forms over the Portal, suturing the rent air, sealing the threads of existence back into place, containing the eldritch truths behind it even as Zelda Zimmerman slouches to the ground, finally, and completely exhausted.

*

“So damned many of them …”

Zelda is barely able to nod her head in agreement as she and Mr. Law hide in the crypt from the Golden King’s swarm of hovering actors. She munches, slowly, on the chocolate that Mr. Law had been so kind to retrieve from her pouches. She feels a little better, but not by much.

“They know their Play can end …” She croaks. “Now they are pulling all the stops … I’m just … glad I sacrificed enough power beforehand to disrupt their last Ritual …”

“Easy there, lady.” He actually pats her on the shoulder. “Shell-shock’s going to be bad enough as is, we’ll just stay here, lay low, until we get our strength back … I could drink for days after this.”

“I don’t know, Mr. Law.” Zelda murmurs. “The authorities do not seem to take kindly to drinkers, even at the end of the world …”

The truth is, Zelda Zimmerman is tired. She doesn’t know if she has the strength to continue. It is up to her companions now. She slouches against the wall of the crypt. And, before finally giving into the exhaustion of pain and mental fatigue, she sees a fresco. It is splayed out on the opposite well and it glows with a peaceful, gentle radiance. Serenity flows over her as she knows, now, that the sanctity of this place has been restored.

For just as erasing the Holy Name from the clay of the golem ceased its rampages, this Sign, this Elder Sign returned a rightful slumber to the Manchester Cemetery.

“Well …” Mr. Law mutters. “Would you look at that …”

Zelda smiles. Perhaps not all magic, not all of the universe, is cold and uncaring after all. They rest on the ground in companionable silence, before the sound of firearms boom through the quiet.

“Hello!” A familiar voice calls.

“In here!” Mr. Law shouts back, recognizing the voice as well.

There is the sound of a gun being cocked, as the dark haired, disheveled form of Alicia Pointe stumbles in. “Madame Zimmerman, I see you succeeded.”

“Yes, dear.” Zelda replies, smiling at the younger woman. “And you as well.”

“I was almost right behind you in that watery city.” Alicia looks at her own assortment of eldritch trophies and Zelda’s. “Between us and the drifter, we are going to be advancing Manchester Dissection Science by a few decades or more.”

“Centuries even.” Zelda grunts, coming back to her feet. “Though no one will talk about any of this. I know. This is probably not the first time.”

“I don’t care about any of that.” Alicia spits, unladylike, into the crypt. “Right now, those gentlemen on the City Council, the people in this town, know who cleaned up this little bit of entertainment. I will make Chief. They owe me that much. Maybe even a run or two for office …”

“All I want to do right now is order a drink.” Mr. Law grouses beside them.

“I hope so.” Zelda says, wanting nothing more than that the drink that the Federal authorities took from her earlier in the evening. “Let us leave this place to the dead. Perhaps Lord Cerentes can avail us of his hiding capabilities and find us some of the moonshine I smelled on his person.”

“Amen, sister.” Alicia says, putting an arm around both Zelda and Mr. Law as they walk back to the city, the horror finally over. For now.

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Arkham Horror: Finale of the Golden King

Finale of the Golden King  
by Gloria Goldberg

Epilogue

In the end, no one would know the events that led to the election of the first woman Mayor of Manchester. From a humble graduate student at St. Anselm College and part time bank clerk, to Police Deputy, and eventually the Chief of Police the Right Honourable Alicia Pointe’s star rose — her chart taken into her own hands — as another, more eldritch celestial body, as though from the Hyades, from Lost Carcosa finally fell: leaving the State and mankind’s world with a sigh of relief to the conclusion of a play with which they did not know they were even participants.

As a protagonist in what would become a rendition of the dread Epic of the Golden King come to Manchester, the city elders knew that Ms. Pointe had cast aside the yellow fleece of ignorance and cowardice to fully embrace the cold, hard truth of the terrible knowledge that they could not: that we — all of us — are just characters on a stage, our actors our intentions, forces that can be subverted and so easily broken, and yet with indomitable will we can conquer the stars.

In the chaos of the final act of the psychodrama, when authority fled from the terror of backstage and the Golden King’s horrific, bloodthirsty cult of actors and eldritch abominations, it is only fitting that a woman of strong character and fortitude such as Alicia Pointe — deputized by blood and firearms, and knowledge — would eventually ascend to the position of Mayor to do what others cannot: with exchequer, frugality, and the lore of the eldritch truth.

No one would truly know this, however, beyond the city elders who have always suspected, but hidden from the horrors in the backstage of Manchester, from the spaces between the world itself, that Alicia Pointe did not act alone.

As Ms. Pointe had faced down the actors of the Golden King with fisticuffs, keen wit, firearms, and occult aptitude, a sovereign and his faithful hound pursued and entrapped the darkness in the places from where it planned to strike. His name will always be known, throughout the hallowed halls of humanity’s Dreamscape as Cerentes of Ashemore who — with his trusty friend Cornwall — learned to navigate the dark places, the forgotten spaces, to survive and travel through the fragile places between sleep and wakefulness, in the deepest, darkest alleyways of Manchester to ward our world against evil beyond understanding.

After the Finale of the Play, Cerentes and Cornwall vanished from this world, perhaps to complete their apotheosis in Ashemore beyond the red dawn. Nothing was left behind of this saviour, save a beggar face down in a gutter, an emaciated dog at his side, an empty  shotgun, an emptier jug of moonshine, and a small funeral.

Zelda Zimmerman remembers this truth. She is even more a myth now than Lord Cerentes and Cornwall the Great. As Cerentes lurked the shadows as hunter and hunted, and Ms. Pointe took charge of the streets in dearth of local and Federal authority, Madame Zimmerman navigated the highs and lows of the realities themselves. She will never forget facing down the shoggoth in the Abyss, with only a revolver and crucifix-blessed bullets to bring it down, or the eldritch power she turned upon the Golden King’s cultists, or even Byakhee, Star Spawn and Cthonian that she turned to dust. She will always remember the Other Dimension and climbing the endless rope like Jacob’s Ladder, the presence that tried to take her mind that she overcame in the City of the Great Race, and evading the living halls of R’lyeh, the cultists’ manipulation of the Law to seal her away, sealing the Witch House, leaving the Elder Signs as marks for with which the inhuman players of the Golden King will forever remember her by.

If Ms. Pointe is their Executioner, and Lord Cerentes their Hunter, then perhaps it isn’t too much of an authorial exaggeration to say that Madame Zimmerman became the Witch — the Baba Yaga with fire and sorcerous might — of the Eternal Dream with whose destruction she had dedicated her mind and body.

The years pass now as the eternal tyranny of the Golden King failed to feed on the madness of his story, sealed behind the Great Wall that was once his greatest triumph, his most pronounced tragedy. But does not all enlightenment come from accepted one’s limits? Even now, to this very day, these limits remain reinforced by the three that came to Manchester: Ms. Pointe, Manchester’s Favourite Daughter, the Lord Cerentes from the realm Ashemore, and Madame Zimmerman as Lore Master of their own coven: the Fellowship of the Dramatis Personae.

For it is these three, with their intrepid allies in the dark, that faced horrors that would have made a Machen, a Chambers, or even a Lovecraft blanch. And it is from the land of the river Merrimack that the Dramatis Personae  will, for as long as they are able, keep Manchester and the world from the Golden King and his brethren, from allowing humanity to exeunt stage left.

Gloria Goldberg is a best-selling author of Strigoi Risen and Witches Have Wishes. Having spent her childhood in Romania with parents of Roma and Ashkenazi extraction, Ms. Goldberg has brought their storytelling sensibilities to the English language and America where she currently resides as the Writer-in-residence at Miskatonic University, in Arkham, Massachusetts. When she isn’t hosting readings or her reader’s circles at Velma’s Diner, Mrs. Goldberg volunteers at Arkham”s own Shelter for Ulthar Cats.

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9: Alternative Facts: Beyond the Wall

“But one man’s golem once grew so tall, and he heedlessly let him keep on growing so long that he could no longer reach his forehead.”
— Jakob Grimm, Zeitung für Einsiedler (“Journal for Hermits”)

I was a Llang. I am also Mas. This is my Test on this Interface during what the Heterodox call the Cis-Trans War.

My sestra, part of the Queen’s Pride, we knew about the Spectra. But we were Sep: Deep Sep. Our Fore-Climbers, they believed in the Lady. The Lost Lady. We left the Walls of the Heterodoxy behind us after the Maters met with the other Prides and made the Spectra. Our Maters and Ladies would talk to the Joys and the rest, while we lived our lives Sep to heal: to heal from Mas turned poison — Poison Mas — by the Heterodox.

We embraced the ways of Fem, in our land, deep in the Borders. We farmed and wove like the rest of our small Pride. The Llangs, our Queens … our Aunts, our elder sestra, were hosts. Our line took on another path, another name. Eleuth. We … we were Eleuth, after our Lady. I still believe in her, even now, even after everything …

I was divise. I couldn’t help it. I felt … divise, but not Joy. Never really Joy. I’d never seen one. Few of us did, until that day … Even now, it is hard to say how I gleaned it. I just felt it, even as a child. My sestra Eleuth, they didn’t judge me. That is not the story I am going to tell. They knew I was divise, diverse, but of them. I was still borne from my Mater, my Maters … after receiving the Vessel of Trade from the Joys and Mas Binaries beyond our small proper: the way most of us are made. I was still their child by the Accords of Life, agreed by the Spectra over a thousand years ago. I was still part of my sisters.

The Eleuth do not hate Mas. They did not … They did not have agon with me. They loved me. Even though, by the rites of our Pride I knew I would have to leave one day, I knew I was not poison. I became their only son. Their child.

We knew nothing about the War. I grew and found a wife. We were going to have a child together by Trade and the Accords of Life. Of course, that was the point. That was what changed everything. The Eleuth couldn’t have us stay. Even so, we had their blessing. We would go to a new Pride. They were going to prepare a Leavetaking for us. It was sad, but joyous. A Sep of another kind. But there was acceptance. We were in the middle of it, when …

The Meides came.

The Eleuth rarely ever saw them. I’d learned since, why they were made. The Gen-Que, those I’ve met, said a thousand years ago — when the Spectra was still young — they feared attack from the Heterodox. Even in their Disunity, in agon with each other, and after in their Interregnum when they were just healing, as we once had, their disunities threatened to spill over and poison our land. We fled from them once before, before the Second Disunity. We needed protection.

It is said, by the Gen-Que, that they helped the Spectra make the Meides. Brethren and sestra to work for the Spectra, and all Prides: chosen for strength, and passing on word to each Pride and its smaller Prides. They were to fight the Heterodoxy and the Heterodox. They were to find spies. They were to send word and defend us if we were under attack. Warriors and truth-tellers, the Gen-Que told me later, their hearts to be made of Stone the Gen-Que said, to their everlasting shame. That was how the Meides began.

The Meides that came to the Eleuth, to the distant sestra of the Llangs that day, were filled with Joys and Llangs. It was the first time we’d seen Mas, of any kind aside from … me, in our land in cycles. I could smell the discomfort, the … fear from my sestra. If there were Trans-Gen or Binaries among them, they were quiet. The others were not. They told the Maters of the Eleuth that there were Traitors among the People. That the Heterodox was poisoning us again, causing trouble, and war.

They pointed at me. They saw me and my wife. They said I was Heterodox, that I was infected with Poison Mas — I was Poison Mas — and that they needed to take me in: that I was a Traitor to our Pride, and the Spectra. The Eleuth couldn’t glean it. It didn’t make sense. We are … we were Sep from Mas, mostly, but the Maters knew — believed — that the Spectra embraces Binaries, even let Binaries leave the Eleuth or … or Trans-Gen to go into the other Prides that they need. I was not overt. My hair was short and I wore legs, but that didn’t mean anything. My sestra let me stay as I hunted, with them, and only wanted to live. I never said I was Mas. I didn’t have to.

We didn’t know, I didn’t know, about the Pan-Binary Prides and their agon with the Spectra. The Meides, that day, told us about the … Traitors, the Binaries and Trans-Gen, in agon with the Spectra and using the poison of Heterodoxy to betray and murder the rest of the Prides. That the Spectra’s peace with the Heterodoxy was our fault: and we were just helping them poison our People … helping them by letting me stay here.

The Gen-Que, later, told me the Meides lost their way. Even at their height, no one ruled them, not even the Spectra. Only themselves.

I saw them, then. I saw their armaments. I was going to do it. I was going to go over. Even then, I gleaned what would happen if I didn’t. The Maters … my wife, my sestra, refused. They appealed. They asked to talk to the Llang, to our Honoured Aunts, to at least let me go to another Pride with my wife, to the Trans-Gen, or the Binaries if need be …

The Meides leader said something, I still recall. She said: the Llangs knew. They let them through. That those who can pass through the Wall, must be destruct.

They shot first. That’s all I can recall. My wife pushed me away. The Maters and the sestra, they fought. They told me to run. I didn’t want to. I wanted to fight. I felt agon. I could hunt, but I couldn’t kill.  What good was being … being who I was if I couldn’t fight, embrace agon, to defend those I loved? To do even that? So much I didn’t understand and no one to teach me, in the middle of madness. It made no sense. Why send a Traitor to so distant a place? So isolate? Who told them about us? About me? Nothing made sense when my wife fell. When my sestra died …

My own Mater told me to run … That they would win if I stayed. If I died …

I don’t know why I ran.

I should have died with my sestra.

I kept running. I don’t glean, even now, how they didn’t find me. Maybe the deaths of all the Eleuth, was enough for them. Maybe they believed they got me. I ran. I ran deep into the Borderlands, near the Badlands. The Maters always told us to keep away from them, more than anything else. There are no Domes, just the wrecks of them, and the Nats and their holes. The elders told us the Nats are danger: rejecting techne, scire … even medicine … to be one with the World … It was said, that the Heterodox, during the Disunity and the Interregnum, used to send people to the Nats to die of the disease they embraced, that they became.

I used to think they were just tales to scare us, to scare children … Until I saw them too.

Warped, twisted … I don’t recall. Sick. I was so sick. Infected. Poison Mas … Maybe I did have it. I ran deep into the Badlands, passed where even the Nats live … Burning … I should have died.

The Eleuth had another tale, though. About the Badlanders.

I woke in a tent. I don’t glean, even now, how long I was with death. No one was with me, but water and food. And a tablet. It linked to the Interface. I’d never even gleaned it existed, among the Eleuth. We just told each other what we needed to glean, and the Elders told us the rest from our Queens, our Aunts, our Greater Maters … who betrayed us.

The tablet had a missive. It told me I could find them, here. Or, I could join up with something called the New Spectra. But that I should know about my sestra … and my brethren.

Brethren … an alien, but comforting name. It fit in me, even with the emptiness without the Eleuth, my Maters, my wife  … I put my hand on the word for brethren on the tablet. I slept again.

Until I was found by my new family.

A few cycles have passed since I’ve joined Those Who Can Pass the Wall. The Climbers. Mas, Fem, and even Is. And Gen-Que. The Gen-Que taught me about Gen and Affinities. The Trans-Gen, helped me through the Rite of Transformation, sometimes the body, and sometimes the mind … diverse for each person. My spirit knew what it was, though. I always did. The Newtons, or the Tess as they also like to call themselves, sometimes showed me genii. I showed them the tablet. The Binaries and Pan, sometimes Dual, or Faire, or in Units, they showed me how they love … and fight by Passing Through the Wall, affecting one Affinity to glean information from the Joys and Llangs that thought they were the same, or the Trans-Gen who passed affecting Gen to do the same.

I gleaned more. The Meides never thought we were “pure” — that we were too diverse, too potential Heterodox — and the others share this idea.The Spectra is HetSoc, but they are not Heterodox, or so they say to themselves: Playing Reunity only to get what they want. The Heterodox claims to want diverse, on their terms, to claim diverse and make themselves a mask of mercy for their polit-societas. In turn, the Heterodox promises the Spectra, the other Prides — the majority of Joys and Llangs — mech wooms and changing seed techne and scira to replace the Vessel of Trade and the Accords of Life. The rest of us are expended to them. It makes me think about my Maters. About my wife, and the child we never had. The Spectra,plans to erase us. Or at least do nothing while the Meides come for us, and kill them after they are done.

But we are not done.

Just as I learned, from the Meides, that those that can pass through the Wall must be destruct, I also gleaned from my sestra and brethren, my family, the lessons of the Fore-Climbers against the ancient Heterodox: the ones that made the Spectra that failed us.

Our ID is our weapon. Our weapon is our ID.

The Joys and Llangs have their favourites: their consorts still Trans-Gen or Binary, and have just embraced quiet. Just wearing another wall. Hiding fluidity in a Stone. Sometimes, we appeal to someone through one ID that is really another. Sometimes, we take from them with that same ID. Other times, we kill them under the ID of another.

That is my personal agon. My fight. This is my Test on this tablet. On the Interface. I was Llang. I am now Mas, and I am the last of my Pride, the only son of the Eleuth. And I will never forget. I will never forget the lesson. And I hope you will not forget this Test.

© Matthew Kirshenblatt, 2018.

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The Making of Sacrifice

It’s taken me a while to get back into this, into my Alternative Facts universe and the State of Amarak.

A lot of stuff gets lost in transition, and translation when I write these stories, I’m afraid. I think I go into it a lot more in my article Alternative Facts, where I discuss how this entire thing began, but to summarize the issue with my stories is that the language I attempt to create — the poetics — is by its own evolution very inaccessible, or limited. This is the language and syntax of a people — or populii — that has changed over at least a thousand years, if not more. I just attempt to extrapolate based on what I know, and what little I have read on the matter, and go with it.

But there is another issue as well. After talking about translation, there is transition to consider. I realize that most of my stories in this series are not really standalones as I might have originally planned them to be. I realized after “Freedom” and “The Spectrum” that I was essentially world-building from the roots of “Lost Words.” So here you have my poor readers trying to read my attempts at Newspeak and remember the context of groups and ideas from previous stories in that same vein.

Sacrifice is supposed to be different.

The first draft was very short and it was direct. At the same time, it lacked focus. It referred to other ideas, and it didn’t put emphasis on the Gilder Booms nearly as much as this one does. The Gilder Booms have existed ever since “Freedom” and they get talked about a little more in “Our Secret.” I don’t like to explain my stories, even if I did basically create a whole new language — or a basic attempt at such — for the world of Amarak. But I would like to discuss, briefly, the idea that led to this particular short story or, perhaps, chapter of this dark political speculative landscape.

I was, of course, paying attention to the recent school shootings in the United States. A lot of my friends and peers had been reposting and commenting on various articles. There were two ideas that came to me, one possibly in the back of my mind for a while, and the other more blatant. Let me start with the second one.

I thought about the Gilder Booms, as they are a group in the sub-cult of the Repo Party in Amarak: near or in the Borderlands away from the Repolitik proper. They are the cannon fodder, the militias, that go in and unleash the most bombastic and physical damage on those around them. I began to look at the religion or spirituality I extrapolated and formed around the Repo Party leadership and I wondered what the Gilder Booms thought of their “hallowed armaments.”

At one point, I came across this New York Review Daily article on my social media feed entitled Our Moloch by Garry Wills. It posited the idea that guns and firearms have a god: that this particular one is modeled after, or is, Moloch: an ancient god demonized by Judeo-Christian theology, and ultimately represents human — and especially child — sacrifice. The article, if you read it — and I hope you do — makes its point clear about guns and shootings in the United States along with its victims.

But then, I just couldn’t see the Gilder Booms blatantly worshiping Moloch: even with their time distorted idea of the Bible and folklore. So I thought of a deity that could represent the creation and power of firearms instead, on a warfare level. Unfortunately, Neil Gaiman beat me to it with his American version of the Roman blacksmith god Vulcan in his television series adaptation of American Gods. If you haven’t been watching the series, it is interesting, though I think the novel is better. Even so, Vulcan in that world represents gun deaths, and the military industrial complex of the United States. He is a perfect symbol and I realized I just couldn’t match that.

Even so, it still didn’t sit well with me. Two Mediterranean deities becoming the god of guns just didn’t feel … I don’t know, like they would be a part of Amarak. I tried thinking of Amaraki versions of them, but it didn’t work. And then, I remembered something about how the ancient Greeks, at least, thought of deceased children as heroes: and they were specifically buried in a ritualistic manner to almost deify them. I’d already touched on this in “Freedom” and “The Spectrum,” of course but I wanted to see what the Gilder Booms would do with it: how they would express it, and distort it to suit their spiritual and religious views.

And I realized that perhaps I was going about it the wrong way. The guns didn’t need a god. They already have spirits. It’s true that, in their theology, the Gilder Booms see the spirits of their hallows — as they call them — as extensions or servants of the Lohim, just as the Lohim has divine Masks or aspects representing specific old Amaraki ideas and figures. But I wanted to give the guns a life of their own, an animistic element, that ties them to the idea of nativity as part of the Land or the earth. The hallows themselves are a vessel of the spirits that they have … and the ones that they take.

I’m not sure when I started thinking about the Winchester Mansion. I know there is a film that had been released not long ago about it, and I’d always thought about the story in the back of my mind. It’s strange, when you think about it. I mentioned American Gods, and it has this idea that its holy places are specific focal points in the earth that attracts worship and belief. In America, according to Neil Gaiman’s novel, they are generally tourist attractions: the House on the Rock, and such.

The Winchester Mansion is definitely one of those focal points. It was created by Sarah Winchester, the widow of the man who owned the company that created Winchester rifles: which took many, many lives by design. The legend is that she started building an estate, after the deaths of her husband and child, to appease the spirits of all those killed by the family’s guns … or to get away from their curse. I wanted to find a quote about the Winchester Mansion and Sarah Winchester, but all I could actually retrieve was an old 1911 column about it: which I included as an epigraph in my story.

I … did the equivalent of meditate on that epigraph. I wrote some notes that, unfortunately, I deleted off of my phone. But what I realized was that according to the unnamed writer of the column, Winchester believed all would be well “so long as so long as the sound of hammers did not cease in the house or on the grounds.”

And then I started to think about it. What if the hammers are those in guns? What if the House is something more political? And what if the grounds are the Land, or a State, or a nation? What if Sarah Winchester and her actions, as fact, fiction, legend, or myth were a metaphor for a nation that profits from the construction, and deliverance of weapons? What if there is this large tract of grounds with different passageways leading futilely nowhere, or doubling back on themselves in circular logic, or hiding other secret places from those who would want to find them, or get out? What if there is a place that is made to hide rich people, or entrap the living, and attempts to forget about the growing dead?

What if America is the Winchester Mystery House? It was this idea, this image, that I ran with when I wrote this story, and then rewrote it and honed it down further. Perhaps I failed in telling this story properly in my Alternative Facts universe if I had to go into a digression about it here.

But it reminds me of something the narrator says in “Lost Words” when they are attempting to reconstruct the time before “The First Disunity” and a card game: about how the “House always wins.” And then there is also the idea, that can’t be discounted, of Sarah Winchester attempting to keep building on the House to actually pay restitution to the spirits, even with the problematic means of using the system her family made and the blood money to do so. Part of the column reads that her friends keep “persisting to visit her.” And either way you look at it, there is also that image of Sarah Winchester claiming that all will be well as long as construction keeps going … as long the House and the grounds keep expanding .. or the Land.

Sometimes, some things just speak for themselves, I find.  I hope that you will sleep well tonight. Take care, everyone.

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8: Alternative Facts: Sacrifice

“She had told her few friends who persisted in visiting her despite their brusque reception, that she had received a message from the spirit world warning her that all would be well so long as the sound of hammers did not cease in the house or on the grounds.”
— “Winchester’s Widow Dying. Work on Her House in San Jose, Cal., Has Never Ceased,” New York Times, Vol. LX., No. 19497, 1911.

You’re here now, for the Night Terror.

Maybe the Baggers, our brothers, gathered you from your shacks at the Borders, with their prods. Saw your twitchy nubs, or bird eyes. Got libbed from the Pats for your trouble, and sent our way. We know family when we see you. Or maybe you were a Bagger, got us prey — every damn time — for our Great Pratik, and good. If that’s truth, good on you. You’re already one of us: getting your Mas or Fem. Or our Wag brothers and sisters told you about the fire and glory of the Cycle, how we’ll make the Arns see the piss, shit, and blood of the Terror again. And you’ll get that chance, if you’re good enough. And if you’re Nation, well, blood’s only cleaner when you spill it.

The Elders, the Pats, tell us that we’re the real Cycle of the Land, the whole lot of us. There’s Land, Folk, and Fire. No more, and no lack. And while we’re all Family here, it’s us, that are always — always — at the front: moving to the horizon. We’re not at the back or the side.

We’re the ones that ride the Cycle shotgun.

No Wags, no Baggers, no Nation, or Eyes, or Elders. No bullshit.

Just us.

You got that so far? Good. Cause whatever you were fore, you are us now, if you earn it. If you get better. If you live.

How it is, is how it was. There’s one Law. And that’s the Second Law. The Sacred Law, brought down by the Lohim Almighty, the Fathers, the Holy Writ, and the power of the Folk. And that power is the power of the Land.

At the First Cycle, the First Rebbing, the Red Coat Commies — those damned godless Tyrants — drew and quartered the Land — our Land — and our homes, and our bodies to be slave. Their armaments were the Law. And when we rose up, took the Law, and made the Second: taking their armaments, their thunder, as our own. Making them hallow. Making them our hallows.

We’ve been milit and soldered. That’s how the State, our Land, began, and that’s how it’s going to end: at the end of our hallows. It doesn’t matter that the Demos Usurpers and the Arns think they took this Land from us, taking away our Precedent, driving us off to the Borders, taking our hallows. We were the first in, at the ready after earning our fiefs and propers under the Precedent, and the last ones out when the Traitors took them away. They call us Repos, but they’re the thieves. They stole from us everything, but we fight for it back.

And they’ll see truth from our end. The only end.

Land, Folk, and Fire. Only we’re blessed with the duty, the glory, of wearing Gilder, the sheen around our hallows. We are the Hunters of sustenance, our holy power blazing to fill the bellies of our Folk, and the souls of our feeling against the Usurpers. It is our duty. Our right.

But our right must be earned. We’re the ones chosen to hold the Peacemakers, the Desert Birds, the Horses, and the Wind. The rhythm of our hallows are what we think. Fire and smoke are at our knees. The trigger our appeal. Prey in our prayers. It’s truth.

Our brother Wags are the mouth. The Baggers gather. The Nation purifies. But we, and we alone, are the only ones that dare to bear the sacred flame. Our hallows have changed over a thousand, thousand seasons, but the spirits are still the same. And the vessels, in our hands, where they dwell must be purified, must be proven … must be bloodied time and again in the Cycle that is Amarak!

And we enter the Great Pratik in recall of the Old Battles where we pray with our hallows, hunting all prey that is called Abominate. Rainbow scum hiding deep, the disease of the Nats living away from Domes in their Badlands Plague Pits, the dirty One-Backs bred by the Usurpers — these “new Amaraki” — either or any will do.

It’s truth! The Land rebels because it’s hungry. We hold its arms, its branches, its trees. We light its suns held by our sons, young or old-time, Mas or Fem, at the end of the sticks of the spirits to honour the turnings, the ever-turnings, that make the Land go on, to restore what’s true to the Folk: the Law to fight and fight back against those that take from them.

The hallows take all in equal in the end, espec us. The Land demands blood: taken, and offered. To take the thunder of the spirits of the Lohim demands sacrifice of foe and friend and brother. Too many of us have made that rite in Battle, cornered, or in the front. Sometimes the hallows take us at peace, fired off to recall of us its power to take. All the Gens of us …

Even the Young know the power of the hallows. Our Young, they have them at six cycles, gleaning the truth of the Land away from the Lye we will overturn. That’s when our Young start to serve. For blessed are those that meet their end by the hallows in peace: made all the more holy by that of a child. For in fire, they are made divine. In ash, they spread the Land. From the smoke, from what we burn, from what will stamp out in their name, they rise from our trumpets, from the tune of Amarak proper: made true heroes.

May we Gilder Booms take back the power that the Usurpers stole from us … in vain, just as the Tyrants once did, to keep the Land alive, and strong, and its Folk forever. May you, standing here now, prove yourselves, take stand with us, and take back what’s always been ours.

For Land, Folk, and Fire … For the Young. The next Gen … The true heroes of Amarak!

(c) Matthew Kirshenblatt, 2018.

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An Interview in Patrick Meaney’s House of Demon

Patrick Meaney, producer of She Makes Comics, and the director of Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously, Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods as well as many other documentaries has recently released his first-ever horror film House of…

Source: An Interview in Patrick Meaney’s House of Demon

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