Friday, November 30, 2012


When I am in an idle state of mind and I think of my someday-mate, I think

I shall have a poet, one who shall whisper words into my skin


I shall have a singer, one who shall serenade the world with our love


I shall have a writer, one who will paint drafts on my skin

In slow-fading henna ink, drawn with soft calligraphy pens

But when I am in the solid world, I think

I’ll have a mathematician who will be as excited as I am by new proofs


I’ll have a marketer who will understand when I say that science needs presentation to spread


I’ll have an economics major who will discuss policy with me

Whose mind will cut through airy “should”s and show the statue in the marble

But then

I don’t think I would ever be happy with just one

I think

I shall have a mathematician who writes equations on my skin


I shall have a writer who understands the importance of presentation


I’ll have love


I shall love

Friday, November 23, 2012


"What is she to you?" Diana asked. "Your sister, your lover, your ward?"

I stared off into the distance, checking the facets of the thoughts, the bond, until I found words that could express them. "We share no blood," I said, "neither through shared lineage nor ceremony. We have spilled no blood beside each other, so she cannot be my sister-in-arms. We do not have sex, so she cannot be my lover. Neither of us are weak or ignorant enough to be the other's ward."

"Then she is nothing."

I tipped my head back, searching the clear sky for an answer. Stranger things have happened. "Chrysanthemum is the most important person in my world. We are not bound by blood or by sex or by vow or by duty, and yet." A corner of my mouth tucked up and I looked at Diana. "I love her. And she loves me, though that only barely matters. We are ourselves, and we are better together." I spread my hands. "Sisters, if you must, though no oddity done should we become lovers. Or lovers, for we share love, if not in that fashion. Perhaps we are each other's wards."

I shrugged and began walking. "We are friends. I would not trade it for anything."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Drinkers and Mages

Literally prompted by this.
It’s easy to find someone to drink from the water glass. Accepting water into one’s body is natural, normal, we all learn it.

The next one takes the plant. This may take a few times, for chewing the plant doesn’t work, but it’s simple enough to understand how to eat such a thing whole, and the plant is alive. Once swallowed, it will tell one what to do.

Next comes air. The third drinker doesn’t breathe the air; they swallow it. Just odd enough to push people towards water or earth, but not nearly so tricky as the last.

Then there’s fire. Singers take the fire, and always singers. It makes sense, as those dedicated to the art only lose their voice for a day, and the rest will lose it forever.

One must hold the fire in one’s belly for a day, without hesitation and without doubt. Fire spat out in the first day will give one’s voice back immediately.

One needs one’s voice for the incantations of a mage, so the fire-drinker must be a singer, must love and need singing. It is nearly impossible to find one so dedicated who does not fear the loss of their instrument.

Elisia breathed deeply. She knew what this description was supposed to do, and knew that there were probably different versions given to each drinker. Probably about how the water drinker must be brave, to go first, alone. How the plant drinker--the word didn't fit, but it was still the word--accepts a foreign life into one's essence/mind/soul, how courageous it was to do so and how fulfilling to be whole.

She knew they were understating air. Her friend Jenny had taken air, and had described it as, "a torrent sweeping through every part of you, except no one can tell why you're upset. The old air-drinker warned me I'd go temporarily insane, but I didn't realize zie meant it. I wasn'" Elisia shook her head.

That was probably it. They didn't want her to back out, so they'd overstate the prestige and understate the consequences. The consequences must be similar, for fire and air.

Elisia stared at the glasses, briefly thinking back to when the four had been full. There was only one left, now. Fire. Destroyer, healer. Warmth, burning. Loss of voice, loss of self, but perhaps recovery, perhaps movement to something greater.

Fire of life. Pyre for your deathbed.

Elisia stared at her glass. She took a breath of air through her nose, then exhaled, "My glass." That was wrong. "My fire." That was right.

She took the glass of fire and drank, all in one go. Her throat closed, but that was fine. The fire reached through her skin, called oxygen that way. It also burned her skin, but that was fine. She was made to drink fire, she had burned herself often enough. She had enough moon-pale stripes to prove it, stark against bronze skin.

A dozen people came to her. After the first two (Jenny, her mother), Elisia realized that she was hallucinating. They told her that she wouldn't be a mage, not properly, a drinker but never a mage, that she'd never get her voice back, that everything of her would burn and nothing would grow from the ashes. After two more people (her father, a stranger), she wasn't sure if she was in the same room anymore, or if she was still standing or had fallen.

Elisia couldn't fight. Her nails slipped through the illusions, and her words couldn't pass her lips. She couldn't take deep calming breaths, because the fire burned on steadily, giving her what air she needed and none more or less.

So Elisia did not fight, and she did not try to calm herself. She did not attack, and she did not hide. She relaxed every muscle she had control over, and she let it happen.

Some hours later, the visions dissolved. A hand appeared. The fire-drinker before her, the one who had been the fire mage. "Welcome, fire-drinker," Samantha said.

I took her hand and stood. I breathed through my never-closed throat and said, "Fire mage."

The older fire-drinker smiled at me. "So you are."

Friday, November 9, 2012


Camellia walks around the room, looking at or pressing a finger to the relevant art pieces.

The first is called "Love". It's sequential art, so she taps the four ports in succession. Index finger is a soft blanket wrapped around her shoulders. Middle finger is a lover's smile, where the smile is put together like a memory or a dream, attached to the idea of "lover" and a general sensation of pleasant warmth rather than a particular lover's body. Her ring finger is a bright radiance and joined hands. The pinkie finger is the sensation of wrapping a blanket around someone else's shoulders.

She touches all four fingers at once and basks in the collective sensations for a moment before moving on.

The next is "The Rape of Persephone". Camellia pauses a moment to consult the ratings to the side, to know whether she should steel herself or skip this one altogether. There are a few standard notes that show up on any intentionally unpleasant works, but a few absent trigger warnings imply that the artist isn't using rape in the modern sense.

This is a single port, under glass so that people don't touch it accidentally, as is standard for the pieces rated above G. Camellia presses her palm to the pad under the glass and feels cold fingers wrapping around her rib cage, holding her firmly and stealing her warmth. Her discomfort continues after she takes her hand away, implying that the piece is intended to evoke it, rather than creating it whole cloth.

She tapped her key chain for the smell of old books until the feeling left her, then walked on to a section labelled "Green". The pamphlet explained that the word "Green" had been given to each artist, and so the pieces ranged from an immersive few moments in the Amazon jungle to greed to a scene viewed through night-vision goggles. Camellia walked through, tapping a few and skipping the ones with warnings for things she isn't in the mood for. It's a lovely afternoon, right up to the point where it's a lovely evening.

She buys "Love" to hang on her comfort key chain, even though the sequential stuff is a bit pricey. After some internal debate, she buys the Amazon-jungle "Green" and "The Rape of Persephone", the former because the artist took meticulous care in getting the small details right and she wants to be able to go back there, the latter because she's got a soft spot for art that only uses one of the senses to evoke complete scenes.

Friday, November 2, 2012


Scorpion and Frog had earned their nicknames in ways that were fairly average among people from their neighborhood. Everyone got an animal nickname around the age of five, and then it stuck for the rest of their life unless something overwhelmingly better came up after a major change in their life. Wolf, for instance, had been Wolverine until she left for a month and came back a lot less likely to pick fights and a lot friendlier. She made a pack with Rat, Deer, and Frog within the week, and they'd been nigh-inseparable since.

Scorpion had hitched a ride with Frog on Frog's boat, because Scorpion's kept developing holes. She claimed not to know why, though Frog suspected she drilled them in herself. Frog had, in fact, just accused Scorpion of as much.

Scorpion went quiet. She had always been quiet--scorpions didn't hiss or growl, just struck--but her silence was exceptionally loud this time. "I don't mean to," she said.

"How can you not mean to?"

Scorpion shrugged. "I...destroy things." Her expression flickered through a few unidentifiable emotions. "Mess things up. 'It's in my nature,'" she said, though Frog didn't know whom Scorpion could be quoting. "S'why I bring my toolkit with me everywhere."

"Well, just so long as you don't do anything to my boat." Frog smiled, turning away from the wheel for a moment. "Not that you would now;" she laughed, "you'd sink along with me."

"Yeah." Scorpion smiled sadly as she tapped Frog's shoulder with a piece of wood. "Pretty stupid."

Frog looked confused for a moment before she recognized the rudder. She spun the wheel and found none of the resistance there'd been when they started the trip. "The current's fine here, but it'll take us out to open ocean without any steering--" She turned back to Scorpion and said, halfway between upset and baffled, "How could you do that?"

"I play tricks. I steal stuff. It's all I'm good at, but I'm the best at it." The smile grew, though it stayed out of her eyes. "Wolf learned, when we were off alone together. It's how she learned to have friends to help her. She told you, remember?" Frog remembered, though she'd dismissed it as unreasonable animosity until that moment.

They repeated, together, " 'It's in her nature.'"
© 2009-2013 Taylor Hobart