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Author Topic: Ash  (Read 3696 times)
Ash
« on: June 15, 2009, 09:31:23 PM »

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D. Ein
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My latest attempt at writing.

--- --- ---

The shambler gently rocked, almost lulling me to sleep, but the knowledge of my arrival to the cliff town-outpost of Spondekai kept me stark awake. Besides, I would hate to miss passing over the flaming rivers of Gwely's resident volcano, although most folk say that a mere web of orange-red streaks is only interesting to see once. But something else attracted me to these flows; the knowledge of how far away they are, perhaps, or the barely perceptible pulse they give off, as if from a living creature.

The whine of a badly-oiled hatch behind me heralded a visitor. It seems that I am not alone in my fancy to see Gwely's lava streams, after all.

"It's a good day to spend outside," I engaged the conversation. "Isn't it? I think it was yesterday's Edna VI eruption that stirred the ash against its normal course. "

"Don't remind me," my guest replied. The safety rails groaned in undeserved protest as he propped his small frame against them, taking position beside me. "I made the mistake of going out up-wind once. Even though it was just for a minute, it took me a week to get the smell of sulfur out of my hair."

We stood in silence for a few minutes, watching the insectoid legs of the shambler dive in and out of the bleak ocean of volcanic ash. And there they were - faint, but definitely occurring pulses in the lava's flow. Not unlike veins around a gray, withered heart, I mused.

After a sudden woeful groan from one of the legs, a violent tremor shook the shambler. Hearing the rattling of the machine's gears disengaging themselves from the main flywheel, I fastened my grip on the railing to brace for the upcoming stop. The shambler came to a halt, and rested in contemplative silence for a few seconds before resuming its course.

"Similar problems occurred the last time I traveled through here," I said. "The land below is irregular. Considering what's down there, it really is a wonder that they don't do that more often. Did you read what--"

The distant roar of a fog horn momentarily drowned my voice and the mechanical clashing of the driving apparatus beneath. The dark form emerging from the impenetrable wall of ash ahead soon adopted the shape of another shambler from Spondekai. I could not discern the glowing ring of its generator turbine on the front; the tame winds appeared to lack the strength that the great propeller needed, leaving the machine to depend on its flywheel alone. After catching the sound of the fog horn, our shambler drifted to the side, allowing the larger one to pass by. It's incredible how these machines operated with a degree of intelligence without any sort of pilot. Maybe the world would be different if we knew how they worked.

"Did you read," I continued, "what the expedition to the surface found down there, beneath the ash?"

"Nothing," he answered. "An acquaintance of mine was on the team, he told me before it was even in the papers. Just rocks, fissures, and plains. We've tried looking for them everywhere, and the closest thing anyone has ever found - aside from the shamblers and the hollowed out mountains, of course - are a dozen or such of useless trinkets, each capable of fitting in the palm of your hand."

He paused.

"He didn't say very much, which, if you knew my acquaintance, is rather odd of him - especially since this is the first time anyone has gone to the surface in the last three hundred cycles."

"Maybe there wasn't much to say," I suggested.

"Or maybe he didn't want to talk about it. I don't suppose I can blame him. To know that someone could have built these machines without leaving more of a trace than the mountain reservoirs..."

"...and all those are good for is the fish," I chuckled.

My companion appreciated the joke, and we were quick to make the discovery of mutual interest in grotto fishing. The conversation quickly steered to a discussion of whether Mount Vorbhodsen or Mount Svirkaide yielded the most sizeable catch.

________________________________________________________________________________


The warmth of the nearby lava stream kept him safe from the cold hands of the wasteland. Its bubbling granted a relief from the monotonous, homogenous din of the ashen wind. He has seen it happen before: people went deaf from hearing nothing but ash, and blind from seeing nothing but ash. They turned into senseless, mindless husks clinging to a dying seed of life. Fitting, he thought, for people to waste away just like the cities they built to shelter themselves.

A sound came from the wasteland behind him - the faint but unmistakable crash of a Walking Thing's three-fingered foot, followed by other, advancing crashes. The Thing will be here shortly. Maybe it will open up another building, like it did some time ago. Maybe it will just pass through without incident, like every day after that time. The dead structures built by forgotten hands crumbled away as inevitably as anything else - it was just a matter of waiting long enough.

Of course, as soon as the metal appendages of the Walking Thing came close enough for others to hear, the zealots woke up. Just one voice, then two, then three, then more. "All hail the walking god!" People screaming, howling like animals, throwing rocks at the Thing's legs. He wondered sometimes if that kind of adoration was appreciated by any self-respecting god. "Give unto us, Walking Thing!"

He could hear the crashing as if it was right above his head. No point in looking up; the Walking Thing was thus named for a reason - the ash prevented seeing any of its part, except the three pairs of thin stalks with three fingers on each. Then came the new sound that truly caught his interest, warranting him to raise his head - an abrasive squeal, and the dull thunks of falling concrete.

The Thing stepped on an ancient collapsed building, previously sealed by its own rubble. A large part of its front wall shattered into a hail of airborne stone. The Walking Thing paused, its leg standing upon its self-made altar, as if saying, "Look at me! Look at me! I gave unto you, as you asked!" Some zealots writhed on the ground in extasy, while others tried to climb the Thing's leg to be thrown off later or to reach whatever zealot heaven there is - either way, never to be seen again.

As the Thing walked away, he waited for all the other people to finish gathering their supplies - there was no rush, he knew of a hidden basement vault with much well-preserved food - and then came to gather his own. Furniture, dishes, strange things whose name and function were unknown to him - all barely disturbed. Some things sparkled with the glow of the nearby lava river - but he held no interest for those. His wonder was much more humble.

And there they were - two brown rectangular objects, the top one of which crumbled to dust as he touched it. He instinctively drew his hand back in a flinch, but the one beneath it looked sturdier. Hiding it underneath his dust-cloak, he quickly left the building and returned to his hideaway before the lava river.

This one was much different from the rest - instead of the neat black symbols he was so used to, these were hastily scrawled and poorly understandable. Still - his father taught him how to read the neat ones, so maybe he will learn how to read these, as well. Maybe they, too, will speak to him of a world with so many colours.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2010, 08:26:05 PM by D. Ein » Logged

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Subject No. III VI +
« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2009, 08:13:31 PM »

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Virmir
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Holy crap... this is insanity.  I love it. Happy Gray Fox

I take it the two halves are the same observations of the walker-thing by two different parties?  Such a creepy post apocalyptic world.  Nice work. Gray Fox Wink
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Gray Fox Virmir
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2009, 09:57:54 PM »

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Ah, MUCH better than your previous draft. Upon my first reading I thought the upper class to be in some sort of airship watching in the distance some machine moving around, its task long forgotten, unable to see the people beneath it whose lives were endangered in chaos. Now things are much more clear, including the title, referring to the layer of ash thrown into the air that separates the lives of the two completely different peoples. You may want to put quotes around the "faint web of orange-red streaks" to show it's what other people think of it rather than himself. When you said "It seems that I am not alone..." you briefly switched into the present tense whereas everything else was in the past. It's good that you changed a lot of this, although the end of part one where the two gentlemen end up talking about grotto fish needs to be changed too. It no longer fits the preceding story and is but a remnant of the previous work, awkward and outdated.

Also, if the people below cannot see the machine above because of the ash and the people above can't see the landscape or even the other shambler nearby, why can the people above see the lines of lava? Are they on the side of a volcano they're passing? Do they just glow so much they're visible anyway? You should probably mention near the beginning as he's describing the place around him that you cannot see past a certain distance (or is it just below them?) due to the omnipresent ash. You briefly bring up that the other shambler walks out of the impenetrable wall of ash, but that's the first mention of it.

Aside from all this though, it's a really neat work. I've seen stories written from the sides of two completely different people before, but never one where the two different people have no concept of the others existence whatsoever. This is really quite a good short story. ^.^
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« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2009, 10:26:42 PM »

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Nice Ein! Arctic Wink (I like the naming scheme Spondekai Happy Arctic Fox )

It took a few days but Now I understand the Upperclass and lower class people thing... (plus that picture helped a bit) I blame exams for draining my brain power.

The world still has that grey dreary thing to it, the painting you showed on the chat hinted to me something more positive. But it seems unfortunate that even the people living in the Shambler don't know how it works and such.

I kinda hope those zealots some how reach the top of the shambler... and that somehow the book that was found helps them fix the world somehow.
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« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2009, 12:15:04 AM »

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Picture? What picture?
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« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2009, 01:27:35 AM »

Evil Feline Ice Mage
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Picture? What picture?

A picture by some surrealist artist I think, Dali perhaps? I forgot...
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« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2009, 02:04:45 AM »

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Stormkit
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but where is it?
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« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2009, 04:06:09 AM »

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but where is it?

Ah, well I'm hoping Ein will see this and give us a linky Happy Arctic Fox
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« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2009, 06:28:00 AM »

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D. Ein
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http://www.fotos.org/galeria/data/520/3Salvador-Dali-The-Temptation-Of-Saint-Anthony.jpg

The Temptation of Saint Anthony, by Salvador Dali.

It's kind of what inspired the machines in the story. Here you go!

Oh, also, Kai: they don't really live on the shambler - they just use it to get around. What I tried to get across is that they live up at the top as well, and the shamblers just kind of... well, shamble between several peaks ("...my arrival to the cliff-perched town of Spondekai...").

EDIT: Whoops, didn't notice your first post here, Kit. Thanks very much for your comments! To respond to some of your concerns:

Fishing: I inserted that as a sort of a way to show that the two guys on the machine don't really care about the surface. They're a little angry at the fact that they still don't know what made the machines, but there's more important things to talk about (like fishing in a grotto - which isn't really fishing at all, because the fish can't really swim away from them, being in an enclosed space and all).

Lava streams: Yes, I intended these to be the only link between the top and the bottom. The only thing that these two kinds of people have in common is that they can both see the orange glow from the lava. Now, it's important to keep in mind that the ash is not REALLY super-thick - the only reason why you can't see anything is because it blocks the sun almost completely, so effectively, the lava is the only source of light on the surface. However, I think you're right - I should've clarified that it's the sun that's not visible, rather than extremely thick ash.

Faint web: Good idea! Thanks!
« Last Edit: June 19, 2009, 06:37:23 AM by D. Ein » Logged

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Subject No. III VI +
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