Still figuring it out.
Another installment of the story written on an old computer. I’ll type this story up in normal readable text when it’s over, but I’m having fun doing it this way too.
Written on a Timex-Sinclair 1000 computer, I haven’t figured out how to capture video from it very well yet, but it’s legible at least. I hope I’m not the only one who finds this kind of thing amusing.
There was just one more thing I had to get, one thing I couldn’t leave behind. Someone grabbed at my arm but I shrugged their hand off, pushing back through the hallway against the flow of evacuating employees. The alarm was high and shrill, had the timbre of a shrieking animal that assaulted my ears no matter how I tried to protect them.
The very highest quarter inch of the hall was beginning to gather wisps of smoke, just barely thick enough to see. It looked, rather, as though the gypsum ceiling tiles themselves warped and bubbled. Heat pushed back against me like giant, slow, gelatinous hands cupped and trying to resist my momentum. They could not stop me, but there were other forces beyond them, hands that could press with greater force. Burn and sear.
In the sweltering heat of the third moon, Falsallow carefully circled the ancient building, jug of liquor in one hand and cane in the other. The cane he held upside down, dragged its crystal tip in the dirt beside him so that it left a line, just barely perceptible in the low but harsh light. The earth shrank from the corruption contained in the crystal, and slowly billowed up in mounds on either side of the line, leaving a trough that widened as he went. He’d had most of the circle drawn before anyone inside saw him, and now there were many eyes on him (in addition to the third moon, the Oracle’s Eye itself), worried faces in the windows, silhouettes in the dim night moving nervously. Falsallow raised his jug to them, took a swig, hopped a couple quick steps to avoid being caught by the widening ravine.
The new Conversant struck a bell that rang into session a ceremony, the first of its kind. He was a stocky, balding man with small, shrewd but strangely distant eyes and a slight pucker to every feature. Yesterday, as throughout the long process thus far, he had worn a simple black suit, common for the middlemost class of commoners: today he came draped in antiquarian robes that enough of the audience found offputting that a murmur prevailed over the first words he spoke after ringing the bell.
“…sweep aside the nobility,” were his first audible words. “because they were an affront to God.”
These were old, very old. They sparkled in my hand when I held them to the light. Green and bluish, amber with deep brown veins. Undoubtedly made of stone but also undoubtedly alive. Embryos, frozen in some kind of stasis, but with an indescribable sense to them that, given the right circumstances, they would resume the growth that was arrested millennia past.
(Content warning: blood)
The magistrate deliberated with his counsel for a few minutes, before returning to the court to declare that there would be a duel. The onlookers seated around him were uproariously excited: executions were good, quick fun, but a duel could be an afternoon’s entertainment. Plaintiff and defendant both grimaced and sank at the shoulders. Both cast shamed but also furious glances at one another as armed soldiers dragged them from their benches to prepare.
1Batt hated going downtown, because it meant taking a pillar. Otherwise it would be a long, treacherous walk that more often than not would involve taking shelter in some run-down old building or other while a storm or a mob rolled through. Which wasn’t so bad – they liked the solitude – but it usually made it a three-day ordeal, just to deliver some flowers. A pillar from their home in the outer ring of the city got them there in just a few hours, but the creatures were talkative, and they loved batts.
Nevertheless, they loaded the day’s several urgent bouquets into their back holster and scuttled out to the pillar landing, to climb up and take a seat near its head. Antennae flexed at their scent and the great larva rolled into motion.
Dandec stepped lightly once he was among the trees. Really among them. The giants, the deciduous monsters that could be seen peering over the horizon like mountaintops from many miles away. For all his knowledge, it was a challenge for the arboreal philosopher to resist the sense that the house-wide trunks would lurch from their roots to gravitate towards and crush him if he disturbed them. As if these weren’t as peaceful as a living thing could be. Dandec hefted his rucksack and moved through, one eye up to watch the inconceivable pillars pass slowly with the midday sun tangled in their crown-shy canopy, the other down to watch the deceptively treacherous earth.