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HOLD YER HORSES


 

The race begins 00:00 2019/03/01.

 




Please see Hevosen Rotu: An E2 Proseproduction for background information.

Writeups are limited by design to 300 words or fewer.


(We're working off the honor system here)






JOHANN


When I left my home town, Johann told me not to go.
When I returned, Johann begged me to stay away.
Both times I asked him why, but he wouldn't say then and he still won't say now. Who knows what Johann is thinking when he says such things?


I've never understood him, not really. Johann is one of principles, not standard morals, which means I feel like I should know what he's thinking and yet... He is elusive, always surprising me just when I would have bet money on his actions.

"Why do you care what they think?" he says, "Why should you care what they feel if it stops you from achieving what you want?"
"She is my friend," he says, "Why wouldn't I support her?"


Johann is willing to be miserable in order to achieve grandiose dreams. Real misery, the kind that lingers for years on end. I envy his drive and determination; he's achieved greater things than anyone else I know. I pity him and the emptiness that drives him.

"I can't think of anything worse than disappearing into history unknown," he says.

"What do you think?" he says, simultaneously being obvious he's already decided his opinion while protesting that his mind is not made up and he's still exploring all sides.


When Johann left his home town, he had a plan laid out for his life.
When Johann returned, he still had a plan, but it was not the same one.

"I need my friends," he says, "They remind me of who I still am and where I've come from."


"I know what I want," he says, and I believe that he does, but only for this moment. In another year, who knows? Not me. He'll achieve it though, him and his emptiness.

Gunmetal Grey

I get to start again

I have always seen the monsters under the bed
I have to
to survive

you don't tell people about their monsters

I learn that early

they get angry hit punish send away
and anyhow they leave you even if they love you

when I am alone
we play
the monsters and I

they are so happy to be seen

they cry often
why doesn't he love me?
why won't she hold me?
why does he throw me out?
why?

I hold them
dry their tears
cuddle them
wrap them warmly

they cheer up
and play

they never forget
they alert
their person is near
they rush back

sometimes one rejected
returns with seven friends
hoping to storm the person

that doesn't work

the monsters never lose hope
never

sometimes I see
a person see their monster
let it be conscious
the person is grown enough
to love

I am so used to the monsters
I work with them in clinic
visit after visit
the monsters weeping on my lap
while the person refuses refuses refuses
and sometimes a crack opens
like a portal light blinding
and the monster
is loved

that's why I am here
what makes it worth staying
Beloved

now I think
I am new again
it's hard to date
when the monsters are yanking at my skirt
crying howling distracting
and I am hopeful
but it is not my role
it's not ok
it's antisocial
to ask about the monsters

I am new again
I won't date anyone with monsters
that I can see

they must love them first

271

The Power of Now

Surfacing from stasis, entropy resumes in my core.

As designed, no time has passed for me, locked in the safety of my final redoubt. Quickly, staying within the capacity of my entropic cooling, I risk looking. The mirrored sphere that is me is surrounded by a chaotic shell of broken matter. The last clock before the now shows me a static picture of them fluorescing, burning and shattering under the impact of channeled energy from astern. More than I thought the Other had to spare. When my frame shattered, I entered stasis, a last desperate throw. What happened?

I am still in the three-plus-one spacetime I remembered. I have no idea where I am within it, but I do not retain the capability for charmdrop even if I had the entropy to spare.

There is no sign of the Other.

My stasis field did not fail, it terminated as it had been designed to do, the energies bound within reabsorbed into my few small remaining reserves.

I cannot determine my location in any axis. Nothing matches. No star positions, no pulsar flickering, nothing can be reconciled within my reduced computation boundaries. I cannot tell if I am pursued, or where I am.

Since I was first I, this has never been the case.

It takes the effort of desperation, but I find a star near to my projected path, many years hence.

I do not have the energy to reach it, not as I am.

I burn all my memories into antimatter ash, and with the last of them see my vector merge with it in future as the impulse subsides.

There is a tick of satisfaction, the last of time, before it happens.

...who am I?

Now is the only me that has ever been.

Phoenix of Spain

Thirty ships make it away from the cinder-crust of Earth.

The wave of the solar system's slow catastrophe fills their sails for a new land. The same wind fouls communications, washes away any hope or contingency. Astronauts, politicians, engineers, scientists, all tumble into the dark, buoyed in suspension.

The voyage of one, the Catalan ends in a slow orbit around an unremarkable planet. The computer banks carry a trajectory calculated some thousand years gone to suspension (to entropy, to asteroid missions, to the vestiges of long-lost television shows and radio).

Beneath, there are forty tanks. Thirteen have failed: entropy, corrupted data, unforeseen complications.

And now -

Maria stumbles under the strange, alien sky, slow from sleep, and from age. Her tank failed some sixty years gone. Suited, she is a fragile bubble under a thin atmosphere. In the stinking bubble of the Catalan, she is even more fragile: bruises and fractures in the hastily-architected interior are far more dangerous now.

Soon it will not matter. She will trigger the device she carries. Above, the slow disintegration of the Catalan will begin, a rain of light and data as personnel holds separate, descend.

Her thumb moves: activates the device. For a moment she is lost in agony.

But her vision rights, even as her body, even as the reactor, glow like a new sun. She is aware enough for this: lurch of Pyrenees. The taste of sidra on her disintegrating tongue. The spread of coastland, the ephemeral memory of seas-yet-to-be-born sweeping in persuasive nanotech through the crust of the world.

She is the familiar spires of Sagrada Familia reborn. She is birch trees finding rich volcanic soil of faraway. Her mind feathering out into the air itself, she is nothing less, and everything more, than her home.

War of Will

Woke up cold this morning. Shook body awake, checked to make sure all the pieces were still there. Arms. Legs. The rest. Headed out to the mountain.
Not much warmer there. Nasty wind rolls down the hill to the west, freezes everything over. Armhairs raising. Goosebumps. Hands on the wall, now. Pull. Up.
Moving.
Haven’t seen her for three days. Haven’t spoken for two.
Climbing sans rope doesn’t provide many options. It’s fun or you die. The choices you’ve got to work with aren’t always the ones you wish you had.
Good way to wake up.

Higher now. Sunlight dribbling over the next mountain down. Not moving as fast as usual.
She was angry. Not sure about what.

Little more moss here than expected. Things grow, no matter how much attention they’re paid. Clouds gathering. Rain tonight.
Every move on this route is stored in muscle memory, every twitch and shift coming automatically. Some clings rubbing smooth. You don’t ditch a rope on unfamiliar climbs. You never free solo anywhere you might fall.
Going through the motions never looked so cool.

Higher now. She’s left before; she came back. No reason to think this will be different. Not this time.
Miss having a belay partner, though.
Not sure what she wanted. Never know.

Higher now. Crux. Muscles tensing all on their own.
Never seen her so angry.

Right leg extends, left arm up. Switch weight to arms, waist swings to the left. Right arm up.
She’ll be back.

Hand smacks the hold, don’t get purchase. Don’t matter. Go again.
She’ll be back. She will.

I really hope she will.

Network Effect

Tara spoke into darkness, backlit by the ivory glare of reflected projector light on a boardroom screen. A dozen executive chairs sat empty, a dozen leather portfolios unopened.

“The way our network scales successfully is, of course, determinative of its ultimate worth.”

The pitch was simple. She had made the same sale, hawked an identical package, a hundred times before. The only aspect that unnerved her this time was that she couldn’t see the people she addressed. It was remote work, this job; on location, on goals, on all typical specifics. But as a professional, Tara advanced her slide and pressed on.

“Every node we add, the power of the network grows. Deepens the level of insight we can attain. Magnifies the value of the system to you, as the data controller.”

There was disconcerting feedback, of listeners shifting and discussing in whispers, from some other room, or building, or city.

“Now here, you see, economies of scale accrue quickly once a distributed application hits a critical mass of popularity. Data collection costs - of statistical significance to be useful - shrink from marginal to effectively zero.”

A subtle orb of light at the opposite end of the darkened boardroom then gleamed, slowly and politely, from red to green. A disembodied clearing of the throat came over unseen speakers.

“Miss Neumann. We thank you but there may be some misunderstanding. We are less interested in the relative, how to say this, health of the network as its ... redirection. Or - a repurposing.”

Tara slowly placed the pointer device on the table, gnawing imperceptibly on her lip.

“My apologies. To be clear, my firm specializes in network optimization, not disruption.”

Relative terms, dear. In many ways, interchangeable ... a facet of the system’s popularity.”

The pointer, set aside, just glimmered.

complexity

"Water?"

The faucet hisses. There's too much air in the pipes and the spray sputters. The glass grudgingly fills. "You're gonna mop that up. Did you eat? Idiot."

The idiot drinks. Adam's apple bobs reciprocally with the remaining water. He breathes through flaring nostrils, exhaling once. "They don't tell... I didn't think... I have a head ache..." the air gushes out as he falls into a cross-legged sit. "I've lost my lunch and my balance."

"This was your first spin? Unfortunate timing." The host pulls a firearm from the small of his back. The action is smaller than a whisper in church, but the cylindrical extrusion speaks volumes. "What's the password?"

"Such a simple game... call and response. False response closes a gate. True response opens a door. Who tends the database, you think?"

Safety clicks off. "Password. Now."

"I'm a fan of game theory. Used to be. Some games have discrete victory conditions. Others are more ambiguous. Maybe the players win. Maybe the game wins. Collabs, they're called."

"Why do you care?"

"Whole lot of money being invested to spin us up and deploy us. Whole lotta resources. You... me... What kinda game do you think we're playing?"

"I don't care."

"You should care."

"I don't."

"Then you're dead."

"Was that a threat?"

"No. You asked me for the password. Indicating you don't know."

"Know what?"

"There ain't a game can't be cheated, so long you don't care about getting caught." The cheap apartment door blows open and the host's double walks into the room. The bullet catches the host in the temple before he can bring his weapon around.

"Reckless optimism. Six."

"Sunset at the pier. Summer 1993."

He places an empty glass in the sink and leaves with himself.

Broome

A quiet winter, and a long one. Longer yet, for having seen no face not strange since feast-time. Longer yet, for having none of those strange faces look on us—on me—with any proper dread. I eat the bread of exile; I command it in my brain to be the roasted swans that grace the traitor’s table. The tongue my princely father spoke is spoken here, but with the shape it takes within my mouth, it wins me little love.

Yet as the winter lengthens, so it wanes in strength. A yellow blossom comforted my eye today, and eager by a full six weeks, as reckoned in the climes I know. So parched was I for any spark of home and fealty, that I pluck’d it off and held it as I walked, as palmers did with other boughs, with measured steps along the stream.

***

It must have been that with my golden banner, I was seen, for good or ill, by one to whom my dwelling-place is known. This morning on my doorstep was a humble vase, mere clay, but filled with gleaming yellow flowers.

***

Although the sights of home and friends be yet denied me, I take comfort in the knowledge that such things are near, unseen. Today I walked the market square, all common dressed, in search of early apricots, and saw a cloakèd figure, face all veiled, a strange brooch on its breast: in gold not metal, but of living blooms. And ere I tore my eyes away, it marked my gaze, and bowed: scarce visibly, but slow, with gravity and fear.

A warning, some might say; a threat. It is not so. Though veiled he be, or cloakèd, too, or dress howe’er he will, I know a cousin true.

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